OUR MYELOMA MOUNTAIN: PART 6
Stem Cell Harvest
In preparation for the stem cell transplant we had to go to Edinburgh to have Al’s stem cells harvested. This happened just before I headed for NZ to care for my Mother. The week leading up to the harvest Al had to have a week of self administered injections. The injections stimulated the growth of the stem cells coaxing them to leave the bone marrow & head into the bloodstream, so they could be harvested.
This was all really straight forward once we got over the fear of Al injecting himself each day. The only real side effect was achy hips.
We headed for the Royal Infirmary where for 3 mornings they harvested millions of his stem cells. A cannula went into a vein in each of his arms then tubing was connected to a cell separating machine that sounded like a washing machine on the spin cycle, it noisy whirled while Al’s blood was separated & his cells taken from the blood.
That blood was then returned back into his vein minus the stem cells, which was sent off to be frozen. It was a scary & overwhelming looking machine/set up when you first walked into the hospital room but it was actually very straight forward. The nursing team were super slick & put us at ease straight away.
We were warned of tingling lips, hands or feet, feeling light headed or getting muscle cramps, but none of this happened. We used it as a good excuse to drink heaps of milkshakes because it’s the lack of calcium that causes these symptoms.
Al was really tired in the evenings & we stayed at his parents each night, his Mum fussed around him, panicking about his lethargy.
I spent the evenings reassuring her he was fine, trying to explain the process he was going through & that there was nothing to worry about.
No mother or parent should have to see their child sick, Als Mum really struggled seeing her big strong boy ill & tired.
She kept blaming herself, she worried it was her fault & that she had done something wrong as a mother, believing he had this disease because she couldn’t breastfeed. It broke my heart to see her blaming herself for something she had no control over.
She really was the most loving & caring mother anyone could wish for.
The last night we were at his parents, Al was frustrated with the fussing, it fuelled him to say Kj drive me to the Lammermuirs, I need fresh air.
As I drove him to the Lammy’s we were silent, I was too scared to ask if he was ok.
We got out & just started walking, our Spaniel jumping around in the purple heather.
We started climbing up a track & I didn’t dare ask how far we were going or ask if he was tired. We reached the top of the Lammer law & I could see Al’s face light up, he sucked in the view, the fresh air, while the sun shone he turned to me grinning ear to ear.
I took a selfie of us, which was something I never did, but I am so pleased to have this picture…
Not quite the resting we had been strictly been told to do by the medical team, but he was happy & that’s all I cared about.
We met with the head consultant at the Western general, who explained what would happen, What the risks & side effects would be… Nasua, hair loss, loss of appetite, breathlessness, diarrhea, infertility, mouth sores, bruising, bleeding, suppressed immune system, fatality from an infection, low blood counts, a secondary cancer later on!
I watched helplessly as Al asked questions & then signed the paperwork that stated he understood the risks with the two main ones being that an infection could mean the end of his life & he may get a secondary cancer later in life. I felt backed into a corner & voiceless, just a passenger, with there being no other options, this was our chance of keeping him alive longer & knock this bitch into remission.
I felt angry with this nasty disease as I watched him sign that bit of paper. We headed home until the time came to get read to Edinburgh again to take on this myeloma monster.
Before admission we spent the day wandering the botanical gardens eating amazing foods & drinking lots of flat whites, admission was not until 4pm. Al was determined to walk himself tired & eat lots of nice food before feeling shitty & trapped in an isolation room for 3 weeks.
Feeling awful was exactly what the next 3 weeks involved.
At this point I stopped writing & turned to making notes. I am now (July 2021) sitting here reading back over this feeling like It was a million years ago. It's actually been almost three years since I wrote this last entry & I am now just getting the balls & space to start to looking back on this time. So this is me starting up this blog up again, it is likely to become a little more summarized in this next wee bit to catch up to the now, so bear with me while I get back into the swing of it.