Monday, January 30, 2012

11/15/10 – 02/02/11: The Process Begins

It has taken me a long time to find the courage to sit down and write about the “dash” between the above dates.  Before it began, I thought I would write periodically about the hoops I was jumping through during the transplant.  However, I could never bring myself to start recording the difficult process.  Now, I am ready . . .

Chemo at the U of W
From November 15 through November 19, I underwent around the clock chemotherapy at the University of Washington Medical Center.  It was frightening, but I got through it pretty well.  I had one day of terrible acid reflux, but no nausea or vomiting.  On about the third day, I woke up feeling like a beached whale from all the fluids they were pumping into me.  My entire body was bloated and I gained at least 10 or 12 pounds, maybe more.  On November 20, I was released and we went to our apartment.  


With my immune system dropping, I had daily clinic visits and blood draws and they began giving me neupogen shots in my stomach each day to mobilize my stem cells.  Fortunately, the shots were not painful and I didn’t mind them at all.  I asked one of the nurses how many days it would take to mobilize and she said it averaged about ten days.  My cells were in a hurry!  They began harvesting my stem cells (apheresis) on the sixth day.  It was a four hour process each day for two days.  They drew blood from one side my Hickman line and put it through a centrifuge and collected the stem cells before returning the blood back through the other side of the Hickman line. After the two days, they had collected over 10 million cells (yes, 10 million!) which was enough for two transplants.  It was a painless process.  

No Hair / Beautiful Hats
My hair started to fall out around this time and when that happened, I went into the bathroom and shaved my head with the help of my husband, Brent.  It wasn’t too upsetting and we even had a few laughs about what we were doing.   I was surprised at myself for accepting it so easily.   A dear friend had gone through breast cancer and hair loss and she advised me to shave it off when it started to fall out and I think that was very good advice.  Instead of dealing with my hair falling out over several days, I got it over with in a few minutes.

I do admit that I got very tired of my bald head and it seemed to take forever for my hair to grow back.  However, I have a lifelong family friend who is an expert knitter and she made me several very beautiful hats.  One was made of purple angora!  I was stylin' in my hats!

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