Stem cells


Monday 7, Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 May saw me in the Peter Mac Apheresis Unit having stem cells collected. I had been giving myself double dose filgrastim for the week to encourage the proliferation of the stem cells, and after three collections I had 12.7 million stem cells in the bag (literally), which is a really good result.

The stem cells will be retransfused following the end of my chemotherapy. The last bit of chemotherapy I receive will destroy my bone marrow, so the stem cells will form the basis of a new bone marrow system.

Collection was pretty easy, if a little dull. A metal IV needle (called a fistula) is inserted into a vein in one arm, and a plastic IV needle inserted into a vein in the other arm. Blood is sucked out through the metal IV needle, passed into a machine with a centrifuge and filters, where the stem cells are separated from other components in the blood. The stem cells go into a collection bag, and the other components go back into the body through the plastic IV cannula. About 60ml of blood is withdrawn, processed and returned per minute, and the average collection takes around 3 hours. It is important to keep the arm with the metal needle quite still, to avoid it damaging the vein. So you sit, read, watch TV, listen to music, or whatever. I had hoped I would get away with two collections, but the goal was set at 10 million units, and I hadn’t quite reached that after two collections, so it was back on Wednesday for more. The staff in the apheresis unit were all excellent – it was lovely to be looked after them.

I had two more units of blood on Tuesday, as I was, again, pretty anaemic. I think I probably feel better since I’ve had them. There was some discussion yesterday as to whether or not I should have another unit, but I have to admit, I was pretty resistant to the idea. I have to go back to the hospital tomorrow for a minor procedure, and can have it then if necessary. I also have to go back on Wednesday 16 for day rituximab.

Other than that, little has happened. I’ve been reading and so on. Peter has been working very hard – in fact, we’ve not seen much of oneanother. Mum visited over the weekend (which reminds me, it is Mothers’ Day this Sunday).

The ever valiant and dependable Marj has once again saved our sanity by letting the dogs out of the house during the day whilst I was away – thanks Marj!


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