The Harvest

I got the call on Friday, June 14th to be at the hospital in Portland at 6:30 AM to begin harvesting stem cells. The process involves a Red Cross Technician, an intricate machine called the Cobe Spectra, and me lying on a bed for most of six hours. The goal was to harvest 10 million stem cells. Saturday brought in 2.55 million.


The Cobe Spectra

Sunday was a carbon copy of Saturday, but brought in only 1.94 million cells. I was called back to the hospital Sunday evening for a shot of Plerixafor, a very expensive chemical to supercharge my stem cell productivity. Monday brought only 1.94 million, and after another Plerixafor shot, Tuesday brought 1.51. The good news is that they add up to, “Close Enough.”

Me connected to the Spectra

Me connected to the Spectra

When Mike, the Red Cross Technician was shutting down the stem cell transfer machine, I heard it beep an SOS.  I asked if that’s what it was and he looked quite surprised.  He said I was his first patient who recognized the signal.  I didn’t tell him I know that code because of a 70’s music group, SOS – Sounds Of Success.

The harvest season ended for me with a bag of platelets to be infused into one of those handy tubes hanging out of my chest. Before being connected to the bag, I was asked to sign another waiver.  There seemed to have been several each day and they all basically said, “We’re doing our best, but this could kill you.”  The nurse explained that the platelets were from a human donor, and I could have bad side effects.  I asked how long the side effects might take to show up.  She said, “Oh, in 15 minutes you might have a lot of trouble breathing….. we’ll know.”

There must be something good in platelets because I felt much less exhausted at the end of this day, or maybe it was just knowing this part of the process was over. I was discharged to go home in fragile condition and instructed to avoid any activity that could lead to bleeding, internal or external (I always try to avoid activities that could lead to bleeding anyway).  Friday I will check into the hospital for my long-term stay, receiving “Brink of Death” chemo Friday and Saturday.  Monday they will put my stem cells back in me and by about July 11th, it will become apparent if they are doing as we hope.  July 15th of my hospital calendar is marked, “Home soon if doing well.”  During my stay, I will be able to send and receive emails and have visitors who are not sick.

Thank you again to my cousin, Abraham, for all the great help and support when Diane couldn’t be there.


Now Begins Real Adventure

After finishing the chemo treatments, food tastes good again, constipation is gone, and I am not so easily out of breath. Ending the treatments also meant ending my sanctioned boycott of professional dental cleaning. With Wednesday’s cleaning I received a mouthful of x-rays to make sure there were no impending infections that would interfere with the transplant process.

I apparently passed my pre-transplant tests, the electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, and a pulmonary function test. They wanted to see that I’m likely to survive this adventure.


“Line” is a much friendlier name than Central Venous Access Device

Yesterday was a full day at the Providence Cancer Center in Portland. Everyone I came in contact with was more than kind, starting and ending with my cousin, Abraham who drove and spent the day there with me. My Central Line was installed and I received a strong dose of chemo. I was awarded a box full of supplies including those needed for cleaning the Central Line daily, and some pre-filled Neupogen syringes for the twice daily subcutaneous shots to be administered by Diane or myself through the next week or so. This is to encourage stem cell production.

In about nine days, stem cell collection should begin. Sometime after that, I will move into my temporary home in the hospital. God knows the end of this fascinating story. I must read it one page (one day) at a time to see how it turns out. Thank you all for your prayers and support.