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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stem Cell Harvest

Sorry for not blogging for the past week.  I don't have a good excuse, because despite all prognostications to the contrary, I have been feeling great!  Not only did I escape the nausea, but I also avoided any other bad effects from the Cytoxan.  I heard from several nurses than patients' reactions vary considerably, with some even having to be hospitalized!  As an additional plus, I experienced none of the bone pain I was supposed to get from the Neupogen injections.  None!  It almost made me wonder whether we were injecting it into the right place.  I am grateful for each extra day that I feel good, especially knowing that they are about to end for a while.

Yesterday, we had to go into BWH to have a Hickman catheter installed.  This line runs directly through the superior vena cava to the right atrium of my heart and exits from my upper chest.  I was a little nervous about procedure ahead of time, but it was actually quite smooth.  I had some general anesthetic, but was awake the whole time.  They used lidocane to numb the incision areas.  the whole procedure took a couple of hours.  I will have this catheter with me from now until just before leaving the hospital after the ASCT.  Now that I have the Hickman, I won't need any more needle sticks to install an IV port.  Having the catheter is also handy for stem cell collection.

Speaking of that, today was stem cell collection day.  Jeff was kind enough to come in to DFCI to keep me company, giving Gretchen a much-needed break.  It was a long day (7:00 to 4:00), but the time passed quickly, with Jeff and I doing nerdy stuff working on developing some computer programs for automating the scheduling of golf tournaments (like our recent outing in OIB, NC).  I told Gretchen that it was too bad she wasn't there, as our technical discussions would have kept her on the edge of her seat.

I was hooked up to the apheresis apparatus for about five and a half hours.  They actually processed four volumes of blood from my body (13.4 liters), which was cycled back after extracting the stem cells.  For some reason, Dr. Richardson wants to collect ten million stem cells from me, which is the maximum amount they try to collect.  The clinical trial I have enrolled in only requires 4 million stem cells, which is enough for 2 transplants.  Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to go back again tomorrow to complete the process. They wouldn't know if they had enough collected today until later this evening, so Muriel said to plan to be there again at 7:00 tomorrow morning unless she called me by late tonight to tell me to stay home.  Well, it's late, and she hasn't called, so guess where I'll be tomorrow.

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