This past week was a huge test of my faith, courage and strength. Tim and I are so excited about the stem cell collection, which has been a life saver for so many other lymphoma and leukaemia sufferers over the years. The fear of the unknown though takes over sometimes and it doesn’t matter how exciting the event may be, the scary bits come to the fore and play havoc with one’s courage.
We fronted up for the blood tests last Monday, but sadly (and to my relief if I’m gonna be honest!), my counts were not high enough to proceed with the collection. Kari who is the head honcho of this procedure, ran through what was involved with me again, in brief. I had to go home and have my injections that night ready to front up the next day for more blood tests and hopefully a high enough count to get it started. There is always a high possibility the collection won’t be completed in the one gathering, and I’d have to go back the next day to top up the amount.
The thing that really played havoc with my confidence was that if the veins in my arms are not strong enough to take the pressure of the needle and blood flow over 6 hours, (and I apologise to those with blood or needle phobias at this point!) a visit to ICU would be booked and these needles would be applied to my jugular and the big vein in the thigh. Not appealing at all, and honestly, I am not a needle phobe usually but I worked my brain up into a frenzy thinking about having this done. I felt sick.
So Tuesday I fronted up smiling and full of fake courage. Blood tests taken but results were up in the air with huge question marks because the bloody machine was playing up in the lab! Oh, for goodness sake! I was hoping they’d fix the machine soon because I didn’t fancy another morning up at 5am…lazy beast that I have become! I often think of how I was up at 6am every morning, off to work by 7, home by about 5 or 6 pm depending on what happened during the day and traffic on the way home, cook, clean, visit friends, shop and do all those things we squeeze into a day and into bed at around 11pm where my book would be calling me for the next hour at least. How did I do it? I was also concerned about the mornings away from work for Tim, who between you and me, wasn’t looking too brave or healthy himself!
Finally at 9am it was decided by Kari to go ahead with the collection. That brought back the problem of my veins, (notoriously weak and prone to collapse), or the jugular thing. Aaaarggh!! Heat pads were cosily wrapped around my freezing arms, and I was snuggled into a heated blanket – such bliss! After much tapping and heating and thoughtful considerations of the state of my poorly veins, it was declared two had been found to be suitable. One in each arm. They prefer not to have both arms tethered at the elbow area as you need a hand for eating, drinking and yes, wiping those tears away. Of course my veins had to be at the elbow areas (where else?), and because I didn’t want the alternative, I agreed to the procedure being started.
Surgical trays were set up – gosh these gorgeous nurses are so casual and relaxed – and happy in their work. Needle sizes were discussed. IV lines prepared. The machine fired up. At this point I looked at Tim sitting nearby and he was not looking too healthy at all. In fact he looked exactly as I felt – faint inside but trying to hold it together. That was it for the fake bravery and I burst into tears. The girls were quick to comfort me and check on Tim. My solution was for Tim to bugger off out of there and go get his work done….he could forget about what might be happening to me, and I could be braver again by talking matter-of-factly with the girls about the procedure.
There was a young guy in there having a collection done as a donor for someone he doesn’t know but matches up with. He was a bit iffy at first too, but soon settled down once the pumping had begun, so I didn’t feel too bad about being a sook. Five hours later it was complete and I was broken free. Free to rush to the loo that I’d been dying for over the last hour or so. I hadn’t been able to eat or drink as both arms had to be kept straight for the needles and blood flow. Although hungry, food really wasn’t a priority for me and no matter how much Cliff cajoled and tempted, I just could not eat any of his food on offer.
The count for the collection wasn’t terribly clear due to the machine lab not giving a true count of my cells to begin with. So the question mark hung above again….would I have to return the next day to top up or would all be ok?
Who needs any other excitement in a day? Tim arrived to take me home, having been told they would call me once the lab had the count sorted as to whether I would need to take more injections, and front up again, or not. You can imagine the relief and happiness when the call came shortly after we’d arrived back at the townhouse to say we had hit target. Oh such joy!
One’s body can take so much, it’s amazing. Over the past couple of months mine seems to have been put to the test in one way or another, with more to come yet. My trek has been ‘easy’ compared to some of the patients I’ve met so I truly admire those brave souls. Tuesday night my body needed rest and time to recover. Having one’s complete blood supply pumped out and through a filter machine to be then pumped back into the body takes a toll. I have a new respect for renal disease sufferers who have regular dialysis.
So now, it’s back to see Su Yan tomorrow, blood tests and find out what the steps are moving forward while the cells are being developed for implant.
On other news – most of it disturbing now that the Americans have voted in Clown Trump as their preferred President. Oh but wait, he wasn’t the most preferred at all – Hillary was – but those old blokes over there have over-ridden that result with the College vote. I cannot understand their way of voting and honestly think it needs to be brought into the current century.
New Zealand has endured yet another series of earthquakes and aftershocks, which brings to mind the Maori legend I was told when I lived there. The South Island depicts the boat with the fisherman trying to reel in the big fish, the North Island. The big fish is too strong for the fisherman and pulls the boat down into the water. Scary thought!
Fingers crossed the shakes will subside now they have shuddered up to Japan.
Till the next step of my trek, take care, be happy and spare a thought for all those affected by an illness in some way. Being a carer or family member isn’t easy either. Thank you again for your loving support and encouragement…I would not be this far without it.
Much love and big hugs.