This is Day -7, as in a countdown to launch my Allogeneic PBSCT.
Translation: a procedure in which a person receives blood-forming stem cells from a genetically similar, but not identical, donor. In my case, my donor is a guy from Europe. PBSCT stands for peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. That’s what the doctor ordered.
This countdown period is the conditioning phase that prepares my body for the actual transplant. All this means is that starting today and continuing seven days, or to Day Zero, I’ll be getting in shape for my new immune system. Today I got a drug called Palifermin, which decreases the incidence and duration of severe oral mucositis from the high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy that I am scheduled to receive. Basically, this stuff is a type of keratin that prevents the lining in my mouth and stomach, as well as my skin from tearing up due to my conditioning workout.
Next, the interventional radiologist placed a Hickman catheter in my upper right chest, near my collarbone. It’s sometimes called a Central Line, and it is larger than a regular IV. This is the super highway by which I will receive my stem cells. It can also stay in longer and be used more times than my veins would ever be able to endure. All-in-all a good thing, but not tonight. Tonight it hurts.
The last “big” part of my day included going to radiation oncology to get marking for my TBI or Total Body Irradiation. If it sounds scary, it is. At least it’s painless. There was a bunch of laying around and having radiation therapists draw on me with green sharpies before pressing stickers onto my torso. Seriously it was like kindergarten – color on stuff you aren’t supposed to; put stickers where you shouldn’t; and take a nap.
By 3:00 p.m. there wasn’t much left to do except move into my hospital room. Think back to moving into the dorm, sans the greeting committee and the roommate. (On the transplant ward, there are no shared accommodations. But I digress…) The room is fairly sterile, so you make it your own with a colorful comforter, coordinating shower curtain and rug, posters and the like. There is no “Move-In Night Madness” just more blood draws and vitals.
I did get to meet my nurse, Augustine (e.g., Saint Augustine, the Doctor of Grace), although I strongly suspect that meeting my floor mates will be a completely different story: no wild parties, no sharing of snacks, no late-night pranks.
Good thing…I’m exhausted.