What I had last weekend is known as mobilization chemotherapy, even though it de-mobilized me. It’s done to increase the number of stem cells in the peripheral blood. I return to Denver on Friday and as soon as my counts are up, I will begin stem cell collection, called apheresis.
Apheresis can take several days. I’ll be hooked up to a cell-separation machine and my blood circulated through a centrifuge. Only about a cup will be outside my body at any time. The goal is to harvest 10 or more CD34 cells per microliter (about 3.4 ounces). The minimum number of stem cells required for a transplant is 2,000,000.
The harvested cells are frozen and I get about a week of rest before six days of high dose chemo to kill off my marrow, the side effects of which can last for weeks or months. Then my cells are engrafted back into my bones. No huge syringes or needles; the cells are just infused through my central line.
Transplant day is known as Day-0. It usually takes two or three weeks for the stem cells to start producing new red blood cells, platelets and finally white blood cells. During this time the oncology staff keeps an eye on me while I do my best not to get an infection or any other complication. If all goes well, I’ll be sent home somewhere between Day+20 and Day+28.
How’s that for a summer vacation?