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Archive for October, 1997

I had another two days of stem cell harvesting on Thursday and Friday this week, and I’m done! I was very relieved to hear that they finally got enough stem cells. I don’t yet know the totals, but I expect that they got some extra, and that this may help speed my recovery. The harvesting itself wasn’t bad, but I was somewhat anxious about whether they would get enough, and I did find it stressful to have to remember a Neupogen injection every night. And each milestone like this makes me feel closer to the end of all these treatments!

I’m now looking forward to a relatively relaxing five weeks before I enter the hospital on or about Dec. 1. I have one more dose of Taxol on Thursday, November 6, and I can expect a few days of aches and pains, manageable with Advil, about November 9-11, but other than this, I have no more tests or treatments scheduled.
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I’m feeling quite healthy today. It’s Tuesday, and I’m due for the next Taxol treatment on Thursday (10/16). As the books predicted, the joint and muscle pain from the Taxol only lasted three or four days, and was mostly mild and controllable by Advil. (The most difficult day was the third day after the Taxol – then it was controllable by Tylenol with codeine, but that meant I slept all afternoon). There hasn’t been any nausea nor other symptoms from the Taxol. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Jewish holidays and Margie’s two visits home. I’m looking forward to parents’ weekend at Yale this weekend, though Sunday might be a challenge if the pain peaks again on the third day after Taxol.

Last week (10/6-9) I had the stem cell harvesting, also known as apheresis. The following blow-by-blow description is written especially for others who might be facing the same procedure.

We were glad to learn that my white cell counts were very high. I had been taking injections of Neupogen for 10 days, and that, plus the Taxol, was supposed to stimulate the mobilization of stem cells in my blood – these cells normally reach their peak about 10 days after Taxol chemotherapy. On Monday morning they sedated me and put a “Mahurker catheter” in my neck. Then I was attached to a machine 4-7 hours per day on Monday-Thursday, while they removed my blood, extracted the stem cells, and put the blood back. They freeze these stem cells, and will give them back to me when I’m in the hospital in December. (It should have been 4-5 hours per day, but one day things got stuck after two hours and they had to start over). The experience wasn’t bad – most of the time I felt like I was taking a five hour plane ride, in a comfortable reclining chair – with lots of pleasant things to do (my new laptop computer to play with, a mystery novel). My mother came with me and was allowed to visit 5 minutes each hour. I did get stiff and sluggish, though. By the end of each day of sitting immobilized in a reclining chair, I was very happy to get out and go for a walk and get my muscles working again.
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