It’s already been an eventful and exhausting week of adventures in stem cell collection. On Monday, I had a full day of appointments leading up to having the dreaded double lumen Quentin catheter placed in my neck. It’s a stiff straw in my neck with two hoses that stick out. I have to sleep sitting upright, and I can’t turn my head.
Yesterday morning, I arrived at 6:45am with superhero confidence that all of the Neupogen shots that I’ve been diligently giving myself in the stomach nightly would culminate in a spectacular result after the first day of collection. But after being hooked up to the machine for 4 1/2 hours, I yielded zero stem cells – a rare occurrence. So, I was given a shot of a drug called Plerixafor in addition to a late night blood transfusion of red cells to boost my counts. I was at the hospital until midnight last night, then back at 6:45am this morning to have another go at stem cell collection – get the hoses sticking out of my neck hooked up to that big machine again for another 5 hour session of watching my blood spin through it. It took longer this time, which meant I had to use the bed pan to pee, again. Neither my proudest moment nor favorite thing, yet I’ve chosen to share it here. Whatevs. I’m now waiting in the clinic to have a transfusion of platelets and should find out later in the afternoon how I did with this second round – whether any stem cells have been collected.
This whole process has been grueling, and today, after the morning collection and a bean taco in the cafeteria, I wheeled my rolling pack across the street, plopped down on a bench outside the hospital, and cried my freaking eyes out. I could feel the eyes of passersby on me – as if the entire lunchtime crush of hospital staff, med school students and visitors all snapped their heads in my direction. I know I have the look of a cancer patient, and in that moment, I didn’t care. I know I’m bald, masked up, feeble and have hoses sticking out of my neck. I’m at a hospital dammit. Where can I go and not have people stare?! So, I just broke down and cried and cried and cried. I don’t want to analyze any of it. I don’t care why I broke down. Plain and simple, I broke in half in front of God and everyone. I could hear the voices of all the nurses and my friends saying, “You’re so strong and amazing!” F@CK!!! I don’t want to be ‘strong’ or ‘amazing’ or any of those awesome things anymore. I just want to be normal.
But now I’m back … sitting here in the clinic waiting for another platelet transfusion. I’m pitiful. But I still know I’ll make it.