Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Time and tide...

She makes the sign of a teaspoon, he makes the sign of a wave. The poor boy changes clothes and puts on after-shave, to compensate for his ordinary shoes
Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes - Paul Simon

Time and tide... and toe nails

It sounds grand to say I had a stem cell transplant. But some transplant - what with them being my own cells. What I really had was a gargantuan dose of chemo and the stem cells merely saved my life. Melphalan (a nitrogen mustard, not dissimilar to mustard gas) is truly awesome stuff. We know it successfully bleached my bone marrow. It also frazzled all my hair follicles (on my head and everywhere else). It didn't do much for my digestive tract either. And I think it left a damaged layer in my skin - which would account for the period of itching and flaking I went through a month or so ago. It even left an amazing tide mark in my nails - which has grown out of most of my nails by now, but is still quite visible as a gnarly line across my big toes. I guess the line represents the nail growth which was disrupted by the chemo. I wonder if there are similar tide marks through every tissue in my body? My organs? My bones? My brain? I rather fear there might be!

It would be so difficult to keep accosting people in conversation and saying "look at what it's done to my toes!" But on Dial M, I can simply upload, and voila! By the time you realise you didn't want to see, it's too late. The power of a blog.

6 comments:

  1. As it was explained to me, the chemo looks to retard the fastest growing cells in your body. Hair cells, skin cells, nail cells digestive cells are therefore impacted. I was pretty well prepared for most of the impact of the chemo. But no one told me about the itching. It was a very unwelcome surprise. It took longer to resolve than anything else. My hair grew back, my nausea went away. But my skin continued to itch for months. In terms of relative discomfort, I suppose the itchy skin would be the one you would vote for if you had a choice of having to deal with just one. But, man, it was a bitch of an itch!

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    1. I saw someone on a quiz show a couple of years ago lose about £100k because they gave the wrong answer to the question
      "Which grows faster on the human body, your hair or your nails?"
      Answer - as I can prove - is hair (by a long way). I had been warned that the melphalan hits fast-growing cells, so I was expecting the hair loss and the digestive lining damage. The skin thing was a complete surprise to me too. I don't think I got the itch quite as bad as you. But it was pretty distracting while it lasted.

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  2. One month on from Melphalan:
    My skin is quite dry, and I'm still getting nausea which starts around 2.30 pm.
    Weirdly all the hair fell out of the back of my head but I've still got quite a lot at the front.
    Little bit itchy in some places you wouldn't want to be itchy in.
    Stomach hasn't settled down yet but at least my doings are 'solid' :)

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    1. As well as the itching I got some seriously irritating fungus in the "places you wouldn't want". Aren't we just the lucky ones?

      You should give us photos of your hair.

      And are you using the Bristol stool scale to record your doings for bloodandbones? Mind you, in my experience, there needs to be a score for colour as well as texture.

      Glad to see you are feeling well enough to be online. Keep strong. Melphalan is evil, but it does the business.

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  3. I did consider publishing the BSS data on the blog but couldn't really stomach it *laughs drily.

    The hair is weird isn't it. I actually started losing it after the initial cyclophosphamide infusion so shaved it all off. Then after the melphalan I was expecting it all to go, but it didn't just at the sides and the back leaving a shaved top "taxi driver" style.

    I've had a mostly bed day today as I had a very runny nose this morning and was coughing a bit. For the first time my temperature rose above 6.9 to 7.1 so I decided to take it easy and be watchful. It's all a cleared up mostly now but I still feel a bit chesty. MM paranoia, dontcha just love it.

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  4. Alex, my fingernails are still growing out with ridges both lengthwise and across the width and I'm over three years post-allo transplant.

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