Monday 28 January 2013


Dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup
Harvest - Neil Young

Ever wondered what a "stem cell harvest" consists of? Neither had I.

The purpose of the exercise is to collect stem cells which an be frozen until I need them. It goes like this. First, a nice big tasty bag of cyclophosphamide to shake things up inside. Hopefully kill off some myeloma and make more space in my bones for the good stuff. It seems to work - it certainly did for all my hair.
That made for an interesting Monday morning in the classroom.
"Early morning work: think of the craziest reason for what happened to Mr Bicknell's hair"
"Yes but, Mr Bicknell, what did happen to your hair?"
"I had a fight with a badger"
"Did you really?"
"It's a crazy reason, isn't it? Have you ever had a fight with a badger?"

Then a week of growth factor injections. These are OK really, now I've got over the initial horror at having to inject myself. They give me pulsating bone pain - like my pulse is going right through my skeleton - which isn't spectacularly painful, but is remarkably distracting.

And then 5 hours hooked up to an apheresis machine, a needle in each arm. With the machine spinning samples of my blood and separating out the crucial fractions. And giving me the rest back. It was simply boring - couldn't even move my arms or all the alarms went off. Left me a bit tired and with one very sore arm.

And then home - to await the phone call. Have we got enough? If not it means at least one more growth factor injection and another day in hospital. The standard units for stem cells are "million per kilogram of body weight". They want to harvest around 7 - which is enough for two transplants. That's over half a billion stem cells for a slightly underweight gent such as myself.

The phone rings.
"We got a good harvest"
"How many?"
I allow myself a moment to smugly enjoy my own virility.More than a billion cells. It's not often these days that my body impresses me.

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