While browsing a forum for stem cell transplant patients, I was fascinated to read about one woman who has absolutely no memory of her transplant or the days before and after the procedure. She was looking for reassurance that there was nothing untoward in her lack of memory, particularly given the detailed stories being recounted by other transplant patients. It turned out that she wasn’t the only one, though – others seem to have blocked out at least some parts of the experience.
Today I was talking to my uncle, who was fondly reminiscing about the buzz and camaraderie of his high-level legal work in Singapore, having moved back to to the UK and taken on a gentler workload from his new base in Somerset. He was aware, however, that in looking back at that time, his memories tend towards the good moments while ignoring the drawbacks of what was a highly pressurised, time-consuming and often draining role. I believe I’m the same when I recall my previous time in hospital; it’s easy to look at my first battle against leukaemia as quite a fun and interesting adventure, while forgetting the painful moments, difficult procedures and various setbacks.
The human mind, it seems, is often very good at providing a rose-tinted view of the past. Perhaps this is to protect us: to remember the tougher parts of our history would be to relive them, and this is likely to be far from cheering or encouraging. On the other hand – as my uncle said – the grass is always greener on the other side: when going through a low patch, events from our past can seem glorious, even when in reality they were never as perfect as we remember. The passing of time rubs out a lot of the tricky moments that perhaps we do not want to remember, which is perhaps why you sometimes hear people longing for a better, bygone era that never really existed.
And so to the present. I wonder which memories of my stem cell transplant will burn brightest as time goes by. The toughest time so far this time around has probably been during the MARALL trial, but I’m already remembering it more fondly as the treatment that got me into remission. The crucial days immediately after my transplant have provided few defining moments to pin in my mental scrapbook – but of course Day Zero will always burn brightly in the memory.
Days +13 and +14
It’s partly the sheer uneventfulness of Day +13 that explains why for the first day after my transplant, I failed to post on my blog. There really wasn’t much to report on the medical front, and I was feeling a bit too tired to conjure up anything more creative. The only real news was that my neutrophils were down to 0.6, so I had another shot of G-CSF, although that is probably most interesting in relation to today’s news.
For today my neutrophils shot up to a remarkable 6.6 – I don’t remember reaching such heights at any point since they have been recorded. I’ve always been pretty sensitive to G-CSF, but I like to think that such a leap is only partly due to the growth hormone, and partly the result of strengthening production by my flashy new bone marrow. Apparently it’s quite normal that they fluctuate before settling, so I’m sure there’ll be a lot more ups and downs to come.
I also had my ‘chimerism’ tested for the first time today. We won’t get the results until a few days’ time, but when we do we’ll know what percentage of my cells have been produced by the new bone marrow and what percentage come from any of ‘my’ residual bone marrow. However, this, too, is expected to fluctuate a fair bit: apparently the first test usually shows up as 100% donor cells, before dropping to about 80%, only reaching a true figure (hopefully 100%) when it settles later on.
Otherwise, I’ve been a bit more sleepy but still enjoyed a lot of family company today. I’m a bit sniffly still, so I’m not sure how well the Tamiflu has dealt with my influenza, but doctors seem relatively unconcerned. Counts (including liver function, critically) are looking good, so I may get to go home sooner than expected. As always, though, I won’t believe it until it happens, and in the meantime I’m quite comfortable here in Bed 6.
The days are shooting by, though – tomorrow I’ll be halfway towards Day +30: the first milestone!