The next phase of my treatment is going to involve the use of Stem Cells. My own stem cells!
Stem Cells are immature cells. Blood forming stem cells are found in the bone marrow, they are known as mononuclear cells and are continually growing into mature blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets).
Using your own stem cells is known as autologous transplant. With most people this involves a high dose of chemotherapy which damages the bone marrow. By transplanting the stem cells the aim is to rescue the damaged bone marrow by reintroducing stem cells back after the process and regenerating it.
There are four stages to the process.
The removal of tumour cells from the blood – using chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both. In my case this is not happening due to my kidney function.
The use of GCSF injections to stimulate the production of stem cells in the bone marrow. If chemotherapy has been used this happens naturally and is boosted by the use of GCSF. In my case it doesn’t require the chemotherapy element. The stem cells are produced in such quantities that they ‘spill out’ into the bloodstream.
Stem cells are collected from your blood using an apheresis machine. This is done as an outpatient on a day ward. This process takes several hours, but may need several days of treatments.
Three weeks or so after this process I would be admitted onto a ward for Conditioning Chemotherapy and the return of stem cells
This process seems a daunting one but I’m grateful for the fact that their is a process in place and a route out of this disease.
On this day when I have found out that another friend has died of cancer (this time bowel cancer), someone younger than I, for the second time in less than three months I realise how insidious cancer is and how important it is to keep on top of your health.
RIP Pete – your battle is over, but you fought it well. God Bless.