After several rounds of chemo, my doctor told me I needed to get a PET scan. I hate PET scan. I don’t mind the actual process of PET scan, but I really dislike that moment when the result is in my doctor’s hand.
Anyway, I took my PET scan as planned and guess what? My cancer was almost all gone except for a small part. I was mad, because ALMOST is not good enough for me, I wanted to hear it’s ALL gone.
My doctor looked at my result and he told me that he thinks chemo wasn’t working anymore. Well, he could keep giving me chemo and it would probably make that small part go away but chances are, it would come back again.
I just stood there, in front of my doctor as he told me this and didn’t know what to think except: when will this end? I felt like walking in a dark tunnel, waiting to see a light but nothing, just darkness.
He told me about a treatment called stem cell transplant. It wasn’t the first time I heard this treatment because he suggested it earlier in the year but I refused to do it since I wanted to try chemo first.
Basically the transplant would be with my own stem cell, and so the match would be 100%. The process itself wasn’t difficult or painful but the side effects would be tough. I listened as he explained to me the steps. I tried to be calm but I wasn’t. I didn’t want to do this but what choice do I have?
After some considerations, I decided to do this transplant. I might as well fight this with all my might.
The steps to stem cell transplant was quite simple thought it took quite a while to do all the steps:
- They put another catheter (Central Venous Catheter, CVC) through my neck into the large vein there so that it would be easier when they take my stem cells. I still had my PICC line (the small catheter) on my arm but they couldn’t use that to get my stem cells since it was too small.
- They took my stem cell through that CVC. Then they stored the stem cell.
- I did radiation five times then they told me to go home for some weeks to rest.
- I went back to the hospital to receive my high dose chemo for 6 days. This chemo was different from my usual chemo, the dose was a lot more and it was meant to destroy all remaining cancer cells.
- After the 6 days of high dose chemo, they “gave me back” my stem cells through IV. This process was actually quite straight forward and didn’t hurt at all.
After the stem cell infusion, my immune system immediately dropped for several days (it was expected) then slowly it went up. I was not allowed to leave the hospital for a few weeks and after I got out I wasn’t allowed to leave Malaysia until my doctor told me it was fine.
My doctor kept saying that I would become like a baby after the transplant. My immune system was like a baby’s and I was to be very careful at least for the first year after transplant.
I’ll write in more detail about this transplant later on.
Right now I am six months after transplant. Everything is good and I am due for another PET scan. As you are reading this, I am probably on my way to Kuala Lumpur to get my scan. I am scared, petrified of the result but I can only hope.