Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday, September 23rd.

So moments after I posted that I am going to be a bone marrow donor, I got a call from Paulette in Omaha (from Be The Match) with some dates.

Next Tuesday I will fly to Denver with my mom and will have a physical on Wednesday. We'll fly home Wednesday evening.

I'm tentatively scheduled to do my donation on Tuesday, October 18th, so Frank and I will probably drive to Denver the weekend prior and drive back later that week.

Those two paragraphs are so small considering what's contained within them.

I promised to tell you about the donation process itself. Be The Match has a lot of information on the subject here, but I'll give you the 10-cent tour.

There are two types of donation: Bone marrow donation and peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. The patient's doctor decides which donation method is best for the patient.

The type of donation most people have heard of is the bone marrow donation. That's the one where donors are knocked out while doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the donor's pelvic bone. This method is kind of painful and has a bit of a recovery period for the donor.

The most popular type of donation (about 80% of donations), however, and the type I am doing is PBSC donation. This requires that for 5 mornings leading up to donation, I get injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in my bloodstream. On the fifth day, my blood will be removed through a needle in one arm, passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells, and returned to my body through the other arm. It's a similar process to donating blood plasma.

The primary side effect of PBSC donation, according to the online reading I've done, is that during the 5 days of injections my bones will ache, like when you have the flu. Most people report that they have back aches, or headaches, but that these are eased by taking Tylenol.

There aren't any long-term effects of PBSC donation that I am aware of, and most people report feeling 100% back to normal in less than a week after donation.

That's the black-and-white. The grey is the part where I can read all of this stuff, and sort of be aware of what's going to happen, but still not have a clue, really. I won't know until I'm going through it. Most of the accounts of donation that I've read are almost comical in their lack of information about the reality of donation - "It doesn't hurt AT ALL!!" "It was a tiny bit uncomfortable, but no worse than a little headache..." "Shots are no picnic, but they weren't that bad." I'm trying to read between the lines and form an honest picture, but it's not easy.

That's why I'll really try to be honest here as I recount my experience.

Starting with this: I'm nervous. I don't care for shots. I'm kind of afraid of the actual donation process where they take out my blood and put it back in. What if someone trips over a hose and rips out my veins and then my blood gets spurted all over everywhere but inside my body where it belongs? The hotel could have bedbugs. The plane on the way to Denver could crash. The plane on the way back from Denver could crash. The cars to and from the airport could crash. What if a freak snowstorm hits Denver and we're trapped there and can't get back home for days and days? My cats are going to miss me when I'm not there. My bones are going to ache and its going to feel like I have the flu and I hate having the flu. What if my bones hurt so much I can't walk? I could be allergic to the filgrastim and go into anaphylactic shock and die when I get my first injection. Remember in my last post where I said I don't dwell on things I can't control? That's still true - I won't dwell on this stuff - but there's certainly no shame in giving my fears a name, is there?

And then there's this: All of my fears, my concerns, my questions, my possible pain and discomfort - all of this is nothing compared to what a 58-year old woman with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is going through. For four to ten days prior to me donating, she will be getting high doses of chemotherapy and possibly radiation to destroy the diseased cells in her body. The treatment also destroys the blood-forming cells in her bone marrow to make room for the ones I'll donate, and destroys her immune system so it can't attack my transplanted cells. This means that once she starts this regimen, if she doesn't get a transplant, she will probably die.

I'll get some bone aches that can be treated with Tylenol. She'll get her system wiped to the point of no return.

Which brings me to another confession: I have about fifty thousand emotions going through me at once. I'm legitimately scared, nervous, excited, proud, humbled, thrilled, sad, happy, worried, concerned, anxious and lots of other feelings that I can't find names for all at the same time. Sometimes, I feel like I want to cry because I'm overwhelmed at the idea that I am going to possibly save someone with a relatively small sacrifice of time and comfort. I want everyone I know to join the Be The Match registry, and start to feel holier-than-thou about it and think disparagingly about those who haven't joined. Then I snap back to reality and think of all the reasons someone might not want to or be able to donate and feel guilty for thinking those disparaging thoughts I thought moments ago. I'm a basket case, I tell ya. Up, down, happy, sad, bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, wouncy, fun fun fun fun fun!

That's out of my system... for now.

Happy Friday! :)

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