This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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Stem Cell Transplant: The Harvest

This is one of the only photos I took during my 2 years of treatment. I refused to take pictures of myself while I was sick and looking back, I regret that I have no documentation to see how strong I was. I have my scars and some pre/post photos, but very few during my actual 2 years of treatment. I am 2 years into remission and I'm finally comfortable with people seeing this side of me and my life as it was.

I think I was ashamed that I had cancer - but why should I be? I didn't choose this for myself, I didn't want this, it just happened. I wanted people to see me happy, even if it was a fake truth. Maybe, I wanted to see myself happy too.

This photo was taken on the day my stem cells were 'harvested' and then stored for 2 months until I was ready for my transplant. I remember this day so well. My mom missioned all the way to Hero Burger to get me a gluten-free turkey burger since I was passing out as the nurses stuck 2 massive needles into each arm, only to have them be insufficient. My veins were too deep in my right arm for the nurses to get good blood flow; I was taken to an O.R. and had a temporary stint put in my neck alongside my Hickman line.

After the harvest, the temporary lines were removed. I remember not being able to lift my head because the tubes in my neck were keeping my muscles tight. When the tubes were removed, one of the nurses put a giant sandbag on my neck to make sure I didn't bleed out. I sat in the chair with this 10lb sandbag on my neck for 30 minutes before I could leave. I was lucky enough to have my scars heal decently, so unless someone is looking closely, they'd never see the incisions.

The nurses said they had harvested millions of stem
cells, and I was so fucking proud of myself and my body. This was a triumphant moment for me, even though my treatment was far from over.

I wanted to share this photo today, as a way to start a conversation with my friends, family and other people who have gone through a stem cell transplant and cancer. Part of my recovery is acknowledging that I had cancer and that my life will forever be a little different. I need to talk about it, connect and share my experiences.

I hope this post helps start a conversation, and if you want to know a bit more about my actual transplant, check out this blog post: The Cure.


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