Days 389 – 393


I’m in London – it’s Stem Cell Harvest day today but I’ve flunked it.  Well, not seriously, but my stem cell count was 8.6 and we want 10.0+ so I’m waiting in the excellent MacMillan Cancer Care centre in the grounds of Kings College Hospital where there are friendly volunteers, good daylight, free tea and some real peace with comfy chairs and tables to work at if one wants.  Amazing, and so helpful because Kings itself is busy and frenetic and there’s nowhere to sit quietly except the large chapel on the first floor which is appealing for its space and light but not the place to get out the laptop.

I’m waiting to go back to the Apheresis Ward where they will give me some more stem cell growth factor drugs: a shot of Filgrastim at 4pm and then some Plerixafor at 6pm.  These should bump my stem cell count up significantly and tomorrow they will try to harvest again.

I made a bit of a fool of myself this morning, fainting in the hospital chair after the third big-bore needle the nurse tried to get a good blood flow from my left arm – I don’t know what it was; I was hot, had been running late, and after the first two slightly painful attempts failed I started to wobble.  The nurse laid the chair back down and carried on with what she was doing, but it was too late and off I went.  Nothing.  Just a blank whiteness.  I woke up probably minutes later behind drawn blue curtains with another nurse gently patting my arm and calling my name and I had no idea where I was or what I was doing there or who these people were.  It’s a stunning experience passing out.  I wish I could voluntarily make it happen.  It’s a most peaceful place and so hard to come out of – it’s nothing like sleep but a place of absolute nothingness.

Funny but I’ve been dreaming about nothingness recently, and planning a sailing trip to nowhere.  Of course its not nowhere, not a blank white space, but it comes close on our little planet.  I’ve been thinking about where I might take Selene’s Dragon if the boat deal comes off.  Of course this summer I’ll probably be happy just sailing about Mounts Bay and perhaps along to Prussia Cove or Mullion, just enjoying and getting used to handling the boat.  But what about a longer voyage?   How about sailing west or south west of the Isles of Scilly, out into the Atlantic for a day or two and out of sight of land for a couple of days.  What’s out there?  Nothing.

But of course it’s not nothing.  At some point you cross the invisible edge of the continental shelf where the water depth drops from maybe 200 ft to 2000ft.  I’m guessing these figures, but its relatively sudden, that edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate that we surf geological time on.  I’d love to go there!  I spoke to Joff about it – he said maybe you’d find whales…that sounds like enough.  Set a point on the chart and head out there, then come back to my home port when ready.  I like it.  Most people like to reach a destination whereas this is really just sailing for sailing’s sake, and enjoying a boat that should be capable of it.

Well, back to London.  I came up on Thursday afternoon, and on Friday there was an introduction day for stem cell patients.  It was impressive – a morning of talks from nurses, coordinators, dieticians, physiotherapists, phsychiatrists who are all there for us when we are admitted.  They are putting a lot of energy and resources into our care on many fronts.  I can’t fault it, and feel that I’ve made a good decision to come here for this phase of treatment.  There’s a short tour of the translant wards which will be home for a month or so.  I think it will be ok.

Afterwards I have lunch at Cafe Maloko again, and Virginia comes to join me for another delicious galette savoury buckwheat and gram flour pancake.  Mmmm.

There’s more gastronomic joy later in the day as I go to visit Mike and Candy in Teddington and tea turns in to barbeque supper and more of Candy’s fabulous stewed rhubarb.  I don’t know if its the drugs but I’m hungry this week and able to just eat and eat.  I take this as a good sign.

Saturday and Sunday I take it easy at Denise’s place in Kew, catching up with David and Alice over sushi at eat@TOKYO saturday evening.  And on Sunday I practice some Tai Chi in the sunshine in Denise’s garden for a few hours and it begins to make some more sense; I’m beginning to get it; the slow and controlled transfer of weight and energy and the breath moving with it.

Later D and I go to Kew Gardens – me for the first time – all blossom and beautful old pine trees,

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and the Hot House I love, finding the cacao plant with a big yellow tempting seed pod hanging…


…the root of all that craving.

Well, I’m back in Apheresis ward and we are waiting for the G-CSF drugs to arrive.  Just relax, we’re on Hospital Time.