Before your stem cell transplant, your bone marrow and immune system need to be treated and prepared to make way for the new cells. This is done with chemotherapy, sometimes in combination with a type of radiotherapy called total body irradiation (TBI)
You’ll normally start your conditioning therapy the day after you go into hospital. It can take one day, ten days, or sometimes even longer, depending on your treatment.
Your transplant normally takes place the day after the conditioning therapy has finished.
Common side effects of conditioning therapy include:
There are different ways you can manage these side effects, including medication. Read more about dealing with the early side effects of a stem cell transplant, or speak to your transplant team for more support.
You may already be aware of this but when you have your chemotherapy it’s very likely that you will lose your hair. However it will grow back after treatment, normally after a couple of months. This can be very upsetting for both men and women, but schemes such as The Teenage Cancer Trust’s HAIR4U provide real hair wigs, free of charge, to patients like you. Your nurse or youth support worker should be able to give you the details that are specific to your hospital for this.
If you have long hair you might want to try out some shorter styles before treatment starts. Your hair may not all fall out at once, so you could decide to shave your head before it starts. You’ll be advised to keep your head covered with a hat, scarf or even a wig if you prefer, to prevent losing heat in the winter and getting sunburnt in the summer.
'I actually really enjoyed the hospital food; two cooked meals a day, including puddings! But after about five days of the conditioning therapy, you don’t really feel like it. The weight just dropped off me. I’ve gradually built myself back up.'
Peter had a transplant in 2012. Read Peter’s blog about finding a positive outlook after a transplant.
Information published: 06/10/16
Next review due: 06/10/19