During days 0-30 after your transplant, the new stem cells will be making their way to your bone marrow to grow and mature into blood cells. This is called ‘engraftment’. Your immune system will slowly be getting stronger, but doctors will keep a close eye out for infections and complications.
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At some point during your recovery you may get an infection. Your transplant team will be monitoring you for signs of this. Find out more about infections.
Read tips for preventing infection in our leaflet Life After Transplant: An Essential Guide to Dealing with Infections.
After transplant, it’s common to experience a sore mouth – this is called mucositis. You might find your saliva becomes thicker, ulcers develop, and you have some soreness in your mouth and throat. Using a softer toothbrush, mouth sponge or mouthwash with local anaesthetic, such as Difflam™ can help. Read more tips on our page about eating and drinking.
If you get quite severe or painful mucositis, painkillers may help you feel more comfortable. Ask your doctor or nurse to give you more advice.
After the transplant you may have problems with your liver and kidneys. You may also develop a condition called graft versus host disease (GvHD) when cells from the donor (graft) are attacking your own body (host). During this reaction, donor cells recognise that the recipient’s body is ‘foreign’ and mount an attack against it.
Your transplant team will be monitoring you for any signs of these difficulties and there are things they can do to treat them.
You may experience side effects of your conditioning therapy and transplant that can make eating and drinking difficult. These include:
These symptoms can cause you to lose weight and feel tired, and they might last for a few weeks or a few months. Your transplant team will be monitoring you closely, but you should tell them about any symptoms so they can investigate them.
You might need to make some changes to your diet during your recovery, depending on whether you have any of these side effects. Your dietitian can give you more advice.
We’ve also suggested some basic tips on our page about diet.
‘After transplant, food certainly didn’t taste the same and I went off a few foods I loved before treatment, particularly chocolate! Thankfully, my taste returned to normal some time ago…’
Steve had a transplant in 2013
As your immune system is recovering after a transplant, you’ll be more vulnerable to infections, so your transplant team will advise you to following a specific diet in the early stages of recovery.
For more information read Bloodwise’s booklet, 'Dietary Advice for Patients with Neutropenia'.
Conditioning therapy is one of the main causes of fatigue after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. You might find fatigue gets worse while you’re having treatment, then passes. It can improve after weeks or months, but for a small number of people it can go on for a long time, even years.
You may have lost weight or become less mobile, especially if you’ve been in isolation for some time. This can add to your fatigue as it means you lose strength – meaning that tasks that were simple before now seem exhausting.
‘My fatigue set in on about day five of my week of conditioning with chemo. I began to feel like a different person. It wasn’t so much tiredness it felt like my energy had been taken from me.’
Peter had a transplant in 2012
Sticking to a daily routine can help; having a structure and purpose to your day can help things feel more normal despite the unusual environment that you find yourself in.
Move around as much as you can to stop yourself from stiffening up – but don’t be too ambitious, as you will need lots of rest. Ask to speak with a physiotherapist about exercises and ways to stay active.
Read Managing Fatigue After a Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant for more tips and one-minute exercises you can do while sitting or lying down in hospital.