Before you go into hospital, it can help to prepare yourself by knowing what to expect, planning what to take in with you and thinking about what support you might need.
You’ll probably be in hospital for about 3-4 weeks, from your pre-transplant treatment to the time when you’re well enough to go home afterwards.
Once you go home, you’ll still have regular check-ups; once or twice a week at first, gradually reducing over time.
This varies depending on the type of stem cell transplant you’ve had, and how well you and your new immune system are recovering.
It usually takes at least six months to a year before your level of activity starts to get back to normal.
You may have several appointments at the hospital before you have your stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
Unfortunately, the high-dose chemotherapy you have before your transplant means that you’re at risk of having fertility problems. This can be tough to deal with, especially if you were planning to start your family now or in the future.
Before you start your conditioning therapy, your transplant team will discuss your fertility and ways to preserve it.
Before, during and after your transplant you will need lots of medication and supportive therapies, as well as other treatments, such as your chemotherapy. To make this as straightforward as possible, you will be fitted with a Central Venous Catheter (sometimes called a ‘Hickman line’). It’s a thin tube that goes through the skin near your collarbone and into the vein that leads into your heart. Alternatively you may have a PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line inserted into your upper arm.. Your team will give you more information about how to keep your line clean and care for it.
After your transplant your line can be at risk of causing infection, so it will be removed as soon as it’s no longer needed, normally a few weeks after the transplant. Removing it is normally done at the outpatient clinic using a local anesthetic – you may need a stitch or two to help the wound heal. Many people see its removal as a positive early step in their recovery.
Read Adam’s blog about having a Hickman line.
Many people worry about who will look after their children, pets or house while they’re in hospital. Ask your friends and family for support – people are often more than happy to help and want to feel useful.
Talk to your medical team about other kinds of support and any concerns. They can support you or put things in place to allow you to focus on the most important thing: your recovery.
Although you’ll have a lot on your mind, it’s never too early to start thinking about getting financial support and taking time off work. You could always ask a family member or friend to look into this if you’ve got too much on your plate.
Depending on your medical condition, the time between being diagnosed and going into hospital can be very short. This period of time can be very intense and you might have a lot of things to think about, so here’s a list of things that you might want to pack for your stay. Also, if you get the chance, tell a family member or friend where you keep any spare clothes or other items that you might want brought into hospital at a later date.
Stuff to wear
Stuff for the bathroom
Stuff to keep you busy
Read our leaflet about dealing with isolation.
‘Every card that would arrive I’d pin up on the board. When I was sitting up at 2am feeling sick and not able to sleep – there was just a wall of cards from friends – which I referred to as my wall of love.’
Paul, had a transplant in 2010. Watch Paul’s video about life after transplant.
Information published: 06/10/16
Next review due: 06/10/19