It's been exactly two months since I last posted anything, and for that I want to sincerely apologise. As most of you already know, I underwent my stem cell transplant and have been back home for three weeks.

I could make lots of excuses as to why I didn't post anything while in the hospital or since I have been home, but I won't. It's been a difficult couple of months for me, and now I am recovering very well.

On the 27th March, I began LEAM chemotherapy. It's one of the highest-dose regimes that exists in the treatment of lymphoma and so the side effects were particularly nasty. It involved 6 back-to-back days of gruelling chemotherapies before transplanting back my own stem cells. Honestly, I don't remember much about those days, but I remember feeling very nauseous and tired.
Etoposide, Cytarabine and Monopoly.
Like the previous times I received chemotherapy, I wasn't directly admitted to the hospital. I was allowed to receive my treatment as an outpatient, although I was staying at UCH's patient hotel called The Cotton Rooms. This allowed me to be within walking distance from the hospital while maintaining a bit of freedom. 
Ice lollies were supposed to reduce damage to the mouth by Melphalan.
I was admitted to hospital by the 1st April (not an April Fools joke!) due to fatigue and nausea. This was just in time for my stem cells to arrive and be transplanted back in. Again, I don't remember a whole lot other than a big cryogenic tank being wheeled into my room, followed by bags and bags of pink blood being defrosted and transfused. 
Batman juice.
I was told at this point that it was take around two weeks longer for the stem cells to mature and start producing healthy blood cells again. I was not told about the horrors that would unfold before then...

Diarrhoea. Sickness. Dizziness. Pain. Extreme fatigue. Fever. Internal blistering. Super baldness.

In fact, the doctors did explain each of these side effects, although I could never have predicted just how nasty they would be.

The worst two were definitely the internal blistering and diarrhoea. They were both caused by the most unpleasant component of the LEAM chemotherapy, a drug called Melphalan. Imagine having the entirety of your gastrointestinal tract breaking down. That's what Melphalan does.

A few days after admission, my mouth was full of ulcers and I was finding it difficult to eat and drink. Shortly after this, I was declared 'nil by mouth'. This means that I could only receive medication, nutrition and hydration through my veins. It didn't take long until I was losing weight and after just a week of no food, I was down 5kg (11lb). I guess it was fortunate that the other treatments had bloated me up beforehand! 
I couldn't eat, but Dad sure could!
Diarrhoea was particularly horrible. I'll try not to go into much detail, but it was non-stop for two weeks. My insides felt like they were on fire. I felt bad for the nurses too, because I was asked to go to the toilet in a pan so that my 'waste' could be observed and checked for signs of internal bleeding.

Anyway, the treatment side of my hospital stay was awful. The actual stay itself was very pleasant. In general, the nurses were fantastic and always full of spirit. The facilities at UCH were also great. Unlike that time I was at Whipps Cross Hospital, I had access to the internet and 24-hour food and drink (although I wasn't able to enjoy it). 
My home for three weeks. Not too bad!
I would particularly like to thank the Teenage Cancer Trust though. The charity has a specialist ward at UCH and were able to provide me with some extra things to make my stay more comfortable. I was given a humongous TV to watch shows and films. They also organised fun visitors up to my room, including a lovely musician from YouTube and a volunteer from the Grant Museum of Zoology who brought up some specimens to look at.

Eventually, I was released back home where I have been recovering ever since. Each day that passes brings more energy, more motivation and whole lot more excitement. I've been given the go ahead to take most of 2015 off for recovery, except I don't think it'll be long before I'll be feeling shiny and new again. 
My PICC line has been removed. I'm officially tubeless!
I'll finish this post with an update for what the future should hold for me. My medical team are feeling very confident that my cancer journey should be coming to an end, with predictions of 90% survival over the next 5 years. It sounds scary having a number to look at, yet I am feeling positive about the future. There will be no more scans unless any of my original symptoms return, and no more hospital appointments until the end of June.

This could be it...

Joshua Lerner

Hi! I’m the 'star' of Livin' With Lymphoma. The blog was founded on the 31st October 2013, on the day I was diagnosed with Stage 4B Hodgkin's lymphoma. I hope you find it funny and informative.

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