I’m hearing that there is some confusion regarding the transplant process. Let me clear the air.
I am currently receiving chemotherapy. This is not because I currently have cancer. I am in remission. Being in remission prior to transplant presents the most optimal state to achieve a cure.
The chemotherapy is being used solely to give my malfunctioning immune system a beat down. My immune system is misbehaving, and it needs to be punished. It needs to be removed and replaced with a healthy donor system that does not possess the glitch that causes my cells to proliferate and create tumors.
You can compare the process to having a problem with your computer. Let’s say your old software (immune system) has a virus that is causing the hard drive to malfunction (causing cancer). You take the computer to be fixed. The hard drive needs to be wiped out, thereby removing the problem virus, and new software needs to be installed to keep the machine running smoothly.
Is this too much of a geeky explanation? Because the chemotherapy is starting to get to my head and I’m feeling a little foggy.
Either way, the process is going according to plan. I was admitted on Friday Oct. 3 to have a Hickman line placed. This line is implanted in my chest and goes directly to my heart. The chemo is infused through lumens (chords) outside my body, like a gigantic IV in my chest.
On Sat. I began a regime of Fludarabine and busulfan (chemo) by infusion. I was also supplemented with potassium and magnesium to keep my electrolytes stable. I received aloxi to prevent nausea.
The goal of the chemotherapy is to gently remove my existing immune system without causing dangerous toxic side effects. The chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells. This is what causes hair loss, mouth sores, etc.
This is also how my cancer will be killed, and without the existence of obvious cancer in my system, it is more likely the chemo will kill each and every malfunctioning cell that is causing my cancer to return. All it really takes to cause cancer is one renegade cell reeking havoc.
I believe Dr. Farber, as in Dana Farber, the hospital where I’m being treated, devised this theory and the subsequent basis for my treatments.
This is where I am at today in my process. I have, about seven days left with my hair. In response, I’ll be giving up shampoo and combs. I’ve never been a huge fan of hair. I’m a fan of electrolysis. I’m a fan of hats and scarves.
I’ll receive chemotherapy until Oct. 7 (a total of 4 days), on the 8th I will have a day of “rest,” and on the 9th the stem cells from my donor will be infused. This is referred to as Day 0.
I am having a “nonmyeloablative transplant” or “mini transplant,” meaning some of my immune system will remain intact.
After the donor’s cells are infused the process of integrating the new system into my body begins. Here is the part that confuses and scares me.
I will experience some level of graft vs. host disease. GVHD is the donor’s immune system taking over my own and not recognizing my body. The donor’s immune system will try to attack my organs, and I will receive medications to prevent this from happening. The stem cells will take over mine slowly, and begin to recognize that my organs are not the enemy. They will begin to recognize my body as its own.
The process sounds a little bit like an art and a little bit like science. I’ll be receiving a study drug called velcade to help facilitate the process. I will also be receiving methotrexate.
Life is a fragile state. I’m going to test just how fragile it is.
This is how I understand the process. I hope I’ve explained it in understandable terms. If I have not, contact me. I want everybody to understand the truth of what happens.
What do you call a person who has a compulsion to get lymphoma over and over again?
(and you thought I was going to say me) For more cancer jokes, check out cancerisland.com
Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.
He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.
Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."
I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.
I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."