A Little About Transplants

It’s been awhile since I posted last, and so much has happened. I finished round 2, also known as Induction 2 a few weeks ago. That means I’m 1/3 of the way through the first part of the trial. It means that I’m completely done with the Induction phase. Yippee for completing something!! The next step in this part of the trial (TT4) is Transplant #1. The dreaded Transplant. This procedure makes me think horrible thoughts…horrible, dreaded and scary thoughts!

I go back to Arkansas in about 2 weeks to begin tests. There are way more tests than usual this time around. I will have the same MRIs, PETs, blood work, and central line placement, but we are adding several other things like lung function and cardiac studies. This is to make sure treatment is going as planned, but also to make sure that I’m healthy enough for transplant. That the procedure won’t cause me to kick the bucket. Ugh just thinking about it makes me nauseous.

After tests and line placement, I have a 250mg dose of a chemotherapy drug called Melphalan. To put this into perspective, I’ve been given a 25mg test dose twice. Both made me so sick that I have no memory of the three days following. The day after melphalan I receive my first of two (tandem) autologous stem cell transplants. I will get approximately 6 million of my own cells back. During the first round of the Induction phase back in February, the apheresis nurses were able to suck out 37.5 million of my own stem cells in a day and a half. I am so blessed. So SO SOO blessed. I have met many people who were only able to produce stem cells in the thousands. And it took them an entire week to do this. I will have enough stem cells for both transplants plus additional transplants in the future. I hope I will never need them, but that is a very real possibility and knowing that they are there gives me a great deal of comfort.

Speaking of stem cell transplants, you might remember a discussion I had with a nurse that I wrote about in my post, “Why Not Me”? That nurse, who I have become friends with, shared her story with me. She has a disease called Aplastic Anemia, which is kind of a cousin to Multiple Myeloma. Kind of. Sadly, Emily recently found out that she is no longer in remission. She will be receiving an Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant at MD Anderson in Houston in a few months. ‘Allogenic’ means someone else’s stem cells. Like me, Emily has been blessed in her transplant process. There are over 50 donors that are a perfect match for her. That doesn’t mean that things will be easy, it just means that they will be easier and she won’t have to wait long. Yes, just like a heart transplant, lung or liver transplant, there is a stem cell transplant donor list.

It breaks my heart that a friend has come out of remission for such an ugly disease. It breaks my heart every time I meet a patient in Arkansas and find out that they are not there for the first time. To find out that they came in for bi yearly or yearly testing, expecting to leave with confidence that their myeloma is still in remission, but actually leaving knowing that this devastating cancer is back; you can’t help but doubt. Everything about cancer makes even the strongest people doubt. People cannot grasp the feeling you get when you realize that it is more likely to kill you than not. Now, imagine having that feeling and having to WAIT for a transplant, knowing that it’s your only hope, and that you may never find a match. So here is the importance of that heavy tidbit: be a donor, people. Be someone’s match by being on the registry.

If you had the opportunity to save a life, would you?

Go to www.bethematch.org to find out what you can do.

I’ve added this website to my “Donations” page, as well as a link to Emily’s donation site. Please consider donating to her medical fund and praying for her treatment and recovery.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38