Bone Marrow Transplant Begins Monday, What That Entails, What I Need From You.
Friday May 08th 2015, 6:18 pm
Filed under: Family, Friends, Leukemia

Upon going into remission, the goal has always been to give me a bone marrow transplant (BMT). This is an extra layer of security to prevent against another relapse of leukemia. The BMT is basically me receiving someone else’s immune system to fight off any leukemia that’s still in my body or rears its ugly head down the line.

My BMT donor is my sister Rachel. Both of my sisters had registered in national BMT donor databases last summer before we had any idea that I was going to have a relapse in January or that I would go through BMT. This is a great thing to do because a lot of BMT patients don’t have sibling matches and need to find matches from databases somewhere around the world. Parents can’t donate to their children because their genetic makeup is each only half of what’s needed. I’m very lucky that one of my sisters was not only the required six-point genetic match, but a full, 100%, ten-point match and the same blood type (A Positive and we’re positive). This should, hopefully, make the process smoother and more successful. Interestingly, and through no fault of her own, our youngest sister Rebecca is a zero-point match with Rachel and me. We all came from the same two parents (no one was adopted); genetics is just weird like that, I guess.

So go register to be a bone marrow donor–it’s just a cheek swab!

Despite its name, there’s no actual transplantation of bone marrow involved. In the past and at a few remaining modern hospitals, it’s common practice to take a helluva lot of marrow from the donor’s pelvis and put into the recipient’s bones. However, there have been advances in science that make this painful procedure unnecessary. Instead, Rachel will give herself two shots a day of a drug called neupogen for four days, beginning Monday. The neupogen will stimulate her stem cells to overproduce. Stem cells are found in bone marrow, until they become a specific kind of cell and work their way out into the bloodstream. With the amount of overproduction Rachel’s stem cells will be doing, they themselves will spill out into her bloodstream, which is not a place stem cells are used to being.

At the same time that Rachel’s shooting up on neupogen at our parent’s house, I will be admitted to the hospital to receive three days of a chemo drug called fludarabine. I think this is a funny name. Not as funny as blinatumomab, but still funny. I will be receiving the drug for a not funny reason, which is to stun my immune system and bring down my white cell counts. On Friday, I will be receiving full body radiation to top off this process of making my immune system so stunned that it doesn’t fight Rachel’s cells when I get them infused.

On Friday, Rachel will come into the hospital and go through apheresis–the process of taking her blood out of one arm, spinning it really fast so all the different kinds of cells separate, having the stem cells that have spilled into her bloodstream plus her white blood cells removed, and then having the rest of her blood put back into her other arm. The goal is to produce five million stem cells for each kilogram that I weigh (sorry, Rachie). There’s no way to tell how many stem cells anyone will overproduce on the neupogen. She’s the healthiest person I know, but there’s still a chance she may produce far fewer than five million per kilogram, in which case she may have to go back for a second day. On the other hand, some elderly old man might produce more than ten million stem cells per kilogram. There’s just no way to tell until the blood is drawn, spun, stolen, and studied.

The fact that we share the same blood type is really good, because the lab won’t have to clean out her red blood cells from the stem cells and white cells I’ll be receiving. The hope is that within 28 days, it will be possible to measure her immune system having taken over mine. If it hasn’t, the issue is that my blood cells can’t kill leukemia, while hers should be able to beat the living crap out of it.

In surprisingly good news born of the many miscommunications and lack of continuity at University Hospital, I found out today that since I’m receiving what’s considered a “gentle stunning of the immune system” instead of a full-out beatdown of chemo and radiation, I will probably be released from the hospital next weekend. I had anticipated, based on all the information I had previously received, that I would have to stay in the hospital for weeks, possibly over a month. This is great news.

Again, though, don’t let this great news confuse you. Despite what a big deal BMT will be, it will be incredibly boring. I need all the human interaction I can get while going through this process. Text me, call me, visit me (if you’re over 12 and not sick). It makes such a difference with how my days go.

Rebecca will be coming into town tomorrow night to be helping out throughout the week, which I’m really looking forward to; all five of my family members will be together for the first time since last summer when my grandmother passed away. Not only will our family be all together, one of them of will be saving my life. I am lucky to be surrounded by four such special people that have my back at all times. Truly lucky. And truly loved.


4 Comments so far
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Reid I had a stem cell transplant for Luekemia 15 years ago. My sister and brother both was 100% match. My doctor is at the Rocky Mountain Cancer center. I had the transplant at PSL hospital. It was a lot different back then I had to stay in hospital almost a month. Same chemo and radiation. Before I could go home the walls and carpet cleaned and shower head changed. it was a lot to go through but here I am 15 years later. I had my transplant the week Columbine happened. I’m here if u need to someone who has gone through what you are getting ready to go through. Take care and my prayers are with you Bonnie

Comment by Bonnie Heavener 05.09.15 @ 12:06 am

I forgot to tell you I worked for your dad when he was partner at FSL&S great man.

Comment by Bonnie Heavener 05.09.15 @ 12:10 am

Hi Reid,

I went to high school with your dad and uncle. Thank you for writing such an informative (and witty) post. What a miracle you and Rachael are sharing! I’m holding you and your family close in my heart!!

Comment by Dani Newsum 05.10.15 @ 4:27 am

Great news Reid! Hang in there! We are sending healing thoughts your way…

Comment by Bob A 05.10.15 @ 10:07 am

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