When you get a stem cell or bone marrow transplant for a blood cancer, you are considered newly born. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, you’re getting a whole new blood system, including a new immune system from your donor’s stem cells. Also, you lose your blood type and take on the blood type of your donor. Last but not least, you lose all the childhood immunizations you got as a kid. So that means, you’ll need to get all your kid vaccinations again when your healthcare team deems it appropriate. Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?
June 28, 2018 was my 2 year birthday from surviving leukemia (AML and CMML) with a stem cell transplant. The other good news is I am still leukemia-free, meaning still in remission and 100% transplanted with my brother’s stem cells (my donor). So in essence, I am my brother! Haha…who would have thought!
2 years seem a long time, but so much happens during those 2 years that it becomes a
blur. After being diagnosed, I remember thinking, “is there life after leukemia? And what kind of life is there to look forward to?” Quality of life is important to me, as it probably is to all of you facing a serious health threat. Existing to exist was not an option for me. As a former critical care nurse, I cared for and saw many patients with serious chronic conditions and here I was, in a similar boat. I remember that it was the nurses who gave me hope…they were the ones who told me they saw miracles happen every day. And they are right!
Sharing pictures of myself and stories about my life is not typical of me, even before my illness and transplant. But, I want to show you that there is life after leukemia and stem cell transplant!
Blood and marrow transplant programs throughout the United States are different but similar in treatment and care philosophy. At the Blood and Marrow Transplant program at Northside Hospital, where they saved my life, restaging of your leukemia status is done every 6 months for 3 years, by doing an enormous amount of blood work, bone marrow biopsy, chimerism results, meeting with nurse practitioners or PAs (physicians’ assistants) and with your primary oncologist-hematologist. After the 3 year mark, restaging is done every year.
Here are a few reputable websites explaining what a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant (same thing) is.
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Stem Cell Transplantation https://www.lls.org/treatment/types-of-treatment/stem-cell-transplantation/