Many of you following this blog know I had 2 types of leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia=AML, the dangerous one, and CMML=chronic myelomonocytic leukemia) and required a stem cell transplant over 2 years ago. Let me rephrase that…AML can be treated with aggressive chemotherapy, but the CMML (a chronic type of leukemia) would reoccur thus causing a vicious cycle of CMML -> AML -> aggressive chemotherapy -> CMML…see what I mean? Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia cannot be cured EXCEPT with a stem cell transplant, and that’s where I was 2 years 9 months ago.
A few other major interesting facts about allogeneic stem cell transplants are that you lose your own blood type and take on the blood type of your donor. So if your blood type is AB+ (positive) and your donor is O+, then your blood type becomes O+ after the stem cell transplant. Another interesting fact is you get a totally new immune system and is the reason why your blood shows blood morphology of a newborn…see the previous post on this. And lastly, you lose all your childhood immunizations; the donor’s immunizations do not carry over in the donated stem cells. So that’s where I am right now…getting ready to schedule my first childhood vaccinations.
Note: there are 2 types of stem cell transplants:
autologous: stem cell transplant uses the patient’s own stem cells. The stem cells are collected, treated and transplanted back into the patient after conditioning chemotherapy. Don’t let the word ‘conditioning’ fool you…it is highly toxic chemotherapy.
allogeneic: stem cells are harvested from a donor who may be a family member or someone unrelated to the patient. Unrelated donors are matched to the patient through the international Be The Match registry www.bethematch.org. It’s a simple process of doing a cheek swab and mailing it to Be The Match. When a patient needing a stem cell transplant/bone marrow transplant matches your tissue type, you will be notified asking to save (literally) someone’s life by donating your stem cells.
In my case, one of my brothers was a 100% match for me and therefore was my donor. But, if he couldn’t donate due to health or other issues, there was a 100% match for me through www.bethematch.org. Please register as a donor and save someone’s life! You never know if you will be on the receiving end some day.
Back to the pediatric vaccinations…what that means is HUGE! After 6 months or so, I can finally start going to public spaces like go to my favorite restaurants, go to concerts/lectures, go to festivals and public events, travel internationally rather than locally, get a dog! Since the transplant, being sequestered to the house for fear of catching a contagious infection or illness is not a welcomed situation, but you do what your transplant team tells you to do to stay alive. And I always remember, ‘it’s temporary.’
Be The Match www.bethematch.org
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society www.lls.org