Today I finish my conditioning chemotherapy – getting my body ready to receive the new bone marrow. Tomorrow I will have total body radiation for the same purpose. Then on Friday morning my son will have marrow extracted from his pelvis, and in the afternoon, it will be put into me as an IV.
That is the predictable part. What comes next? Typically, about 14 days of waiting for the new bone marrow to “engraft;” populate my bones and start making new blood cells. During that time there will be a lot of checking blood counts and transfusions of red blood cells and platelets and making sure I don’t get an infection (they can’t transfuse white blood cells).
After the two weeks of waiting and watching is when they try and make sure my new blood system (the graft) is working (hopefully to kill any remaining cancer cells and fight infections), but not working too hard (trying to kill the rest of me – the host). This can show up as skin rashes, compromised liver function, compromised lung function, or a very unhappy set of intestines.
I won’t go into the statistics on success, survivability, cancer re-occurrence. Most of the folks who read this blog can find that data in a few seconds. It also, as a patient, doesn’t matter. You can only go into this believing it will work and the best outcome will be my outcome.
What has struck me to this point is not medical. It is social. The generosity of family, neighbors and colleagues has been humbling and inspiring. Meals, gas cards, blood donations, work tasks – it is overwhelming.
I leave you with an interesting fact. When this is all done, and of course a smashing success, I will have two different sets of DNA: I will be a chimera. Which means, fun fact, that if I leave any blood evidence at a scene of a crime, it will point to my son. I think that might keep him in check.