My last public update on my health and treatment was August 22nd. A lot has happened since then. Quick recap for those new to this blog: I recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat ongoing re-occurrences of lymphoma. In the past (2014) I had an autologous transplant where I was my own donor. This time my donor was my son.
Today is Day +51 after my transplant. I am full engrafted, meaning 100% of the DNA of my blood system is from my son.
The first few weeks of the transplant were difficult: little energy, nausea, swelling, pretty regular transfusions of red blood cells and platelets.
This was the first “period of danger” in the transplant. With no white blood cells, and no immune system I was on constant look out for fevers and infections. I was in strict quarantine.
The past few weeks have been much better. My new marrow is making blood cells and I have a new, but weak, immune system. I still have to avoid crowds but have been given permission to visit parks (I’m the one walking around in long sleeves, a brimmed hat, and a surgical mask) and have even been given a few days off from clinic.
I remain in confinement (actual medical terminology) near the Duke Medical Center. I still have to be very careful with the food I eat (everything straight out of a package or heated past 160 degrees).
I am now (and will be to about day +90) the second phase of danger. This is where we are in constant vigilance for signs of Graft versus Host Disease. My new immune system is there to fight off foreign attackers like viruses and bacteria. The problem is that the rest of my body has different DNA from my white cells, so there is a good chance the new immune system will attack my body at some point.
To prevent this, I am taking several anti-rejection medications. I will eventually end those though. Bone Marrow donations are the only transplants that don’t mean anti-rejection medication for life. Also, I want a little graft versus host, as I want the new immune system to kill off any cancer cells that may be lying around that my former immune system couldn’t see. So, it is a balance.
I will be in Durham well into November, with the hopes of getting home by Thanksgiving. That all depends on my good progress continuing. After Day+90 I may be home, but it will be at least another 90 days (and up to 9 months) until I can safely get physically back to work. So, I will be teaching class and working from home and travel is out.
This has been a difficult process to this point. I simply could not have done it without the direct support of my wife and mother as primary caregivers, and the amazing support of family, friends, and co-workers.
Thank you all for your support and kind thoughts.