I’m very alive and writing to you from my hospital bed at City of Hope where I’ve been admitted to receive my bone marrow transplant.
A quick update of what’s been going on since I wrote my last post about my relapse: The relapse was terrible news but things have been going as well as they could since then. One of the concerns with my type of cancer is that when it relapses it be resistant to chemotherapy (since how else would a cancer cell survive the 3 years of chemotherapy I had?). But for me that did not end up being the case and my tumor quickly shrank with 2 rounds of chemo identical to what I received before.
Then, I was extremely nervous about finding a donor match for bone marrow transplant, since like I mentioned before I am adopted (and have no full biological siblings who could have gotten tested) and am mixed ethnicity, which makes it a lot harder to find a match than when you are plain white.
However I ended up having several full matches on the registry, and the donor who was selected for me is a 37 year old woman in Germany (apparently a lot of donors come from Europe because they have better systems for signing people up there).
Even knowing I had a match didn’t alleviate all of the worry. I found myself wondering, Did she definitely agreed to donate? Has she signed anything? Does she wear her seat belt? Could we possibly wrap her in bubble wrap for the next couple weeks… you know, better safe than sorry?
But as the process proceeded forward as planned those anxieties fell away. I was admitted to the hospital last week for my scheduled transplant and so far have received 4 days of total body irradiation and 1 day of high dose chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells and blast my immune system to get my body ready to receive the donor stem cells.
So far I don’t feel too bad—tired, but not bad. The main side effects the radiation gave me were super dry skin and a blistering tan, and not a good tan like you just came back from Spring Break, but a “I spent 40 years smoking cigarettes and rubbing baby oil on myself on Miami Beach,” kind of tan, or as my husband describes it, “You look like you got lost in a desert… a desert where they do atomic bomb testing.”
In 2 days I will receive the actual transplant, which isn’t a surgery or anything fancy but instead a bag with stem cells hung up on the IV poll just like any of my other IV fluids. Somewhere in Germany my donor is getting ready to donate her blood, where the stem cells will then be filtered out, packaged up, and put on a couriered flight all the way to me in Los Angeles.
I wanted to thank you all too for your awesome responses to my last post. To give you an update:
#1 – I got my money back from American Airlines! They reached out to me within a few hours of my last post going live. The customer service rep who called me referenced receiving “significant correspondence” on my behalf… so thank you guys for that (and thank you AA for doing the refund).
#2 – I got a book agent! I had a number of agents reach out to me and will be working with a great agent from Inkwell. I’m working on shoring up my proposal to submit to publishers in the near future.
#3 – Thank you to everyone who signed up to be a bone marrow donor. I should clarify the terminology, because what I am receiving is not technically a “bone marrow transplant” and is instead a “stem cell transplant,” the difference meaning that stem cells are harvested from the donor through a blood donation and without any surgery, and then they are put into me via an infusion. Then the little stem cells will somehow find their way to my bone marrow and create a new immune system, also without any surgery. So the process to be a donor is usually NOT surgery or anything painful, so don’t let that dissuade you.
If you haven’t already you can sign up to be a donor at the Be the Match website here. Imagine being the person to save someone’s life—someone who may not have any options other than you. That’s what my donor is to me—she does not know me but she is giving me a chance to keep living, and the years I have going forward will only be possible because of her.
#4 – Thank you to everyone who signed up for my Life Teachings membership program! I am having a great time in the program making videos and answering member questions. I am also making daily videos from my hospital room with updates about my transplant process and little life lessons from the trenches.
Here’s a picture my husband took of me recording one of my videos yesterday:
You can sign up here for the Life Teachings Membership Program for $47/month. It’s easy to sign up or cancel at any time. I’m also offering a discounted rate of $17/month for cancer survivors who others who under financial stress. Email me if you’d like to sign up for the discounted rate (give me a couple of days to get back to you).
Thank you for following along with me and I’ll be back soon 🙂