Hello my lovelies! I know many of you have been asking for updates…and now I finally have one! Today I saw my transplant doctor and we went over the game plan for my next stem cell transplant.
I will be doing an allogeneic (outside donor) transplant. My donor will be one of my brothers. Both of them are partial matches for me, which means that roughly half of their HLA (protein markers) are identical to mine. This means that our body tissues have some protein markers in common, but not all. The closer to a 100% match, the lower the risk of graft versus host disease. GVHD is when the donor’s cells attack the recipient’s cells.
Thankfully, I am at one of the best blood and marrow transplant centers in the country. They do haploidentical (partial match) transplants every day. They have worked out a drug regimen which greatly reduces the risk of GVHD while still enabling the donor’s immune system to fight my cancer. I will probably still have some issues with GVHD, but we won’t really know how bad it will be or where in my body it will be until we do the transplant.
However, this transplant is really the only possibility for an actual cure of my disease. My lymphoma has relapsed after every chemotherapy treatment I’ve done. It did respond to the Opdivo, though not completely. But that of course came at the cost of my lung function. Which leads me to my next topic…
When will we do this transplant? Well, first I have to get off the steroids. I met with the pharmacist and I am going to taper the prednisone down over the next four weeks. This is a much quicker taper than the pulmonologist would like, but we have more important oncological matters to worry about. If my lungs flare up, we’ll slow the taper down. But I’ve been doing pretty well lately, so I’m hoping all will go smoothly. In the meantime, we’ll be doing some testing on my brothers’ blood to see which one is a better match. I will also start my workup, which includes scans, EKG, echo, and bone marrow biopsy. Once I’m off the steroids, I’ll do the pulmonary function test. If I pass everything, we’ll move forward. So we’re probably looking at mid-March for transplant time.
After the transplant, I’ll spend a month going to the clinic every day, then it will go down to every other day. I’ll be on immunosuppressants for about six months, and I’ll have to stay away from people. It’ll be very similar to what I went through during the last transplant, but this time there will be less chemo and more GVHD.
So those are the basics. I’m incredibly grateful for yet another opportunity at life and am trusting that God will see me through these next few months of hardship. I know this transplant will not be easy, and I know there is no guarantee that it will cure me, but it is my best chance right now. I just have to lean on Him, and not my own understanding, which is, of course, easier said than done. But ready or not, here we go!