It's been a week or so since I last wrote and I have quite a few updates as far as everything goes.
I would first and foremost like to thank everyone out there for the tremendous support that I and the L.I.F.E. cause have gotten. We recently surpassed the $2,500 mark and everything up until now has been truly amazing! I have gotten letters and support from people all over the world! The ability for me to communicate my thoughts and feelings through these journals via the internet is really a great tool for me to get across to some of my international friends.
Next, I will address what exactly is going to happen to me coming up in March. If you have been following the blog thus far then you know that Lindsey, my younger sister, is going to be my bone marrow donor. Well, in preparation for the bone marrow transplant, they have to do quite a few things...none of which I am looking forward to and have had long talks with the doctors to be sure that it is the right choice.
Before I get the bone marrow from my sister, they have to "prepare" my body. Now, four years ago that consisted of some very high dose chemotherapy known as Busulfan. The chemotherapy at that time functioned to do two things:
- Destroy any leukemia cells that might still be floating around
- Destroy my bone marrow to make way for the donor's bone marrow
For 4+ years, that worked! My leukemia didn't come back for over four years and I continued going to college to graduate and move on with my life. However, it came back. My doctor told me that VERY few people relapse their leukemia 4+ years after a transplant. Something like 1 in 50 the cancer will come back. Well, me being the luckiest guy in the world I had to be that one. Anyways, it came back and now I have to deal with the hand of cards that once again have been dealt...except this time is going to be slightly different from last time.
Because my cancer relapsed, they are unsure why. There are so very few people walking around that have relapsed after 4 years that there have been no statistical studies done to help people in my situation. There are two possible situations they believe the cancer came back.
- There were some cells that lived through my treatment four years ago and have stayed dormant since then...why they chose to wake up and do their damage four years later is unknown.
- The cells came back and my new immune system wasn't strong enough to fight off the bad guys. In fact, the new immune system I received was so identical to mine that the cancer cells may have just gotten "smart" and have grown resistant to my immune system.
Either way...it's back and now they want to do more. So what is "more?" "More" is known as radiation. To be more specific...Total Body Irradiation otherwise known as TBI. Over the course of four days, my entire body will be exposed to 12 Gy of radiation....equal to 1200 rads or REM (radiation equivalent to man). Without medical intervention, 500 rads or 5 Gy will kill just about anyone within 30 days. I will be receiving more than double that. So naturally, I am pretty freaked out and this week has been one hell of a ride. I am going to be receiving a disgusting amount of radiation and chemotherapy and I am not looking forward to it one bit. It's really scaring the sh*t out of me. Just pulling through the pre-transplant treatment is going to be hell.
So why do they want to do this high intensity stuff? Well, the reason is to totally annihilate any leukemia cells that might still be floating around. Once Lindsey's bone marrow is in my bones, it will take a long time before her immune system takes hold and can start fighting. That means that for the first 6 months or so, I will be extremely vulnerable to infection and disease. If my leukemia were to relapse within those 6 months or so, they basically told me to start preparing funeral arrangements. My "new" immune system won't have had enough time to kick in and the relapsed leukemia would run a train over me. I know that sounds really morbid, but it's the truth and it was really hard to sit through. Being 23 years old, it is damn hard to sit there and listen to the doctors and see the looks in their eyes as they tell me these things. So the high dose chemotherapy combined with this really nasty radiation is being given to me in hopes that it destroys every single leukemia cell in my body to eliminate the possibility that I will relapse in a short period of time.
So what's next? Well, I believe they want to start treatment in the middle of March. I finished my second round of chemotherapy about a week ago and all of my blood counts are just now starting to zero out. So right now, I feel very "blah." I can hardly move, and when I do, I tend to black out. So for now, I am going to keep taking things easy. In a week or so my counts will slowly start climbing again. There is a direct correlation between my counts and how well I am feeling so once my counts go up, I will start feeling better. And once I feel better, I am going to get out and about and do as much as I possibly can until I have to go back to Froedtert for treatment.
The next time I go into the hospital, I don't expect to leave it for 6-8 weeks. Jeesh, it will probably be summertime before I get to enjoy "normalcy" again...maybe even fall!
Once again, thank you all for everything! The support that you have given my family and I has been tremendous! Not only that, but the money that we are raising for cancer research for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is also overwhelming!
So from the bottom of my heart...thank you.