Wednesday 12 February, 2020

Starting the cancer healing process

Regan, based in the US, is a happy and healthy young leukemia survivor.

Starting the healing process! When the call came that I had a perfect match, the reality of my transplant became real! My life was about to totally change and honestly I was so scared of not knowing what my future held for me. I had to pack my clothes, say goodbye to all of my friends and family, and drive 4 hours away from my home to New Orleans to start the journey of healing.

My transplant

My transplant was scheduled for September 28, 2017. To start the transplant process, I first had to go through a very aggressive induction chemo along with an infusion of rabbit ATG. This serum has been known to decrease GVHD and increase survival rates in transplant recipients. The chemo regimen that was given to me was so intensive that it would completely deplete my bone marrow. This was necessary for my transplant to begin. The chemo and ATG infusion made me very sick. I literally felt like I was on my death bed. It was now September 28th, the day I had been anxiously waiting for.

That day around noon the doctors came in and gave us the news that my transplant had been postponed. My donor had gotten a stomach bug and wouldn’t be able to undergo the collection procedure. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I cried out of anger, fear, and disappointment. My ONLY person in the world wide registry that matched with me was now sick and wouldn’t be able to save my life.. So I thought!! My doctor stayed very positive that the donation process would continue once the donor was able. Days went by while we waited that felt like weeks. Then on October 2nd my Doctor gave us the update that my transplant would take place the following day on the 3rd. It was finally going to happen…

My donor

Not only was the donor healthy, he had also agreed to undergo a more invasive collection from the actual bone marrow. My doctor had requested this type of collection because of my age. He felt this would reduce the long term side effects from transplant. October 3rd was here, and I was actually feeling much better physically and emotionally. Around 11:00pm they flew my donors bone marrow from Seattle Washington to New Orleans airport and transported it to Ochsners. At 2:00am I received my transplant with my mom, step dad, and aunt watching at my bedside. It was a very smooth process and went by fairly quickly. The days following my transplant were so long. We watched and waited for my counts to return. I was so discouraged because I felt like it wasn’t happening fast enough. The disappointment was weighing heavily on me emotionally!

Cheering me up

To cheer me up my mom would sneak me out to go on short rides where I could just feel the sunlight on my skin. I can’t explain the feeling I had the first time We snuck out. I cried and begged my mom to not take me back…but as always we returned, but knowing my mom would sneak me out again gave me something to look forward to. On October 31st my ANC had been above 500 for the third day which was considered a normal level, and I was able to ring the bell and I was finally released from the hospital. Although I couldn’t go home, just being out of the hospital was the best feeling in the world! It was mandatory to stay close to the hospital so me and my mom stayed at the Hope Lodge for the remainder of my 100 days . I had clinic visits on a regular basis, and on the 100th day I had a bone marrow biopsy. This would tell if my bone marrow engraftment was successful. My results revealed that I was 100% engrafted in one area and 95% in the other. This was considered normal for my time frame of recovery. We were so thankful and relieved! I couldn’t believe my 100 days were over and I was able to go home!

This is a feeling I will never be able to explain!!!

Regan, based in the US, is a happy and healthy young leukemia survivor.

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