Words of Hope: A Delicate Balance II

December 18th, 2008
Today, I was released from prison.  Not that I don’t appreciate Johns Hopkins, but when you are hooked up to IV all day, everyday, for 35 days and live in a 10×12 room, you are woken up every 4 hours for vital checks, you start to understand what it might feel like to be in prison.  You might actually sleep better in prison.  That said, the nurses and staff do a terrific job of keeping a physically and mentally difficult time  just a little bit easier.   On the front side of the bone marrow transplant there were 8 days of intensive chemo.  The transplant was administered via IV on November 18th.  Katie B. was my nurse that night. She was 6 months into her career at Hopkins.  I bumped into her in November and she is now beginning her 6th year on the bone marrow transplant unit.
After the transplant, I had a couple days of rest, then I was give two more days of chemo.  When you inherit bone marrow, you also inherit T Cells of the donor.  These are the aggressive white blood cells that attack infection.  In the case of transplant patients, it is their aggressive cells that cause an effect called Graph vs. Host Disease.  GVH, as it is called, is a very interesting phenomena.  Ultimately GVH is the effect that kills leukemia and is the cause of curing blood cancer.  Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can also kill you.  Advanced GVH can attack a patient’s skin, gut and vital organs.  In the worst case, GVH can kill the  patient.  The cure is the killer; it’s a delicate balance.
The days following the transplant, and the pre and post chemo, are all about rest and recovery.  For me, the time in the hospital after transplant was relatively uneventful.  As I said, I was released on Dec 18, 2008, just in time for Christmas with my family.    Little did I know, this early smooth sailing would be dramatically interrupted…