Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ten year anniversary of my BMT

Ten years ago on May 9-10, 2007, I received a stem cell transplant from my brother.  This is called a bone marrow transplant (BMT) though they just filtered stem cells from my brother's blood and infuse them into me.  It took two sessions since there were not enough stem cells in the first infusion.  May 9th just happened to be my 59th birthday.  My brother was 70, old for this procedure but was a perfect match.

Thanks to the excellent staff on the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis and the grace of God, I am feeling great today.  UMMC conducted the world's first BMT back in 1968.  Prior to the BMT, I suffered for 2 1/2 years with myeloproliferative disease (MPD) and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) also known as Hughe's Syndrome. My MPD was an unclassified version and possibly combined with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

Simply it meant that my bone marrow was producing defective red blood cells and too many platelets and I had over 90 units of blood (packed red cells) infused prior to the BMT.  Interestingly, after I recovered from the BMT, I had too much iron in my body and had an equivalent number of phlebotomies.  In the process, I had 12 bone marrow biopsies (BMBs) where each time they stuck a large needle into my hip bones to remove a 5 cm long 3mm diameter sample of my bone marrow plus three samples of blood.  Along with all the infusions and blood tests, I have been a human pin cushion.

Prior to the BMT, I had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy over 5 day period that essentially wiped out my immune system.  I literally went through "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalms 23) and God was with me. Four years later, I had chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma over a 5 month period that progressively weakened me, but never wiped me out like the pre-BMT.

After the BMT, I suffered from Graft vs Host Disease (GvHD) where my new stem cells fought with my original immune system.  Periodic BMBs monitored the progress of stem cell replacement in my bones.  It was January 2008 before the engraftment was essentially 100%.  My GvHD lasted to at least February of 2009.

In May of 2011, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and had 5 months of chemotherapy.  I was supposed to have 6 months of chemo but after 2 months a PET scan showed that the cancer was gone.  They kept up the chemo every two weeks during which I progressively got weaker and weaker.  I finally asked the doctor why I still needed the chemo and they stopped it.

I also developed other complications from the medications.  I was on Prednisone until January of 2012 and developed diabetes.  The day after I took my last Prednisone, I went into insulin shock (hypoglycemia) and my wife had to call the paramedics.  That was the last time I gave myself an insulin shot though I checked my glucose levels for several months afterwards.

I was supposed to have knee replacement surgery in November 2004, but failed the preop physical and was admitted to Unity Hospital for pulmonary embolism, three blood clots in my lungs.  That's when they discovered my blood and bone marrow problems.  Well, after 8 years of waiting I finally had both knees replaced in March 2012.

In April 2013, I had heart ablation for atrial fibrillation and in January 2017 I had cataract surgery.  I have also had a few scares with my thyroid, but biopsies of lymph nodules last year and just last month show no return of cancer.

As I posted in this blog on April 4, 2006:
The song ”Amazing Grace”, written by John Newton in the late 1700’s.  It was interesting to learn that the song has been modified over the years and that the original words had a special meaning to me.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.