I’m about to head into my third round of chemo this Thursday. I’m one step closer to a stem cell transplant. I had my first evidence finally appear that a stem cell transplant might be more than just talk.
I received a booklet from my transplant RN. It is a bit non-specific, just a general overview. I can’t say I learned anything new or different from it, but I felt a certain comfort receiving it. I suppose having something physical finally arrive was a confirmation there is a process underway.
The initial indications are that I will receive allogeneic stem cells, stem cells from someone else. This has some strong good and bad. The good I have picked up on so far is that it has the potential to 1) diminish or eradicate the need for my IViG monthly infusions I currently have to take for life, see: http://kraftsims.com/2014/08/07/hypogammaglobulinemia/ and to 2) use the white blood cells that will suddenly burst to life in my body, never having known Burkitt’s, to eradicate any traces of Burkitt’s in my body. The new cells most likely will kill any remaining cancer cells! I like the sound of that.
The bad is that I will have to take anti-rejection meds (probably for life) so that my body will not go to war against these new cells. I have heard of one person who mentioned they only took anti-rejection meds for three months, then weaned off. I do not suspect that is the normal, but it shows it is possible. I’ll certainly take the minimal dose possible. Allogeneic requires longer stay in the hospital, typically 4-6 months. The reason is to fight the rejection process. Graft Vs host disease, the idea that a transplanted something in the body fights against its new home, is a bad deal. It can be overcome, but it can be a serious situation.
It is possible I can receive my own stem cells, autologous transfusion. After the chemo is finished and I get into remission, MD Anderson (hopefully) will basically turn me into a toxic dumping ground for all things medication based. In other words, they will hit me fast and furious with specific meds to kill all many of my blood products as I can withstand (if I understand that correctly). It will not only blast away my own blood cells, it will kill any remaining Burkitt’s cells (we hope!). Then they would harvest the fresh growing stem cells that are rapidly reproducing and store them away. Then finish me off some with more chemicals quickly, then infuse the self-harvested cells, then wait and let those regrow.
This approach also has some good and bad. Good is no anti-rejection meds are necessary as they are my own cells. Shorter hospital stay. The bad is that since they are my own cells, the rate of return for the same cancer is higher. I’m not sure if that is supported with statistics overall, but from what I am witnessing people talk about in the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Society’s private page (quite a few SCT recipients), the ones who have had their Burkitt’s return after a SCT were: their own cells (autologous) and the involvement (location of the cancer) was in the CNS (brain or spinal column, behind the “meninges”). I’m sure that isn’t the full correlation in the bigger picture of humanity, just what I am seeing for the moment. Since I have not had CNS involvement from the outset, I am hopeful that no hidden Burkitt’s cells are taking refuge behind the meninges.
You now know about as much as I do about stem cell transplantation. I’ll continue to share what I learn as I go. I hope you’ll stick with me so we can walk through this together.