Happy Monday, friends!
I wanted to write a post explaining what I believe the next two months of my life will look like, and answer some commonly asked questions as of recently. As many of you know, I was diagnosed as ‘relapsed’ for the second time this past May. My doctors had to begin communicating that the next step in the cancer process for me would have to equal bone marrow transplant. That does not necessarily mean that the Chemo my first two times around did not work. Those drugs were successful in getting the cancer to be gone for small periods of time, but not for the rest of my life…so transplant it is.
My team of doctors prepared for me to complete two to three more rounds of chemotherapy before starting my transplant. In order to have this bone marrow transplant, my PET scan would need to read as clear. Naturally, I completed two more rounds of chemotherapy and prepared for scans, praying that they would be clear.
When I returned from Camp Ozark in early July I traveled to Houston for these scans and we learned there was suspicious activity in random parts of my body where original disease had never taken place before…this was odd and unsettling. I prayed that these random spots were a reaction to my body fighting off an illness or exhaustion of some sort. I was once again put on the schedule for an additional round of chemo before scheduling another PET scan for me at the end of this month.
Accompanied by a massive amount of prayer, I entered the PET scan room this past Tuesday wishing eternally for a clear read. Yes, clear scans would mean transplant but transplant means my next step to being done with this disease for the rest of my life. As announced on a recent social media post, this PET scan was in fact CLEAR! Therefore, we will move forward with my Autologous Bone Barrow Transplant.
Why am I having a transplant if my scans have once again read as clear? I will have a bone marrow transplant because up to this point, chemotherapy and radiation cannot quite do the trick of ridding me of cancer AND making it stay away. We want the thing that is going to make the Cancer GO AWAY forever, and my prayer is that this transplant will do just that.
What is an Autologous Transplant? An Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant is a transplant created from MY healthy stem cells located in my bone marrow. Before heading to camp in May I had my second bilateral bone marrow biopsy, taken from both of my hip bones, to see if the cancer had ever gotten to my bone marrow. We learned that my bone marrow was still negative of cancer, therefore I was eligible to be my own bone marrow donor?! Kind of crazy & cool right!! On July 17-19 I completed Stem Cell Pheresis. A catheter was placed in my neck where blood exited and enter my body through multiple tubes. As the blood left my body, it entered a machine that spins the blood at a very fast rate in order to create level of differentiation based on the density of the blood. Healthy stem cell separate themselves in this process and those blood cells are collected in a bag above me while the rest of my blood is sent through another tube back into my body with some additional calcium. I completed this process for two days, six hours straight on each day. This was not enjoyable and very claustrophobic, but it has been completed now and I am thankful that I have been diagnosed in a time when something like this is even a possibility.
What will the Bone Marrow Transplant look like? To be honest, I am not completely sure. My official admittance date at Texas Children’s will be August 2nd, this coming Friday! I know this may sound unusual to most people who read this, but I am looking forward to getting to the hospital and starting this process. It will be an adventure needless to say, but life is an adventure anyway…why not add some more craziness to it.
On August 1st I will have my PICC line placed which is where I will receive everything entering and exiting my body from the start of the transplant to the end. Similar to a port, but a PICC line can be removed easier than a port. Upon arriving at the hospital I will start a sequence of chemotherapy that will ‘kill’ my immune system and lower my white blood cell count to a very low number (basically ‘cleaning’ and ‘clearing’ my body of all that bad stuff). Leaving my blood count at probably the lowest it has been up to this point. As I understand it, during that process is when I will be given back my healthy stem cells. These cells will work to rejuvenate my immune system and replace all the bad cells with healthy cells. There is a possibility to that I could lose my hair again while I’m in the hospital. This is not exactly something I’m looking forward to, but it does mean getting to wear my wig, Contessa (she’s the best), again for the second time around. We have been told to prepare for this process to take up to 30 days…meaning my fall semester at Baylor is going to look a little different than the normal student, but that is another conversation for another time. Once the transplant has been completed, I will stay in Houston (but out of the hospital) for one to two weeks until my blood count has fully recovered. After that…I am good to go!
As many of you know, I am very open and honest with everything that has to do with my diagnosis. If you have any other questions, I would love to answer them. I will continue to write as much as possible while I’m in the hospital and maybe some of my posts can simply be answering some questions you might have! Texas Children’s, here I come!
With love, Rye
Author: Rylie York