It is Day 17. There have been some ups and downs for sure but nothing that landed me back in the hospital. What I could literally feel was my body stirring, struggling, and surprised. As Mariya’s cells populated my marrow, I experienced waves of a cellular identity crisis. My immune system died and I lived 2 weeks without that protective shield. And then, suddenly a little blip of white cells on the daily blood test. After that, they came roaring in, enthusiastic, like dogs on a beach run. Yesterday, the PA calmly said I was no longer neutorpenic and showed me the blood tests. They looked like gold but I had to ask to be sure. Does this mean I am engrafted? When she smiled and said yes, I had to jump up and give Mariya a hi- five!
What this means is my body accepted the graft and now has Mariya’s immune system. It means I can go out and have visitors. It is amazing and longed for news. I don’t feel any different—some days are good and some not so good. But I have been hiking uphill for a very long time and I just got to the peak. Anyone who has ever done that knows that the way down can be full of hazards and so you don’t let your guard down until you get to the bottom again. As I said before, a bone marrow biopsy next week will confirm how many of my own cells remain. If many remain, it is called a mixed chimerism, and that is not what they consider optimal (they prefer that all bone marrow cells are from the donor). The next stage to pass is acute graft vs. host disease, which can set in within the first 3-4 weeks of transplant. Chronic graft vs. host disease, which can be mild or very troublesome, can go on for weeks or months.
I read somewhere that the definition of an optimist is one who regards the process of “one step forward, two steps back as a sort of cha cha”. Right now, that’s where I am and where I want to stay. I know I will have some setbacks but I think this will be a successful climb, from top to bottom. As I have said before, I feel confident that much of this comes from the prayers and good vibes you all sent my way.
And when I dare, I have started setting my sights on getting home earlier than the prescribed 100 days. I think it can happen if my body can overcome the graft vs. host disease issues.
As I write this, one of my dearest friends is departing the world. I want to honor her vibrant spirit by living the life I have left to the fullest. Together, we explored God, creativity, coming of age, camp life, family life, friendship and work. Her imminent early death and this whole experience I have been through are reminders to do the work you came here to do, and to leave a legacy of love and gratitude. She did that, in spades. What else could be more important?