By: Greg Rose
In the summer of 2005 I was 35 years old, married, and the father of three. I started to feel run down and was looking ashen. I went to my family doctor and within a 48-hour period was admitted to the ER with the diagnosis of AML: Acute Myeloid Leukemia, intermediate cytogenetic (M5). I was critically ill with a white count well over 120,000. I was 50/50 for conventional treatment versus the transplant option. Opting for the chemo route, I endured 100-plus days of hospitalization within a five-month period. With many bumps and close calls along the way, I finally achieved remission and was home for good.
I enjoyed almost two years of remission before my disease returned. This time, it was discovered in my central nervous system. Second time around there were no options; I needed a bone marrow transplant. I was unable to find a suitable family donor or one in the bank. Ironically, my three siblings all matched each other, but not me. I underwent the first double umbilical cord transplant performed at the Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital – two baby cords from unknown donors. I engrafted around day 21 with the cord from a baby girl. The first year or so was tough, lots of platelets and red blood transfusions and some other minor health issues. Mainly, I was simply handling and recovering from the beating I had taken physically and psychologically. My GVHD has been limited to skin and GI issues, nothing too bad. As they say, “if you have some issues, you know it’s working.”
My BMT Cancer Survival Guide
- Be your own advocate with your medical care; if you can’t, find someone who can help you.
- Confidence in your treatment is key. Get a second opinion, if you have doubts; your doctors won’t be offended. Your own confidence that your plan is the optimal path to go is power.
- Listen to your body. “Squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you feel “off,” let your medical team know. Be persistent, infection comes quickly!
- Drink water, stay hydrated.
- Drink water, stay hydrated.
- Accept help, support and kindness from others.
- Self-pity and blaming is wasted energy; focus on looking forward, not backwards.
- Stay away from chat rooms and blogs, they are not validated sources of information.
- Statistics and percentages are meaningless. There is only one of you in the whole world.
- Take it day-by-day, give yourself a break, if you are having a down day.
- Stay busy and try to move around.
- Surround yourself with things that make you happy – the people, hobbies, etc. that you enjoy.
- Time is your ally. A remission buys you time, and new discoveries are happening every day.
I don’t proclaim that I had a plan for success or even comprehend what I went through. I do know that people go through the process and can come out on the other side. I believe in science and in the technology of this treatment.
I am now heading into ten years, post-transplant, and am happily living a normal life. It’s been quite a ride and I am forever changed from this experience. I am grateful for my family, my friends, my medical team, and marrow.org for providing me a chance for survival.
Blessings, respect, and love to all my fellow BMT warriors and their families.