Bone Marrow Transplant #2 And GVHD

Apologies for the long overdue update post. I’ve been procrastinating hard on this one.

Way back on November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving, I received a second bone marrow transplant in order to help treat my leukemia relapse. The stem cells were from the same donor as my first transplant but thankfully the procedure was nothing like it. This time it was simply being hooked up to an IV bag for a bit and then having my vitals monitored for a while to make sure I didn’t have any issues.

I’m very happy to report that it was a complete success and all tests have come back as completely negative for leukemia! As a side effect of the transplant however, I’ve been having some Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD) meaning my donor immune system has been attacking me because technically I’m a foreign body to it despite the close match. This has mainly resulted in a rash across a lot of my body and my mouth being sore. I’m on some steroids now though to treat that and things are improving. The one good thing about GVHD though is that people who get it have higher long-term success rates because if the donor immune system is attacking me, then it’s also likely attacking any leftover cancer as well. I didn’t get any GVHD after the first transplant, which could have been part of the reason that I had the relapse.

The second transplant has also increased the amount of blood products that my body is making meaning that I’m no longer anemic. I don’t easily get out of breath by just doing things like taking a shower or going for a short walk. My heart rate is also way down, nearly back to normal. For a while, my resting heart rate was stupidly high as my heart worked hard to move oxygen around my body.

I’m still neutropenic though which means my white blood cell count is below normal and I’m more prone to infection. So I still can’t eat out at a restaurant or be around large groups of unknown people without wearing a mask. It means I’ve had to miss a couple work meetups but hopefully my counts return to normal soon. I’m anxious to be able to eat at my favorite places with friends!

I’m also starting to recover physically from everything and getting stronger by the day. I was on some fairly high dose steroids for a while and it completely wrecked my major muscles, such as those in my legs. Even things like climbing stairs required effort and worst of all, I’m still not able to drive a car with a clutch pedal!

I resumed working in December. My employer, Automattic, has been absolutely amazing throughout all of this and really has strengthened my desire to never work anywhere else. The support I received from all of my coworkers was overwhelming and really helped, especially on some of those tough days. They really are like a family to me.

30 thoughts on “Bone Marrow Transplant #2 And GVHD

  1. Go go Alex! Awesome. I’ve been thinking of you lots. You’ve been such a fighter through all of this and you’ve really inspired me. Sending good vibes for a rapid end to the GVHD and the low white blood cell count. You’re a super hero, man!

  2. Can’t love this enough, especially your outlook on the GVHD. Wishing you a speedy return to pushing down that clutch pedal!

  3. I’ve been following all your updates and am so happy to read about your recent health improvements over what sounds like a very courageous, challenging and hard year. Kudos to you. Keep fighting!

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