When I went to Tucson for my consultation a week and a half ago, the transplant doctor explained how he would look for a bone marrow match. It boils down to this: The lab would test my blood for 10 different protein markers in an effort to find a donor whose 10 protein markers match up with mine. Through years of transplant research, scientists have discovered that the best results (i.e., fewest complications and highest long-term survival rates) come from a sibling who is a 10 out of 10 match. Second best is an unrelated donor who is a 10/10 match. Third best is a sibling who is a 9 out of 10. After that, it gets a bit murky, but those are the top three. Yesterday, I found out that my brother is not a 10/10. As his older brother, I could’ve told them that—he’s more like a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day.
This means that my transplant team will search through the national bone marrow registry for someone who is a 10/10 match. In the meanwhile, since I don’t have a donor yet, my doctor has recommended I move forward with a round of immunosuppression therapy, which, at first, sounds counterintuitive. After all, one of the hallmarks of my illness is that my immune system sucks. However, not all the white blood cells in the immune system are the same. Essentially, one group of cells, T-lymphocytes, are attacking my bone marrow. Immunosuppression therapy puts the kibosh on these cells, allowing my bone marrow to get back to making stem cells, which in turn make blood cells.
Theoretically, this would reduce my need for transfusions, and my body might even respond positively enough that a transplant may not be necessary. More immediately, it means that I’m going back to the hospital starting tomorrow, where for four days I’ll have immunosuppressants intravenously pumped into me.
While it would have been nice for my brother to be a match so we could move straight toward a transplant, we knew going in that there was a 75% chance he wouldn’t be. Therefore, I continue to circle the runway, waiting for the control tower to give me the OK to land. I’m extremely thankful to everyone who has supported me already. It makes my day to hear from family, friends, and friends of friends about what’s going on in your lives. Thank you, too, to everyone who has helped me financially. Since I am obviously not in a position to repay you, I will instead pay it forward by sticking around and raising my daughter to be as kindhearted and generous as you have been.