Two weeks ago, just in time for Thanksgiving, I received the results of my bone marrow biopsy. The news was good. “Congratulations,” said my oncologist, “your bone marrow is normal.” And just today my bone marrow transplant doctor in Tucson called to say I was no longer a transplant candidate—news that I had been expecting but that was nonetheless good to hear. However, I didn’t write about the good news straight away. That’s because just a few days after hearing that I could return to my normal life, I found out that a friend had died. Continue reading
I found out two weeks ago that I have six donor matches. Six, in the stem cell transplant world, is a lot. Many people are happy for just one, and some have to settle for partial matches. Essentially, my doctors can choose the fittest of the six, and the determinations are not much different from those made during a high school dodgeball game. Candace and Simone are smoking in the corner, so they’re out. Besides, they’re girls, and so is Nikki, so they’re not getting picked first. Obviously. (No, seriously. Male donors are preferred because if female donors have ever been pregnant, their babies can expose them to foreign genetic material—their partner’s—which complicates the grafting process.) Johnny is on the fast track for liver cirrhosis, so he’s not the best choice. That leaves Flynn, the tortured artist, or Ryan, the Olympic swimmer. We’ll go with Ryan, thank you.
So, with six good matches, you would think I’d be packing my bags for a Tucson winter with all the other snowbirds. You’d be wrong. Because…a funny thing happened on the way to the transplant. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
After initially being told that UC Davis was the nearest medical center for a stem cell transplant, the plan changed 10 days ago to UCLA. Early last week, however, my insurance company told me that UCLA was not one of its “centers of excellence” and that therefore my benefits would not cover me to go there for treatment. Rather, the insurance company had approved it as a place to go for a second opinion. I asked them if they were requiring me to get a second opinion; they said no. My wife and I talked with our doctor about whether it was still a good idea to go to UCLA and get evaluated. “Not if you’re not going to get treated there,” she replied. This is because, wherever I get treated I will be getting evaluated and, in essence, receiving a second opinion. “Going to UCLA will just waste time.” Continue reading
Six weeks ago, my beautiful daughter Indra was born. Two weeks later, I got a sore throat. I connected these events. One doesn’t get a lot of sleep with a newborn, nor is there a chance for exercise or healthy eating. I went to urgent care and was treated for strep. The sore throat didn’t get better. And I developed weird symptoms. My heart would pound with the smallest effort. I started waking up with my pupils dilated; everything would look like it was zigzagging around, and it would take an hour for my vision to improve. Writing became difficult because everything was just so bright. Plus, I was just so worn out all the time.