When talking to Dana-Farber's assistant VP for Gift Planning Alice Zaff at the recent Chefs for Jimmy, I told her I would send her the link to what Dr. Alyea and Melissa wrote about me in the fall 2014 e-newsletter, Advances in Hematologic Malignancies.
I directed her to the second link down, Complex Case Study: Four Stem Cell Transplants for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
There, she would see my story, starting with my diagnosis in 2003 at age 48 after unusual fatigue during the Saint Patrick's Road Race.
I won't repeat the whole megillah; you can read it if you want by clicking on the second link. When I reread it, certain things jump out at me: the nearly four years in remission after my first transplant; the relapse in 2007 (not included in their telling was the fact that Korby and I had just won at the Districts); transplant #2 with an unrelated donor (allogenic transplant) ; and six months later, pancytopenia (empty bone marrow), followed by transplant #3.
Picking up from there, they wrote: "Six months after her second allogeneic transplant, the patient's peripheral blood counts again declined. A repeat bone marrow biopsy demonstrated second relapse of AML. She was readmitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital with fever and neutropenia in December 2008, and did not re-emerge for four months. She underwent another induction chemotherapy with a high-dose cytarabine-based regimen and had multiple life-threatening infections, including pulmonary aspergillosis and cytomegalovirus (CMV) colitis with a related gastrointestinal bleed. Other complications included delirium and severe edema."
They didn't even get around to talking about the kidney failure and the coma.
It was during that stay that I received my fourth transplant, on Jan. 31, 2009, with a different unrelated donor (Denise).
Today when I looked at a bottle containing 300 vitamins at Costco, I said to my friend, "I don't know if I'll live that long." That kind of "joke" still comes out of me reflexively. After I hit the five-year mark, I was no more likely to die of leukemia than anyone in the general population, but once you are afraid for your life in the way that I was, it doesn't totally leave you.
God willing and the creeks don't rise, tomorrow I will go to Fairfield to celebrate my seventh birthday, or re-birthday, thanks to Denise and Dana-Farber.