Thursday, August 11, 2011
So remember that time I was like "Yeah, we are excited for Derek to get a transplant because it could cure him and our life can go on"? Those were good times. But now reality has set in and its not anything that I thought it was going to be. Derek met with his bone marrow transplant doctor today. This is the same doctor that did his first transplant so she knows him well. Derek and I couldn't wait for this meeting because we wanted to get this show on the road. We have a life to get back to for heaven's sake! We already knew that this would be a different transplant then he had before. A couple of years ago, Derek got an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant. This type of transplant used his own stem cells from his bones after very intense chemotherapy. The purpose was to knock out as much cancer as possible. Unfortunately, his cancer came back and continued to grow, which is not cool. However, another biopsy showed cell types that did not show up last time. They changed the chemo made specifically to kill those cell types and it worked! He is technically in remission. But don't throw your parties yet.
After today's meeting we found out that the cancer will probably come back and continue to if something isn't done about it. That is were a bone marrow transplant comes in. The doctor explained that we all get cancer but our immune system is able to kill it off. When someone gets a cancer and it grows, it means that their immune system failed at recognizing the threat and failed to kill it. And since Derek's immune system totally sucks at that kind of thing he now needs a different transplant called an Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant. This transplant would put chemo in him that would totally kill off his own immune system and then he would get back a donor's (hopefully a sibling who matches) bone marrow. Their cells would then build him a new immune system which would hopefully be able to fight off any cancer that comes back. With that will probably result in 2 things: Graft vs. Hodgkins, which will recognize his cancer and kill it, which we want, and Graft vs. Host disease which will try to kill off other things that aren't bad, which we don't want. Apparently after that point the future looks bleak. The doctor said that out of the many people she has done this type of transplant for, only one has been considered "cured" but he lives with Graft vs. Host disease that tries to kill off his skin. Depressed yet? So are we. The possibility of dying from one of the affects(suppressed immune system = infection, liver failure, etc.) of the disease are high.
There are still many options out there for Derek to get rid of his cancer (clinical trials, other chemos yet tried) but nothing offers the option of being cured except for the transplant. And with the transplant comes various consequences: from managing Graft vs. Host disease to death. The reality of losing Derek has been something I have had to deal with for these last 3 years, but it never felt more possible than today getting that news. And any silly optimism we felt this last month after the PET scan went right out of the window. We talked about having another child, Derek getting a job, not seeing the chemo room every week and maybe the nurses even forgetting who we are were all things we hoped may happen soon.
But the worst part was seeing Derek's face as the doctor told us all of this. I have only seen him cry twice about his cancer. The first was two weeks before we got married, sitting in that Urgent Care room with a doctor use to treating sprained ankles and strep throat having to read the CT scan results predicting cancer. The second was today. And do you know what was the first worry he expressed was? "I would feel awful if I died from Graft vs. Host disease. I don't want one of my siblings to have to deal with the fact that their stems cells killed me". Silly man, thinking about other people at the time that you are suppose to think of yourself!
I apologize if this post went from informational to bitter. Sometimes my life feels like a never ending Lifetime movie, filled with bad acting and a terribly written script. But alas, I know no screenwriter would be this mean to their characters.
Don't take that as a knock against God. In fact, his blessings are numerous among all this chaos. I really feel like he tries to make it as easy as possible without slacking on the things that we are suppose to learn.
And don't feel sorry for us. We get to look at that face everyday! And that face, helps me get out of bed some days.