Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's Roll: The Night Before Chemo

     Tomorrow is the big day.  I’m starting treatment for my relapse of aplastic anemia.  It will be the same type of treatment as I had when I was first diagnosed three years ago, so I know what I’m getting myself into this time.  4 (or 5) days of chemo (called ATG) in the hospital and then home to recover.  The first day will be the worst, because the chemo contains antibodies from a horse and it is normal for the body to have a strong immune response to the foreign cells.  And yes, they’re seriously going to put horse cells in me tomorrow.  It’s kind of cool, actually. 

     It works like this:  Aplastic anemia is an autoimmune disease.  It causes my own T-cells (immune cells) to attack my bone marrow and prevent it from producing blood.  This is no good, because obviously blood is quite necessary.  So the treatment for aplastic anemia, is to suppress the T-cells so that the individual is free to start producing blood again.  To do this, a horse is injected with human T-cells, which causes them to produce antibodies against human T-cells.  Those antibodies are then extracted and given to me. 

Still with me? :) 

If not, it’s okay.  Just thank a horse for me the next time you see one.

The biggest difference between this time around and last time is my mental state.  I feel prepared.  When I had ATG the first time, it was following this series of events which occurred over the course of 3 weeks:
I was told I was sick.
I was told I had leukemia.
I was told I had aplastic anemia.
I was told I didn’t have aplastic anemia.
I was told, we’re very sorry but we were wrong, you DO have aplastic anemia.
I was told I should do the ATG treatment
I was told I need a bone marrow transplant
I was told my siblings are not matches
I was told I have no matches in the bone marrow registry
I was told I should do ATG

And the day after my 21st birthday, I started ATG.  And those are just the highlights, there’s even more to the story that I promise to tell you all about someday.

Needless to say, even though I’m only 3 years older, it feels like a different person is entering the ring this time.  I have spent this summer mostly at home with my family.  I have seen doctor after doctor after doctor.  I spent about 2 weeks considering the scariest possibilities and there was one week where I cried everyday because I needed to mourn the loss of my healthy body and acknowledge how hard this is.  But since then, I have slowly gathered strength.  From seeing and talking to friends, being with family, going to church and resting my body, I’ve created an armor that I didn’t have before.  I feel like I’ve looked my opponent square in the eyes, and even though it is just as strong as last time, there is an element of familiarity, and it no longer intimidates me. 

Since it happens to be the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I’ll end this post with the last audible words that were spoken by the passengers on United flight 93.

“Are you guys ready?  Let’s Roll.”

Wish me luck :)



  1. Sels Brown
    Here are a few things to remember. We will call them the mottos of the week:

    1. Ain't no thang but a chicken wang
    2. Pish Posh Applesauce, do me a favor, now get lost.

    Say these things to AA (plasty) every night and it will be smooth sailing. Remember to hold your stones every day, wear your bracelet, watch bad television (GG--Alyssa will be soooo proud), enjoy the delicious food that people will probably bring you. Perfect cure :)

    Kick its butt, girl. Love you heaps and tons.

    b. bear

  2. Kels,

    Your positive attitude is simply infectious and is going to go a looong way in kicking some Tcell booty! You are always in my heart and will be in my prayers this week.

    A big, awkward starfish for good luck *


  3. Kelsey,
    Your mindset amazes me, and I have no doubt I'll see you back at school next semester :). You'll be in my thoughts and prayers this week!

  4. Hey Kels. It's incredibly brave and awe-inspiring of you to create a blog detailing your experience(s). You are such a wonderful, kind, strong woman. In response to your lemons post, I would like to add my own personal favorite lemon aphorism a la Forgetting Sarah Marshall: "When life hands you lemons, just say 'fuck the lemons' and bail." Fuck ALL of these lemons, Kels, and make sure to kick the asses of the brussels sprouts, stinky cheeses and moldy broccoli along the way. ;) I will absolutely be keeping up with you and your journey - please know you're in my thoughts and my heart. xoxoxo
    - Steph

  5. As you head into this, know that you have an entire community of people you have never met, and may never meet, pulling for you. I love your positive attitude, and know already that you are stronger than this disease.

    All the best, and good luck today.

  6. Hey Kelsey;

    Best of luck to you and please know that your attitude is infectious; inspirational!

    Take care;


  7. Hope everything goes well with your chemo! You are very special as you are the only one of Kevin's children to go to my wedding. Okay, you were inside your mom at the time, but still... Larry and I will be celebrating our silver anniversary (25 years!) in a few weeks so here's hoping some of our good luck will rub off on you!

    I sent your dad some info about Psi Bands via FB a month or so ago to help you manage nausea if it is a side effect for you. Will send you a FB friend request so I can share it with you...

  8. Thanks for allowing us to join you via this blog. Good luck! Keep your focus on the good. You're a strong woman, and an inspiration.

  9. What a great attitude! Stay strong and positive, and I'll keep reading your father's hockey ramblings. :)

    Best of luck for a comfortable treatment.

  10. You are going into this thing with an inspiring attitude. I have no doubts you will come out victorious. Wishing you all the best. Who knew horses saved lives?!

  11. I found your blog on Twitter courtesy of your dad and thought I should give it a read. I'm 5/12 of the way through chemo for Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the thing I fear most is being told somewhere down the line that I've relapsed (or worse, developed leukemia). For the most part, I've been able to keep a positive attitude throughout. I can imagine the frustration you might be feeling, but it's great you're going about things the way you are.

    Good luck!

  12. You are exceptional!!! Prayers right to you, the family & hospital!! WE LOVE YOU.

  13. Chemo's a bitch but as long as you work with it and battle as hard as you can, the AA doesn't have a chance. Good luck!

  14. Hi Kelsey
    What an inspiring and refreshing read (courtesy of your dad as well) that raises my own spirits (still minor complications from Kidney Surgery 5 years later).

    You seem to carry over your Dad's linear writing which translates to easy reading and greater understanding.

    Stay strong, and go easy on yourself if you aren't on any off day.

  15. Your in a hockey fight now kid. Stand your ground and keep swinging. You already put the foil on your knuckles, its go time. You can do it!

  16. Stay strong. Sending positive vibes your way.

  17. Your dad sent me here. Hold on and stay strong. I too was diagnosed with a rare disorder (cerebral arteriovenous malformation) almost 2 years ago now. I've gone through 4 operations and 4 radiation sessions since then and I feel as if I'm finally reaching the finish line and it feels REALLY good, even though it has left me with some things I will have to fight the rest of my life. I can relate to some of what you've gone through and can only say that through the stress and worry, all you have to do is breathe. Sometimes simplifying your world of uncertainty and chaos can be the best possible thing you can do. Hang in there. Love the people you love, pray, trust in your doctors.

  18. Good luck! Best Wishes for a speedy and complete recovery!

  19. Best of luck Kesley. I'm going to bookmark this page as a source of inspiration for myself. Come back strong, and kick its ass!

  20. Keep the inspiring attitude Kelsey, others will benefit from it. Good luck girl.