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 :)