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Six Months Post-Transplant

Reflection of life six months after my sister had a bone marrow transplant.
PUBLISHED July 15, 2016
Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
We spent nearly a year working towards and waiting for a bone marrow transplant for my sister. We went to countless doctors and saw many specialists before actually getting that “yes” and proceeding to transplant. In January of this year, it finally happened. I think that because of how many treatments she went through with the goal of remission, my sister did not fully understand what it meant. Though she does not have cancer anymore, that does not mean that everything that she struggled with would simply disappear. Although she did get a transplant, from a medical standpoint, she is largely the same person.

Shortly after moving into quarantine, we returned back to the hospital for a host of symptoms that I could not manage at home. This included coughing, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and a body rash. Her ANC had dropped below 500 and she was severely dehydrated and once again had a compromised immune system. Several days later, she was in chronic pain and the thought of an early recurrence was on everybody’s mind. A PET/CT showed that wasn’t the case, but a few days later she contracted the rotavirus. This lead to a four-week hospital stay before being able to return to quarantine. During this time, she had three falls and developed lymphedema.

The amount of appointments that we attended rivaled her schedule upon diagnosis. She needed antibiotics for a secondary infection in her catheter line and required nearly round-the-clock care. Even after returning home at the end of March, she still had a long way to go to get back to where she had been prior to transplant.

This spring brought many milestones. She turned 29, and though not a big birthday, every year is a huge success for somebody who has battled cancer. She was able to go swimming for the first time in nearly two years, she played mini golf and went bowling, as well as ate at restaurants. Yes, I know that these things may seem trivial. For her though, this is life returning back to normal.

Sadly, she has fallen four more times because her neuropathy is quite progressive post-transplant. Her lymphedema comes and goes, but her hospital stays are still quite frequent. Her immune system still has a long way to go before she is fully recovered again. Because of that, she has been sick twice, had a case of bronchitis, had pneumonia twice and continues to struggle to stay well.

Although she is here, and that is something to be incredibility happy about, it is rarely easy. It has been a very long road and no matter how many consults we had, I don’t think that you can be adequately prepared for all that a transplant entails. That being said, cancer is also still very much a part of our lives. Now, she is trying once more to get healthy enough to receive a treatment in order to better her chances of staying in remission. We are nearly six months post-transplant and she is still in remission. To me, with regards to my sister, I could not ask for more.
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