A Post-Bone Marrow Transplant Scare


After undergoing a bone marrow transplant for my leukemia, I started to have some odd symptoms, and sent wacky texts to my loved ones.

I made it through the bone marrow transplant and chemo treatment for my recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia. I headed home for recuperation. My brother Chris and his lovely wife Anne were given the caregiver torch from the nurses. They lived 15 minutes from Moffitt Cancer Center — a requisite for hospital dismissal. I needed to be nearby in case of an emergency as my immune system was compromised.

I do not remember exactly what happened. Just days after returning home, I had some trippy moments and my right arm started to throb, I experienced vision blurriness and some fogginess — or what many call chemo-brain.

These are real texts:

To my sister Amy: “I’ll start. However, the doctor that saw me this morning and then all parts of your mod. Whoops. This filleting of thoughts and words make them (me too) feel that I could start to have a fever and infection.”

And to my friend:“I’m still achy and sick but I’ll probably refrain the creators of the world.”

To my sister Julie: “ Now for all the. Care to prefect and side effects fever for a year , etc. Hoping it goes smoothly! I hope you are really enjoying love!”

No one replied but they did text each other. “What the hell? This is weird, even for Mary.”My brother Chris started making calls to my cancer team.

I was readmitted to the bone marrow transplant ward to receive a brain MRI. There was a serious concern that I had thrombosis. The findings of the MRI showed I had “T2 hyperintensity along the lateral, distal cerebellar vascular border zone that best appreciated on the axial T2 FLAIR sequence, 9:40, and coronal sequence 8:44. There is also mild T2 hyperintensity in the pons, somewhat scattered and slightly punctate, 9:49 and 9:45. There is no restricted diffusion or enhancement in these regions. The differential diagnosis would include distal posterior fossa chronic ischemia versus small vessel ischemia of the posterior fossa.”

I honestly don’t know what happened. Do you? I’m sure this was explained to me at the time, but I only recall rainbows in my head during the MRI. Apparently, ischemiais a condition in which the blood flow (and thus oxygen) is restricted or reduced in a part of the body. I’m not sure if I had a mini stroke.

I cannot recall the remedy. Time alone may have been the healer.

During chemotherapy and the bone marrow transplant, moments of chemobrain snuck in. I would jibber jabber, hear things like monks chanting, forget things or just feel spacey. I didn’t even know when I was acting silly; it seemed normal to ask the nurse for a trumpet.

After receiving the bone marrow from my 23-year-old donor from Israel, I recuperated. New hair, skin and nails grew in. Strength was restored. I swore that all my internal organs were rebooted! Eventually, clarity returned. Now I think I’m sharper than ever, although my family may beg to differ.

Julie, I do hope you are really enjoying love.

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