My first three weeks of remission have been pretty great, overall. Right now I feel like I could build a house. I absolutely could not build a house, but I feel like I could. There will still be side effects that I have to deal with, other procedures to undergo, and a period of general uncertainty that I’ll need to navigate through… but if I can beat cancer, I can deal with that stuff too.
So, what’s next?
Well, going into my first stem cell transplant I knew that the best way to achieve long-term remission or total cure was to follow up with a second stem cell transplant. Unlike the first procedure which used my own stem cells, this second transplant would require donor cells – which means there would have to be a donor search in order to find a match before we could proceed. Luckily, we were able to find multiple compatible donors very quickly, and before I knew it the table was set for another hospital stay. As you can imagine, my initial reaction was to flip a couple of tables over, dive out of a window, and live the rest of my days under a new identity somewhere these doctors could never find me; but eventually I was able to put things back into perspective. I want to live for a long time, and I’m willing to do whatever is required of me to reach that goal. So, here we are.
In the early part of November, I’ll be checking back into the hospital for another 3-week stay where I’ll get my current immune system suppressed and replaced with a brand new one. It sounds like history repeating itself but there will be a few differences this time around. Using donor cells presents the opportunity for a few complications that I didn’t face last time, mainly Graft vs. Host Disease, which is caused by a transplant recipient’s body attempting to reject the new cells. Another big difference this time is that I’ll be receiving radiation to prepare for the transplant instead of chemotherapy. I go back and forth between excited and nervous about this one, honestly. On one hand, I’ve never done radiation before and I don’t know what to expect. On the other, it’s not chemo, which is a blessing in itself, for a ton of reasons – one of which being that I shouldn’t lose my hair this time.
But that’s not the only thing happening in November, my friends!
Right around when I preparing to go into the hospital for my first transplant, I got a call from someone at the Cancer Support Community of St. Louis offering me the opportunity to act as their official ambassador at one of their major fundraising events for the year. Laughing Matters will be a night of improvisational comedy, where I’ll take the stage alongside a pro from the Improv Shop and attempt to raise money by earning votes for my performance. I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to give back to an organization that has done so much for me. I’ll be the only survivor on the stage that night, and there’s actually a pretty good chance I’ll be leaving the hospital to perform and going right back to the hospital when it’s over. If that doesn’t earn me some extra votes, I don’t know what will.
Speaking of votes, you can cast a vote or two or two hundred for me right now if you’d like! I’ll link to my page on the Laughing Matters website below. There’s even a video of my big, shiny face and head speaking about why CSC and Laughing Matters are so important to me. Take a look. Thanks, friends!