An update, one year later, on the health and recovery of the founder Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs from MDS/AML.
On August 30, 2017, one year ago today, I received stem cells from a world donor who was found to be a perfect match. Finding a perfect match was extremely fortunate as many people have to settle for half-matches or worse, which decreases the likelihood of successful grafting in your body. In May, 2017, I had been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which is a cancer of the bone marrow, and after a month of “lighter” chemo treatments it had expedited to AML (leukemia) and I had to be admitted to hospital.
Today is a day for celebration and a day for reflection. I celebrate because the hard part is over and I have come out of it happy and healthy. I reflect because I honestly haven’t done so. As soon as I left the hospital I put it behind me. I’d think about or discuss it as “that time I was in the hospital” but my mind would gloss over and ignore what went on in there and all the things I went through. Like a locked compartment in my brain. To think about it just causes me to tear up so the easy solution is to not think about it.
Last year I told everyone that when (not if) I made it to one year post-transplant, I would disclose the survival rate that my hematology doctor gave me. Before I could sign off on receiving the stem cell transplant, I had to acknowledge that I was given the three-year survival rate of a man in my age group with my symptoms that were given the same stem cell transplant. So here I am and here it is. It was 40%. I was given that number and then had papers put in front of me that I needed to sign before they would make preparations. Forty percent three-year survival rate after this transplant. And I signed it because non-treatment would mean certain death, likely within a year. It was too late to seriously consider homeopathic or other solutions (I had already jumped on those, as I’m a big believer in trying everything if it can’t make things worse).
So then I was admitted to hospital in July for nearly four weeks. To start off – I had a Hickman line put in my chest. This is a tube that leads to a main ventricle going to my heart. This way, instead of getting 100 needles per day, they can hook it up to me directly. I actually got my stem cells through this tube. The tube remained hanging from my chest until New Year’s Eve.
Most of the chemo happened in the first week. But it was a rough chemo – the kind you hear about with the vomiting, etc. But I was one of the stronger patients who could actually get back to eating after a few days. I was a picky eater with what I could (or wanted to) hold down, but I have family who supported me and ran around the city getting whatever I asked for. On August 19 I was released from hospital for five days, but on the 19th I had been given a lumbar puncture for spinal fluid and it resulted in a massive neck ache for three of those five days, kind of sucking the fun out of my brief home time. But I did what I could to spend time with my kids because the next phase meant that I couldn’t see them.