We finally found her. A 19 year-old woman from the states. My same weight and height. No pregnancies. A perfect 10 out of 10 match. I can tell already we’ll be BFFs or even BFFAEs. But to spice it up, my backup donor is a 20-something year-old international man. I’m hoping it’s Prince Harry. Since this is based on genetics, you’d think my donor theoretically should be a redhead, right?
Locking down a donor also means we have d-dates on the calendar. Barring complications (knock on wood), I’ll undergo the body of tests I spoke about in an earlier post next week. I’ll have surgery to get my hickman on April 21. The dosage for one of the icky chemo drugs I’ll be taking is touchy, so we’ll do a practice chemo on Friday, April 22. I’ll get Easter weekend at home, and then return to Mayo early Monday, April 25 to start my 8 days of grossly intensive chemo. I say “grossly intensive” because it’s different this time. Whereas the last time I had chemo – what I would guess most would call “grossly intensive” too – the goal was to kill cancer cells and at least try to keep everything else in good shape; now we’re just trying to kill it all. Bone marrow, immune system, the works. Fun.
Transplant day – Day 0 in doctor-speak – is set for May 4. My donor – who, by the way, gets to agree to this timeline – will donate that morning. They’ll fly the bone marrow to Mayo and I’ll receive it in the evening.
Hopefully my body will be tricked into thinking my donor and I are twins. According to Mayo Clinic Hematology Chair Dr. Dennis Gastineau, whom I met with last week, the exponential increase in the number of donors on the Registry is one of the biggest reasons behind the vastly improved patient outcomes for unrelated BMT patients in the last 10 years. I’m not exaggerating. Here’s the graph:
Scientists also are a lot more precise when it comes to HLA typing, the DNA criteria doctors use to pinpoint the best match. This has improved survival, reduced the incidence and severity of graft-versus-host disease, and improved engraftment. (Source: Be The Match: Advances in HLA Typing) Now doctors use 10 criteria to determine a match. Some years ago that number was eight. Maybe with more research that number will rise to 12. Be The Match has been able to keep up with these increased criteria because of its rising registrants.
But still, I need to hammer home that there was little doubt a freckle-faced girl like me would find a match. Again, it’s vital that we help Be The Match get more people of ethnic backgrounds to register, so they can have the same hope that I did in finding a soul mate. The chart below from Be The Match shows just how underrepresented some populations are in the Registry:
I’m so thankful to Powell Tate for making big strides in adding to these numbers last week. Not only that, but they’re really making me miss them. My mom and dad even miss them too. Check out this wonderful video they made for me at their Be The Match Registry Drive last week:
I can’t thank my donor enough. Being only 19 and on the Registry, she must have a reason to donate. If it’s mutually consensual, Be The Match connects you after one year. I really hope I can meet her. I’m smitten.
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