Had my clinic visit today. I felt like hell, yesterday and today. I had a pretty high fever last night--bad. But it was back to normal by this AM--good. Which means that I obviously have some white cell action goin' on. But I was hurtin' most of yesterday.
Which brings us to today's clinic visit. Today at the clinic was my big day to get my chimerism testing done. We'll find out the results next week. What's a chimera? For all the non-X Files fans out there? A Chimera in genetics is defined as a single animal organism with genetically distinct cells from two different zygotes. As you may have surmised from all of my screeds regarding donor stem cells, I am currently a chimera. Some parts of my body reflect my own DNA, some others reflect the DNA of my donor. (Do I have any special crime opportunities as a result of this, I wonder?)
So how did we find ourselves so soon at this august moment of chimeritude? Simply put, the whole marathon that is a stem cell transplant can be broken down, for practical reasons, into 6 stages.
Stage 1. Do Not Get Infection Before Transplant.
Stage 2. Survive the chemotherapy regimen (via minimal infections, fevers and reactions)
Stage 3. Day +13ish, see if your counts are coming up. If they do, your donor's cells have engrafted. You're on your way! If they don't, see your doctor for advice.
Stage 4. Chimerism testing. Test what percent of the DNA in your blood cells is donor vs. recipient. You want it to be 100% donor. If it's more like 50/50 "then we need to strategize what we're going to do about that," said my doctor, not filling me with any sense that even 75/25 would not be a complete disaster.
Stage 5. Assuming you were summa chimera laude, feel glad. Then watch for the next 6 months for any sign of the dire Graft Versus Host Disease.
Stage 6. Assuming you were out that day when GVHD dropped by, celebrate your one year anniversary. Begin plans to get your immunizations. Start allowing yourself to dream of having a normal life. Meet your donor and buy her a drink. Meet your friends again! Meet their kids born last year! Thank God that you and your miscellaneous DNA lived to tell. Now go buy shoes and cosmetics and worry about the price tag later. After all, you've already spent a million-plus becoming the spokesperson for Chimeras R Us (a role that denies you the wearing of cosmetics and the public places in which to unveil your fantastic footwear); you might as well splurge a little bit for Jimmy Choo and Shu Uemura.
*Wee serious note: If you are inclined to offer thoughts, wishes or whatnot for people with any kind of belief that such offerings may have an effect of any positive kind, I'm going to offer my support for said thoughts and wishes....blah blah blah...what I'm saying is that I really really need my chimerism test to be as close to 100% as possible. Otherwise, I'm a bit reluctant to hear the "other options" available, one of which might involve doing the chemo/transplant thing again, which I don't need to tell you is so very really desperately exceedingly not something I want to relive. My deal is this: I'll do all the bargaining with God if you do all the genuine, real-stuff praying. Between the two of us, I can't see us getting less than a B-. :)