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  • Writer's picturebridget snell

Don't call it a comeback

As of yesterday, we're out of severe neutropenia! We are out of the land of do-not-do-this-and-do-not-eat-that!

This doesn't mean we can jump back in and toast to our futures with wine just yet. It just means we can give our exhausted cleaning staff a day off and we don't have to be up in the early morning for blood draws and stem stim shots. 

Still, break out the carbonated grape juice.

Not to brag, but, my stemmie sister and I *really* know how to break out of neutropenia. We're like, total trend setters.

They tell us we are the the first two MS patients in this clinic to have their top-off chemo's on a Tuesday. It's rare to have it on a Wednesday. It's usually a Thursday procedure. So when I say we're good, I mean we're good good.

It doesn't surprise me in the least. We were set up for success. First, we have all of your prayers and healing thoughts; I have a mobile cheerleading squad that should have their own ESPN channel; my stemmie sis and I have this unspoken warrior contract to keep each other up and running; and, most excitingly, today is Matt and my anniversary. What a cocktail. 

And we honeymooned in Mexico. Apparently, all good things begin in Mexico.

On this day 19 years ago, I was running up the aisle to get married and eat cake. It was lovely and very joyful. Many of you remember this day, I hope.

Today, much to my surprise, there is cake! Yes, you guessed it: The mobile cheerleading squad came in during chemo with a cake, a bottle of wine for Matt and a bottle of bubbly rose lemonade for me! A beautiful card and a big balloon made our room actually cheerful! To make it even better, my fave nurse attended to me all day. Oh, and the kind of chemo I got today has no side effects. How's that for a top-off to top it off?

I'm glad you asked about what I meant by "the kind of chemo I got today". 

The first four days of chemo, in the early days of treatment, were of high-dose cyclophosphamide. This chemo attacks all rapidly dividing cells. Cyclophosphamide is used in cancer treatment and cancer cells are rapidly dividing. Cy takes it all out, doesn't care that hair, stomach, and mouth cells are rapidly dividing as well. But those grow back. Hopefully the bad guys don't. It also wipes out the immune system. 

So why use it for MS? While this is procedure is a stem cell transplant, the key is actually in the chemotherapy. No chemo, no cure. We want to get rid of the old immune system and start from scratch. Instead of just pumping me with stem cells, why not wipe the slate clean first? 

Let's remember, my immune system is attacking me. My T cells are very confused. The three amigos--regulatory T cells, helper T cells, and killer T cells--usually work together to keep the bad guys out. But someone is feeding them bad intel and so they're all willy-nilly in their attacks.

But the mystery is: what is feeding the T cells the wrong intel? What is responsible for the confusion about what is good and what is bad? We've been following leads for awhile now, and finding that B cells are looking guilty. 

So the chemo du jour is Rituximab. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody which targets the B cells only. So our last strategy is to be more specific what we take out. Cyclophosphamide paved the way for the Rituximab to finish it off. I'm officially wiped clean and ready to rebuild this city.

So, now it's official. The treatment is done! 

I'm done! 

I'm done!

I can spend the rest of the last treatment day celebrating the past 19 years and making new vows for the next 19. 

What a day. I'm wiped.

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