A myelofibrosis survivor’s stem cell transplant advice

In 2008, I was flying all over the country looking for a job. After a flight from San Antonio to Dallas, I got really sick. I had a bad pain in my neck and was exhausted. I felt like crap, so I went to a friend’s house and passed out for 12 hours. When I woke up, I realized I needed to see a doctor. The physician on duty at the “doc in the box” said, “Look. You need to get to a hospital pretty soon. Your blood pressure is high, your red blood cell count is off the charts, and you’re showing signs of shingles.” So instead of going to my next job interview, I flew home to San Antonio. I picked up a prescription to treat the shingles and then slept for another 12 hours. I woke up with Bell’s palsy, which makes one side of your face look droopy. After my regular doctor performed a myriad of tests over the next two weeks, I finally got a diagnosis: polycythemia vera. My journey to MD Anderson Polycythemia vera is a blood disorder in which the body produces too many red blood cells. It can be managed with medicine and frequent blood draws, and I managed mine that way for seven years. Then, during a regular check-up in February 2015, my doctor said that my white blood cell count was starting to rise. He put me on a different medication and referred me to Srdan Verstovsek, M.D., a hematologist at MD Anderson. A bone marrow aspiration revealed I’d developed myelofibrosis, a type of bone cancer. If left untreated,...