My stem cell transplant: 5 things people ask me

After I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in April 2015, I was treated at MD Anderson by Dr. Robert Orlowski with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. A lot of people ask me about that experience, so I’ve put together a list of the five most common questions I get, along with my answers. What kind of stem cell transplant did you have? There are two different types of stem cell transplants: allogeneic and autologous. In an allogeneic transplant, the stem cells come from a donor. I had an autologous stem cell transplant, in which my own cells were used to heal me. How are the stem cells collected? The process of harvesting stem cells takes several days. First, I was given a series of Neupogen shots in the abdomen to stimulate my body to produce more stem cells. The injections didn’t hurt. A few days later, I relaxed in MD Anderson’s apheresis room while my blood was passed through a centrifuge. The centrifuge collected my stem cells and returned the rest of the blood to my body. This process was repeated several times to ensure we had enough stem cells. It took about eight hours over two days to collect 8.1 million of my stem cells. The stem cells were then divided for storage. Half would be used for the transplant; the other half would be saved in case I needed them at some point in the future. Since multiple myeloma is considered incurable, the question is not, “Will the cancer return?” but rather, “When will the cancer return?” Luckily, I haven’t needed that second bag yet. I...