Myelodysplastic syndrome survivor: A stem cell transplant put me in remission

A routine physical exam in October 2015 changed my life.  Doctors were alarmed by my low white blood cell count and wanted to monitor it on a monthly basis.  A few months later, blood tests showed a serious decline in red blood cells and platelets.  A bone marrow biopsy revealed a high percentage of the stem cells in my bone marrow were cancerous and unable to mature into healthy blood cells. The diagnosis was stage III myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder that can progress into acute myeloid leukemia. The doctors said there was no cure for myelodysplastic syndrome and that my life expectancy without treatment was 13 months.  That’s devastating news for a husband, father and grandfather. Seeking myelodysplastic syndrome expertise at MD Anderson When the doctors at my local clinic explained the diagnosis, they said they could slow the progression of the disease, but suggested a second opinion at MD Anderson.  MD Anderson’s expertise and reputation are well-known to Houston area residents like me. They have myelodysplastic syndrome specialists, so I was hopeful for a better outcome. Confidence in my doctor’s myelodysplastic syndrome treatment recommendations I had my first appointment at MD Anderson in April 2016 with Dr. Steven Kornblau. His background, demeanor and caring approach made me feel confident that I was in the right place.  Dr. Kornblau recommended a clinical trial testing a chemotherapy combination of lirilumab and azacitidine. He said that might give me another three to five years. If the cancer didn’t respond well to chemotherapy, I’d have one more option: a stem cell transplant. Dr. Kornblau’s plan provided a new sense of...