Who is your daddy!?
OK, I’m old, so that doesn’t mean what you think it means. I mean it in the Ace Ventura, “First I’d find a motive, then I’d lose 30 pounds PORKING HIS WIFE!” sort of way.
Fighting Multiple Myeloma
When I fought through my autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) and its aftermath only to achieve “multiple myeloma not having achieved remission” as my official diagnosis, I tried to look on the bright side. My numbers were way down, and my M-protein stood at 0.6, which my oncologist mused might be from MGUS that I had prior to being diagnosed with myeloma.
I asked my doc if that meant my stem cell transplant failed. He said no, and the numbers being way down were proof.
He didn’t sound like he believed it.
So, we started in on a daratumumab and revlimid treatment that proved disastrous for me. I spent much of the summer in the hospital, lost my stem cell graph, and had to get a replacement infusion of stem cells in what my doctor termed a “stem cell boost,” in order to restart my immune system that had failed all the way to 0.0 neutrophils.
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I stayed alive (luckily), got through all of the fevers, the night when I was drowning from the fluid in my lungs, and all the aching, needles, getting a port inserted, and frequent infusions of platelets, and blood transfusions.
Maybe that is what people mean when they say, “fighting cancer.”
But, what if there was a silver lining?
Multiple Myeloma MRD Negative
If you think about it, I essentially had back to back stem cell transplants. For the first SCT, they deliberately killed my immune system with powerful chemo in the form of melphalan. For the second SCT, my body spontaneously killed my immune system by overreacting to daratumumab (and exposed my body to a dangerous fungal infection… thanks for nothing 🙂
Either way, my immune system was cleared out twice.
The myeloma tests after checking out of the hospital showed no trace of multiple myeloma cells in my body.
That’s myeloma remission.
But, how much remission?
Certain tests are only so sensitive, so when those tests read zero, they send you for more sensitive tests to detect even the smallest amount of myeloma cells. My blood tests said zero, so it was time for a bone marrow biopsy.
However, this time, in addition to the usual bone marrow biopsy testing, they took some extra bone marrow and shipped it off for the most sensitive testing possible for multiple myeloma.
In my case, a test called colonoSEQ, which they run on a bone marrow sample. This same test works on related blood cancers like leukemia.
ColonoSEQ can detect one single cancer cell among one-million healthy cells. The idea is that if this test cannot detect myeloma cells, then the amount of such cells in the body is so small that the patient can be said to have no myeloma, or remission. The technical term is minimal residual disease (MRD).
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Unfortunately, multiple myeloma has no cure, and relapse will occur eventually in almost all cases, but MRD negative is the least amount of disease possible in the human body.
Guess who is MRD negative?
I guess that means I’m in remission.