Friday, July 1, 2011

Universal Receiver

If I understand this process, (a big if!) by the end of the transplant year-of-milestones-and-recovery, I will have a new blood type (AB+). I think on a very visceral level, this is one of oddest and most interesting changes I will undergo as my immune system and other blood cells are replaced by the healthy donor system that will hopefully destroy the cancer without destroying too much else in the process.

Having a new blood type is one of the more mind-blowing aspects of this whole situation - scientifically but also metaphysically and even spiritually. Intriguingly, my new blood type is the "universal receiver," meaning that individuals with the AB+ blood type can receive blood donations from any other blood type. I have found myself reflecting heavily on the concept of becoming, officially, a universal receiver.

When I have asked those closest to me how I have changed in the past few years as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the cancer journey, they nearly all respond with some variation on the notion that I have learned how to better accept help. I think that in these years between ages 22 and 27, part of what it has meant to me to truly become an adult, and part of what it has meant to become well, has been to understand how to graciously receive all the manifestations of help that I have needed and been given. I want to believe that it has also made me more aware of, and responsive to, the needs of others - that becoming someone who can receive help has made me better at giving it as well.

The universe has sent some extraordinary opportunities to put this into practice. I have come to see the transplant as the most profound opportunity yet. It has been a big challenge to allow this huge gift from another human being to work effectively. It required trusting blindly in a process and person that was unknown. It made me allow for the possibility of transformation and change that I had no control over. (
Many of you have asked me, perhaps joking and perhaps not, if I have had changes in my tastes, habits, or Hebrew language skills. In truth, transplant patients have reported changes like these in the past, and the possibility was as much terrifying as exciting for me.) It has felt like an enormous challenge that I have spent a lot of time contemplating and working on in the past many months. I have tried to be as open as possible, with the belief that the mind-body connection could help facilitate the success of the transplant.

This week, I got the results back from my first XY-fish or Chimerism test - a genetic test to determine how much of my system is me, and how much is the donor. At this phase, about 6-weeks post-transplant, they expect you to be about 30% donor and 70% yourself. When the results returned this week from the Mayo Clinic, they showed that my immune system is 100% donor.

The full implications of this news are still a bit ambiguous: my blood type (determined by red cells) and other blood components will be in flux for much longer. And the two systems may still try to fight one-another, resulting in some Graft Versus Host Disease or Host Versus Graft effect that could tip the scales again. But it's news as good as I could have at this phase of the process. It may be the quest for control in a situation without any, but I'd like to think that devoting positive energy to being open to becoming a universal receiver helped to spur things along. I am grateful for the help.


Joy said...

I would never expect you to get less than 100% on anything. Overachiever! :) Yay for good news!

Ben Weyl said...

Wow, this is fascinating! Glad you're doing well -- thinking of you :)

Christine Stone said...

As aways, so impressed with your perseverence. I learn something new from you all the time - whether a policy issue, tips on how to work effectively with others or medical lingo. Smiles to you from the Steel City. xoxo, C

Marly said...

I completely believe the mind-body connection will play a role in the success of your transplant. It is so wonderful to read your posts and keep us updated. You are, indeed, a universal receiver!

Micaela said...

Wow, you have turned it into poetry. Now I'm going to try to be a better receiver too. You're also a universal giver, though, my friend.