A brief update on Joon’s condition, following the stem cell transplant that occurred on 13 December
The first couple of weeks after the transplant have been difficult for Joon as she suffered from side effects caused by the graft versus host desease (GvHD).
GvHD happens when the donor immune system attacks the patient’s body tissues. It is characterized by selective damage to the liver, skin (rash), mucosa, and the gastrointestinal tract.
As explained in a previous post, a moderate reaction was not only anticipated but also welcome, because in Joon’s case, a mild GvHD does have some benefits. Some of the cells involved in the reaction are also expected to attack any cancer cells that may have survived. This is called the graft versus leukemia effect.
Joon went through various heavy treatments to mitigate these reactions, and the progress has been very encouraging. She feels much better and her blood results keep improving.
For now, she will stay in the hospital for several more weeks as the medical team wants to make sure that she is healthy and strong enough to go home. They also want to make sure:
- Her bone marrow is making enough healthy blood cells.
- Her immune system is slowly building up again.
- She has no severe complications.
- Her appetite has improved and she is able to take various medications on her own.
In the meantime, she is already planning several projects for herself, in respect of her studies or other personal interests. She likes photography and we have just created a new page on this blog to post some pictures she took during the summer.
The stem cell transplant took place on Friday at the Geneva hospital. The transplant itself is a fairly simple procedure, as the stem cells from the donor are infused intravenously to the patient. The infusion lasted a little less than two hours and Joon was able to stand for a few moments just after and have visits during the day. She will remain very vulnerable in the coming weeks because her immune system will be close to zero. The visits at the hospital are therefore strickly controlled to avoid any infection from the outside.
During this period, the transplanted cells will circulate in the bones to gradually rebuild the production of the bone marrow and resume the production of various blood cells. This only occurs 10 to 30 days after transplantation, period during which Joon should continue to be protected against infections. After 3 months, her immune system can be reconstituted.
During the coming weeks , the medical team will closely monitor the side effects of the transplant, especially the symptoms of the “graft versus host” disease. They generally try to avoid these possible effects, but in Joon’s case, a moderate reaction will be sought because the graft, once developed, can then attack her remaining cancer cells.
In short, this means that there is still a long way to go. This said, the transplant on Friday was a crucial milestone and we are grateful for all the encouragement and support that led to this day.
Following our last update, the date of Joon’s stem cell transplant had to be pushed back a week, and is now scheduled for 13 December. Joon had to go through additional medical tests to assess her liver functions, due to abnormal blood test results and this forced the delay. Things are getting back to normal, and Joon’s conditioning for the transplant will now start.
La greffe est maintenant prévue pour le 13 décembre
Suite à notre dernier point de situation, la date de la greffe a du être repoussée d’une semaine, et est maintenant prévue pour le 13 décembre. Joon a du subir des tests médicaux supplémentaires pour vérifier l’état de son foie, suite a des résultats sanguins qui étaient anormaux. La préparation à la greffe a donc été suspendue durant cette période. C’était une précaution nécessaire, mais il n’y a rien d’alarmant et les choses rentrent dans l’ordre. La préparation à la greffe va donc démarrer demain.