Darrell's journey began in May of 2016 when he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is a diagnosis of cancer that is disease of the blood and bone marrow. (Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found in the center of large bones that stores immature cells called stem cells. Stem cells usually mature into white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets during a process called hematopoiesis. In the body, white blood cells fight infections, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and platelets help the blood to clot.)
MDS develops in the DNA of developing stem cells where the bone marrow is damaged. This causes an increase in the number of immature cells, called blasts and abnormally developed cells called dysplastic cells. The number of healthy mature cells then decreases causing the bone marrow to not work well or completely stop working all together. There are several treatment options that vary depending on age, current health status and most importantly his sub type.
Dad's team decided to try the chemotherapy route first. His 1st dose of chemo was given in June 2016 and consisted of 3 shots a day for 7 days (weekends not included) and totaled 28 shots per session. Each session occurred every 28 days. After being on chemo for a year, in June of 2017 we came back to Duke for a bone marrow biopsy. This visit was specifically set to see if his current prognosis had digressed or progressed. Excitingly his prognosis digressed and as a result his chemo was taken from 28 shots a session to 21. This means he now was getting 2 shots a day vs the 3 that he previously had. Dad was on this regiment for 2 months until our next Duke visit which would be to schedule the transplant. (The transplant has always be known as the treatment plan, it was just of matter of when. If there was no transplant, his condition would progress into leukemia which is a little more severe than what he currently has) Our next Duke visit was in August 2017 and this time, the result was not what we were hoping for. Dad's prognosis had progressed and progressed to its furthest point yet. These results sparked the even more urgent need his transplant.
Finding the perfect match was a little bit of a process for us. We weren't able to find a live match / donor so the next best option was to take the umbilical cord route. I know many of you are thinking and umbilical cord? But yes, an umbilical cords is what is being used to give my Dad a new life. At first this confused me because I didn't understand how an umbilical cord could save my Dad's life. I mean let's be real, most are discarded as waste. However, these things are FAR more than waste; they save lives! With new research discoveries, stem cells can be collected from an umbilical cord and transplanted to someone in need. Utilizing this type of transplant would mean 2 umbilical cords were needed since Dad is an adult. After finding the 2 cords that match Dad the best, the transplant was scheduled and here we are today.