See that countdown widget titled, ‘Stretch Goal,’ in the sidebar? Well, that is my second goal in getting physically stronger this year. The Cherokee Trail is a 5-mile hike at the base of Stone Mountain. It’s a beautiful hike with varied terrain, and I used to complete it in 1.5 hours. These days, I walk about 0.5 miles without being in pain or being short of breath. As part of my post-stem-cell transplant recovery, I work best by establishing goals or milestones. Back in January (2018) I set a goal to hike UP Stone Mountain, 1,686 feet to the top and 1,686 feet to the base and conquered the mountain in March.
You see, when you have a stem-cell transplant, graft versus host disease (gvhd) is common. What is gvhd? Basically, it’s side effects from the transplant and is common when the stem-cell source is from peripheral donation vs bone marrow donation. Recovery from a stem-cell transplant or bone marrow transplant is long and is different for each individual. Some may only get 1 or 2 graft vs. host disease in their organs. Others, such as myself, got graft vs. host disease of nearly every organ (mouth, lungs, skin, GI, muscles, eyes, liver). But the symptoms do subside over time and eventually burn out in 3-5 years. Most of the medications I take are to treat the symptoms of graft vs. host disease. The takeaway here is to inform your healthcare team of all new symptoms you are having, so they can ‘put the brakes’ on the progression of the graft vs. host disease. For those who minimize symptoms or under-report symptoms – don’t! I am a under-reporter, and early on, the skin graft vs. host disease got out of hand when it could have been controlled if I had reported it immediately.