"I'm one to take it day by day. I always thought I was doing great. Then I'd look back a year and say, 'God, what was I thinking?' Now I'm doing so much better than I did back then."
- Kristin Lueck
Kristin Lueck underwent a double umbilical cord stem cell transplant at UW Hospital. She is one and one-half years post-transplant and off immunosuppression, with no signs of graft versuss host disease. Her leukemia is in remission. Here's Kristin's story.
"I was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) three years ago, on September 5, 2007. I was sick from the end of June until then and went to the doctor quite a few times, because I was tired. They told me I had bronchitis, told me I had asthma.
"I was exhausted all the time. I couldn't breathe. If I tried to go up a flight of stairs I was coughing. In the middle of June I was walking four miles a night and then, all of a sudden, I couldn't do anything. I could not function at all.
"My reaction was a little different than you would expect. I was relieved. 'You finally figured out what it is. Now you can fix it.' Before I had four different inhalers and nothing was helping. I knew there was more to it. When he finally said, 'You have leukemia,' I was relieved. I was like, 'Good. Now do something about it.'
"I had a round of chemo and I was in my hospital room for a month. I made sure that I ate and I forced myself to exercise. I was considered cured, was done. I went back to work for four months and I relapsed. So they told me they wanted me to have a transplant and they tested my brothers for a possible match. One brother was a match but when it came down to get the transplant, they had two final tests and he failed one. So they started looking for adult donors. I had one in the U.S. who was close to a match but not real good. That's when they said they would do it with the umbilical cord units.
"I was in the hospital in Madison for six weeks, and I had to stay in town for another week. They prepare you so well. You know what you're going to go through before you really go through it. They said, 'You're going to be tired and it's going to take your body a long time to adjust. You have to work into this gradually.'
"A lot of times they're not sure what the transplant is going to do to your body. I became lactose-intolerant but we didn't figure that out right away. The way Dr. Longo put it was, 'If we told you everythig that could possibly go wrong, nobody would do it.' You have to do it at your pace and make sure you have enough help at home.
"I'm one to take it day by day. I always thought I was doing great. Then I'd look back a year and say, 'God, what was I thinking?' Now I'm doing so much better than I did back then. I feel better.
"I feel good and I guess I'm not one to get overly concerned about the little stuff. I have a little radiation mark, this dry spot. But who cares? I have allergies now. I never had allergies before. But you deal with it. People deal with it all the time. I think I'm doing great."