Are you a bone marrow or stem cell transplant survivor? Congratulations! You belong to a growing group of individuals treated for a variety of disorders of the blood and bone marrow such as myelofibrosis, leukemia, and lymphoma. You may have received an allogeneic, or an autologous stem cell transplant. You may be within weeks of your transplant, or months out. Remember that your immune system may not be fully recovered. Immune recovery may be even slower after allogeneic transplantation, and if chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) develops. As we head into the winter, here are some tips to help you stay healthy:
- Take your medications and antibiotics. You may be on preventive (prophylactic) antibiotics against bacterial, fungal, and/or viral infections. It is important to report any new medications or herbal remedies you are taking since there may be interactions with your other medications. If you feel unwell such as an illness causing nausea and vomiting up tablets, it is important to notify your doctor. Such illness can get one in a vicious circle overall condition may deteriorate rapidly.
- Get your vaccinations and ask your family and friends to do the same. Depending on what type of transplant you received, you may need some vaccines given afresh. Your doctor might recommend a particular schedule of vaccines. You want to comply with those recommendations. You also want to have your family and friends vaccinated. An important example is the seasonal influenza vaccine. Have you heard of herd immunity? Click here to read more. The greater the number of people who have been vaccinated against diseases in the community, and therefore immune, the less the chances that you might get in contact with someone infected. Herd immunity is particularly important in the first few months after some kinds of transplant, when the transplanted individual has not been revaccinated yet.
- Remember to avoid live vaccines. Some vaccines have live (usually weakened) organisms and are best avoided with a weakened immune system because of potential of causing the risk infection in question. An important example is the inhaled influenza vaccine, and another one is the varicella zoster vaccine.
- Report illness promptly. Prevention is better than cure, and early detection is also better than later detection. If you have an infection evolving, you may have symptoms like fatigue, fevers, feeling poorly or weak, or others like cough, burning with urination, etc. It is important not to ignore such symptoms. Rather, endeavor to report them very promptly.
Do you have any other thoughts? Please feel free to comment below. Please note that this article is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. This information is meant to be a general guide and not intended to establish a patient-physician relationship.
Uchenna Njiaju is a Hematologist and Medical Oncologist, blogger, and speaker. She blogs at EricaOncMD. Her articles have also appeared in ihadcancer.com and kevinmd.com.