Finding Normal A New Space F or the first few months following a transplant, it’s necessary to have someone else handle the regular domestic chores many of us take for granted, such as cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping, as some of these errands can be physically taxing and unnecessarily expose the patient to viruses and infections. To avoid crowds, cicon found a quiet sanctuary at the picturesque, park-like setting of Sayen Gardens near his mercer county home. He was able to limit his interaction with people while still being able to get out of the house, stroll around and enjoy his love of nature. Driving and working usually aren’t an option for several weeks to months for most transplant patients, and they can experience a mental fog and emotional ups and downs. cicon admits finding some sense of ‘normal’ wasn’t easy. “There’s a challenge with transitioning from fulltime patient to recovery – about a year or longer. it took me about three years not to think about the possibility of a relapse,” he recalls. in the meantime his recovery from the transplant was slow and steady. “The recovery was a positive period as i really appreciated the activities i could start doing again,” cicon reflects. With an autologous transplant for plasma cell leukemia, the few retrospective studies available show an overall survival of at least three years. The data are even more sparse for plasma cell leukemia patients who undergo an allogeneic stem cell transplant, showing limited survival data beyond three years as well. Now 48-years old, cicon is beyond that. Follow-up visits to Rutgers cancer institute are part of the routine for him but not any post-transplant cancer treatments. “Due to a lack of data regarding maintenance therapy, our team recommended to watch him. We make it a point to individualize everyone’s care. mark’s case is an illustration of that,” notes Gharibo. cicon remains on bone strengthening medication to prevent skeletal complications, but he still needs to be mindful not to be too hard on his body. He doesn’t second guess any part of his journey. “Sometimes you regret the choices you didn’t make, but thanks to Dr. Gharibo and team, i am absolutely confident i did everything i could to prevent a relapse. i am grateful to have been afforded this opportunity.” I Gharibo admits the type of care Cicon received truly requires a team effort — doctors, nurses, transplant coordinators, infectious diseases physicians and those with varied oncology expertise, among others. But a true part of the ‘team,’ she says are the patients who commit themselves to a transplant procedure and the donor. Additional information on becoming a stem cell donor can be found at S oon there will be a new home for the Hematologic Malignancies and Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Programs at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. the bMt Program continues to be conducted in conjunction with our flagship hospital Robert Wood Johnson University hospital. in 2017, both programs formally will open new space across the street from Rutgers Cancer institute on the New brunswick campus. the new floor is designed to bring clinical care under one roof along with numerous patient services including social work assistance and financial counseling. “this new space will greatly improve the logistics of care for those with hematologic malignancies, especially for bMt patients, who previously endured a lot of movement in order to go between inpatient and outpatient locations. With all aspects of care available in a central location, we’re making The new East Tower building where the Hematologic Malignancies and Blood and Marrow Transplant Programs will be housed. the overall patient experience easier for them,” notes Roger Strair, MD, PhD, who is the chief of both programs. As you read in Mark Cicon’s story (see adjacent feature), “having access to numerous specialists and comprehensive treatment options through a National Cancer institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center like Rutgers Cancer institute is critical for those with a hematologic malignancy — especially a rare one,” notes hematologist/oncologist Mecide Gharibo, MD, who is part of both programs. she notes the new facility will provide for expanded treatment offerings, including a ‘half match’ (haploidentical) transplant program in which a parent or sibling of a transplant recipient may not meet ‘full’ matching requirements. “A half match transplant can provide similar outcomes as a full match transplant in some cases. it’s reasonable to offer but only to the right candidate — it’s not for everyone,” she says. the new facility also will enable the team to accomplish more outpatient transplants, adds Dr. gharibo. Designed mostly for autologous cases (in which the donor is receiving stem cells from his or her own body) in multiple myeloma and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma patients, the procedure shaves off nearly a week of the routine 17 day inpatient peritransplant care. I Photo by: beRNsteiN AssoCiAtes Autumn 2016 I Cancer Connection I 13