Just over 100 days have passed since Washington state trooper Renee Padgett of Renton had a bone-marrow transplant she hopes will save her life.
Passing that milestone on Friday, June 24, means “we’re edging toward recovery,” Padgett said on Monday.
In May 2012 the 25-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a rare cancer of plasma cells, a type of white-blood cell in bone marrow. She is on medical leave from the patrol.
For four years, she’s endured aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments and powerful antibiotics and two years ago she had a bone-marrow transplant using her own stem cells.
That transplant allowed her go back to work part-time with the state patrol. But there was the question of how long her remission would last. She was two weeks away from returning to duty full-time when tests showed the cancer had returned.
The wait began for another transplant, two actually, one using her own stem cells and one using those of a suitable donor. To even move forward with a transplant, she needed the donor – thought a one-in-a-million chance. She beat those odds last November when a donor was found.
Then, a major setback. Padgett’s insurance company denied coverage for the transplants. She appealed. And she got her “Christmas miracle.” Her insurance company reversed its decision. The transplants were rescheduled for January and March.
In late January she had a “pretty successful” transplant of her own stem cells but she didn’t go into remission as about 10 percent of the multiple myeloma remained. More testing would determine whether she could make it to the next transplant.
More chemotherapy and radiation followed before the donor transplant.
Day 0 was March 16, 2016 – Transplant Day – and the countdown began to Day 100, June 24. The transplant at UW Hospital has been followed by weeks of testing to determine how well her body is responding to the new cells. She had already suppressed her own immune system so that her body would allow the donor stem cells to grow. In the meantime, Padgett is working to regain her strength and continue her intense medical care; some cancer cells remained.
Padgett’s immune system is now almost entirely donor; once it’s at 100 percent, the goal is that it will kill the remaining cancer cells.
“It will be a process to taper the immune system meds much like applying the gas and the brake at the same time, so they can manage any complications as they arise due to the donor mismatch,” Team Padgett wrote on the Facebook page tracking Padgett’s journey for the last four years.
There is no cure for multiple myeloma but the transplant was the only treatment that has “curative potential.” And, in Padgett’s case, it was the last option available.
The chances of multiple myeloma decreases greatly when someone is disease-free and in complete remission for five years.
During her treatment, Padgett and her supporters have registered more than 700 people for the Bone Marrow Registry between Be The Match and Salute to Life through organizing and managing registration drives. The goal is adding 1,000 people to the drive.
Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 44. More information is available online at https://join.bethematch.org.
Padgett’s supporters have also set up a gofundme account online to raise money for prescription costs not covered by insurance. The address is https://www.gofundme.com.
A gofundme account last year raised money so that Padgett could stay in Seattle for her transplant and recovery.