Bone Marrow Transplant Recovery | The Patient Story

Bone Marrow Transplant Recovery: Patient Stories

What Is Bone Marrow Transplant?

Bone marrow transplant cancer treatment, or BMT, is sometimes used in blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma (Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin), and multiple myeloma.

Among BMT, there are allogeneic stem cell transplants, autologous stem cell transplants, and allogeneic umbilical cord blood transplants.

bone marrow transplant

BMT Information

Autologous bone marrow transplants, also called auto bone marrow transplants, involve a bone marrow transplant using your own marrow, placing it in storage, and then restoring the marrow back into the patient.

Also called “allo” bone marrow transplant, the allogeneic bone marrow transplant uses bone marrow from a donor, collects their marrow, and then transplants those cells into the cancer patient.

Allogeneic umbilical cord blood transplants, also called cord blood transplants, don’t need a perfect match since the cord blood cells are immature in comparison to those of adult donors — so there is a lower chance of rejection of the cells.

Dr. David Miklos, Chief of Transplant at Stanford Medical Center, shares some of his experience treating with BMT and about the importance of getting bone marrow transplant cancer treatment.

Dr. David Miklos

Some of your patients may have had an allogeneic transplant which is truly the immune therapy of some else’s immune system.

Maybe it’s a brother or sister or HLA-identical donor whose blood destroys the white cells, red cells, and regrows and reconstitutes the normal blood system.

In the process of getting rid of the patient’s blood system, it gets rid of the white cells, the lymphocytes, the b-cells, and the mantle cell lymphoma. 

The allogeneic transplant is an immune therapy. I am an allogeneic transplanter and will talk about the major side effect of allogeneic transplant which is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

→ Read more of the interview with Dr. Miklos

Is Bone Marrow Transplant Painful?

If an oncologist or other healthcare provider has recommended, BMT for you or a loved one, you may wonder about what to expect after bone marrow transplant.

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Experiences

Here’s what some cancer patients have to share about their personal experiences with BMTs.


It was basically like a blood transfusion. They attached the bag of good stuff to my Hickman port and infused it into me. I didn’t feel a thing.

My mom, my brother and my sister-in-law, and my aunt were all there to support me. The nurses come in to infuse me. It basically looks like a blood transfusion. It’s a blood bag they hang on a hook and then connected it to my Hickman port underneath my shirt.

So we’re sitting there watching this red stuff going down the line, then it gets underneath the shirt, and me being the silly person that I am, I just started going, “Pbltttt!”

My brother cracked up. He knew I was joking. My mother and the nurse were gasping. But I  couldn’t keep a straight face and I started laughing!  My mother threatened to kill me. That’s my mom and me. She has a sense of humor.

Overall, it took them maybe half an hour. It felt like nothing. I had no sensation whatsoever from this infusion. 

Shari B. (Mantle Cell Lymphoma, Stage 4, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma)

→ Read more on Shari’s story


The collection is pretty cool. When they take your blood out, you’re sitting in this room for like four hours. 

There’s a big metal rod for one arm, and it’s taking blood, so you can’t use that arm.

Then, in your other arm, it’s putting the blood back in, but it spins out all the cells it needs before giving the blood back to you. 

Tylere P. (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 3, Relapse)

→ Read more on Tylere’s story


A bone marrow transplant was my real chance at a cure.

After completing IGEV, I was sent to the bone marrow transplant team where I received cyclophosphamide chemotherapy prior to stem cell collection.

Because I had received so much chemotherapy, stem cell collection took very long. I was only able to collect 2.7 million over a week. Typically people take two days to collect that amount.

I had to have Mozobil, which is an injection to stimulate your bone marrow to produce stem cells, every night before I went in for collections. These injections cause severe bone pain.

Fabioloa L. (Hodgkins’s Lymphoma, Stage 2BX (Bulky Disease), Relapse)

→ Read more on Fabiola’s story

Mary Clare

It seems like any other blood donation. You’re getting a bag of plasma, it’s yellow. 

You know how far it’s come from because if it has a preservative in it, it smells a little bit like chicken soup. So you can smell down the hallway when someone’s getting a transplant if it’s from Germany or comes from farther away, and had to be couriered over in a slower process. Mine was fresh, so I didn’t have any of those smells. 

Mary Clare (Leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia [AML], Relapse)

→ Read more on Mary Clare’s story


The transplant is similar to a bag of blood. The cells are in the bag almost like platelets.

Because things could escalate so quickly, though, your nurse is in your room with you all day. They’re checking your temperature, blood pressure, and everything every 15 minutes to make sure nothing is changing. 

Because things could escalate so quickly, though, your nurse is in your room with you all day. They’re checking your temperature, blood pressure, and everything every 15 minutes to make sure nothing is changing. 

Nicole T.. (Leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia [AML], Myelodysplastic Syndromes [MDS])

→ Read more on Nicole’s story


The transplant was kind of anti-climactic. They put a port in my chest. I got it just like a regular blood transfusion. It really was uneventful. It was exciting and we filmed it because I was happy about it, of course, but the event wasn’t a big deal. 

Hayley A. (Leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia [AML], Acute Monocytic Leukemia, AML M5)

→ Read more on Hayley’s story


It was harder than I thought it was going to be because of the fatigue, but the transplant itself was pretty uneventful. It looks like a blood transfusion.

It was a really hard recovery just because I don’t think I’ve ever been that tired before. I couldn’t pick up a spoon because I was so tired. I was not expecting that to be so exhausting, but around three weeks my counts picked up a little. At that point, I was starting to feel a little better. On day 58, I got to go back home.

Christine M. (Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia [ALL], T-Cell, Relapse)

→ Read more on Christine’s story

All Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Experiences

Bone marrow and stem cell transplants, also called BMT and SCT, are sometimes part of treatment used against blood cancers including multiple myeloma, lymphoma (non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin), and leukemia. ...

Shari B., Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL), Stage 4

1st Symptoms: None, lymphoma discovered at unrelated doctor appointment
Treatment: 6 cycles R-CHOP, 5 cycles Phase 3 trial of Velcade + Rituxan (normally for multiple myeloma), allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT)
Mary Clare

Mary Clare B., Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Cancer details: Relapsed but in remission after 2nd transplant
1st symptoms: Extreme fatigue, upset stomach, bad & persistent headaches
Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation, 2 bone marrow transplants

Nicole T., Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

1st symptoms: Severe itchiness, night sweats, fatigue
Treatment: Chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant

Hayley A., Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), M5

Cancer details: Most common type of acute leukemia in adults
1st symptoms: Severe fatigue and excessive bleeding after oral surgery
Treatment: Chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant

Christine M., Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

1st symptoms: Enlarged lymph nodes, pain in abdomen, nausea
Treatment: Chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant

Tylere P., Hodgkin, Stage 3

Cancer details: Mother is a nurse practitioner; suspected cancer
1st Symptoms: Swollen lymph nodes in neck
Treatment: Clinical trial; Chemotherapy, BMT

Fabiola L., Hodgkin's, Stage 2BX

Cancer details: Stage 2 with bulky disease, relapsed after 1st chemo. Remission after 2nd chemo & bone marrow transplant
1st Symptoms: Shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue
Treatment: ABVD chemo (6 cycles), IGEV chemo, bone marrow transplant, BEAM chemo, brentuximab