13-months post-transplant and I might be a real writer

There is a saying that cancer treatment is a full-time job, and it is much more literal than you might expect. While I was in the hospital, people frequently had the impression that I was bored. I didn’t have time to be bored (also, only boring people get bored but that is a whole nother blog post).

Quite like a full-time job, my day was chock-full of underwhelming activities. On a typical day, I might wake up and take morning meds, have a scheduled test like an echo, spend some time forcing bland hospital food down my throat (unless I was NPO – god help me either way), and then meander to the playroom for the early afternoon. Later, I might be drugged up and given some nasty infusion (this one hopefully doesn’t run too parallel to any of your full-time jobs). Then it’s time for dinner, some reading if I feel well enough, and catching up on emails and texts. It really is like a job, only way worse.

Lately, I’ve been getting back to a new normal. I am taking Calc 2, Biostatistics, and Immunology at UC Berkeley Extension, working on founding a chapter of Be the Match with some other Stanford students, doing research part-time in pediatric oncology, and writing tons. It’s like a whole real life! I’m hoping to return to school in January, but that might be pushing it. Maybe March. The point is that it’s in sight.

October 24 will mark 13 months post-transplant, and for the first time I have not spent the whole month counting down to the 24th. If I’m being honest, the reason that I count down to the 24th is so that, should I relapse, I can say it happened after X months. The more months you are post-transplant, the higher your chances for survival. So it sounds much better to say “I relapsed 12 months post-transplant” than to admit 6 or 4 or 2. But I’m over that now – aside from my grumbling about GVH and treatment and my weird hair and steroids (which there is a lot of), I’m starting to move on from the whole cancer thing. For the first time, I feel like I am more likely to survive than to die.

In the mean time, I have recently become a more real writer. I took a writing class over summer and am applying to some cool writing classes at Stanford in winter (Stanford has so many applications – jeez guys, you already let me in can’t you give me a break). I also guest blogged for Cath in College (click here). Soon, you will see a post from me on the blog of pediatric cancer non-profit A Dollar Campaign. Most excitingly, I was recently asked to write an article for Stanford Magazine, which reaches over 250,000 readers. By the way, I also submitted an article to the NYT, which was predictably ignored. It was worth a shot, right? I am considering making one of those facebook fan pages to build up a readership for articles and (hopefully) an eventual book, but I can’t decide if that’s too self-indulgent. I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts.

Anyway, life is inching its way back to normal. Cancer isn’t something you “get over.” It’s more something that I will always live with, and I hope that as the steroids go away and I stop looking like my face is a planet and my hair grows in more and my body gets stronger it will be less a part of me. But it will always be there. Just not as my full-time job.

For fun, I will leave you with this great picture of me and Sara, who is my AML sister and a true firecracker.

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Fave weather fave person ☔️

A post shared by Brooke Vittimberga (@brookevitti) on


For comparison, here is us a year ago:

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