Immunocompromised Style: Tips on Managing Everyday Life After Transplant

Photo Credit: @liamdavidbruce (Instagram), @kpoements (Instagram)

Photo Credit: @liamdavidbruce (Instagram), @kpoements (Instagram)

Getting back into public life after a bone marrow transplant is a challenge. I quickly found that I had to adjust a lot of my previous habits to fit my new restrictions and changed body. Even as someone who has lived with invisible illness for five years, some of the life changes post-transplant were still extremely challenging. But most of all, being a woman adds another layer to the struggle. Things that worked for my makeup routine, skin care, and clothes just didn’t work for me anymore post-BMT. Plus, going in public was suddenly a complicated mess of Lysol wipes and a bulky mask to manage. BUT you can learn to manage it! After a couple of months living post-BMT, here are some helpful things I’ve picked up along the way.

Simplicity is key, especially in your wardrobe. I ended up getting rid of about 75% of my old clothes and redoing my entire closet. There’s nothing wrong with investing in some good, black leggings and a couple of comfortable sweaters. Basically, I’m beyond exhausted all the time. I don’t have time to wear complicated clothes that make me feel uncomfortable. I wear a lot of dark colors and neutrals, like gray, black, and navy blue. It’s easy to throw on and not complicated to create outfits with. A sweater and leggings or some loose jeans are easy to manage, especially if you're a college student like I am. Other items I invested in are a couple of good headscarves, which I bought on Amazon (buy the stretchy fabric) and two good hats. I also bought a couple of reusable masks, which are way nicer and generally look better than the medical masks they give you at the hospital.

As for my purse, it quickly has become a miniature weapons arsenal for anything that might come up in the outside world. I keep a kit (in a mini travel makeup bag) in my purse with an EpiPen, glucagon, Lysol wipes, hand wipes, an extra mask, medication, and anything else I might need. This definitely required I get a larger purse, but has made going out a lot easier and organized. As for where to buy portable sized hand wipes and Lysol wipes, discount grocery stores, and drug stores. I usually find mine in the travel section or in big packs at Costco or BJs. They’re great for everyday life (Lysoling down tables in restaurants, etc.) and I keep them with me at all times. As for medical masks, you can find them at CVS or buy nice cloth ones on Amazon. Just make sure you use the N95 masks. Also: get a nice water bottle and bring it everywhere with you.

When it comes to makeup, I would once again go for simplicity. Tinted BB cream and moisturizers are great because they also have sunscreen in them, which is something you’re going to want because of certain medications. I didn’t start using eyeliner or doing my eyebrows again for about a month post-transplant and even then I still go light compared to what I did before. Throughout the process, I’ve paid special attention to my skin and invested in some more expensive skin care (La Roche-Posay has changed my life!) I also keep my skin really moisturized to ward of Graft vs Host disease of the skin, which is something I had problems with post-BMT.

A couple of other things I would recommend are updating the Emergency ID in your phone with your latest information and keeping food on you at all times (or at least in your car). Another thing I did was I bought an Apple Watch, which has helped me keep track of my health data throughout my recovery. Lastly, bring something to do everywhere you go. Hospitals take forever to do anything. I read 46 books during my BMT. You never know when you’re going to be stuck in a waiting room for an hour or waiting for test results.