Hi everyone, this is Mary Lou (Deb’s Mom), and I’ll be writing most of the health updates. We appreciate all the love and support you have given Deb so far, and know that it will continue through her bone marrow transplant (BMT) procedure and recovery. All of the prayers, love and positive energy really do help, so please keep them coming.
So today is March 4th, and I am flying back to CA from my home in PA, outside of Philadelphia. Tomorrow Deb and I head down to Stanford Cancer Center in Palo Alto, CA for two days of appointments including meeting with Deb’s bone marrow transplant doctor, various lab work and x-rays, and a catheter class, so I can learn how to care for Deb’s catheter which will be in place for 3 to 4 months (I’ll write more about the catheter in a future posting). Deb is scheduled to be admitted to Stanford on March 11 and start chemotherapy on March 12.
So how did we get to this point? Deb was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) on 10/17/13, admitted to Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Rafael on 10/18, and started Remission Induction therapy on 10/19. Remission Induction is the first round of chemo and the goal is remission, which means leukemia cells cannot be found in a bone marrow sample and blood counts are in the normal range. Even if this is achieved, residual leukemia cells, which can only be detected with more sensitive tests, are generally still there, so further chemo, called Post-Remission Consolidation, is required. Deb did not achieve remission with her first round, so a second Remission Induction chemo round was started on 12/7, and thankfully that one was successful.
Because Deb’s first Remission Induction did not eliminate the leukemia, her doctors recommended a BMT as the preferred treatment for her to be cured. A BMT requires a donor whose tissue typing matches Deb’s. It was important to keep Deb’s leukemia in remission while Stanford worked with the National Bone Marrow Registry to find a matched donor, so on 1/24/14 Deb began a round of Post-Remission Consolidation chemo. This was successful, and after building up her immune system and strength (which included daily walks of an hour a day on the hospital floor, which I often did with her), Deb was released from Kaiser Permanente on 2/18 for some much needed R&R at home before her admission to Stanford next week.
Deb spent a total of 103 days at Kaiser Permanente, returning home for short periods of time between chemo treatments when her blood counts came up to safe levels. The chemo affects the normal blood cells as well as the leukemic cells, and leaves the patient with little immunity to infection and the need for transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. The doctors, nurses and the entire medical and administrative staff at Kaiser Permanente were amazing, and pulled Deb through each round of chemo and its side effects which included fever, infections, pneumonia, mouth and gastro problems, and frequent blood transfusions. We are grateful for the staff’s attentive care and kindness, which has brought Deb to where she is now, in remission, healthy, and physically and emotionally prepared for her bone marrow transplant.
I’ll be writing again after our trip to Stanford, so check back in a couple of days for another update.