As you know, Deb has been in Kaiser Permanente Terra Linda hospital recovering from respiratory problems – wheezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing. She has had three chest x-rays and two CT scans. The most recent CT scan showed a sinus infection, which is exacerbated by her compromised immune system. Deb had been on oxygen around the clock, but over the past few days her lungs have cleared some, her breathing is better, she is coughing less and not requiring much oxygen. The doctors had been waiting for some improvement in Deb’s condition to start her chemo for relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML). On Wednesday, January 7, Deb will begin to receive the MEC combination chemotherapy which consists of three separate drugs given through an IV infusion for three to four hours a day for five days. This is a tough chemo regimen which Deb received last year as her second round of chemotherapy. Deb will need to remain in the hospital for four to six weeks following the chemo to regain her strength and build up her blood counts and immunity. We don’t know at this time if Deb will need one or two rounds of chemotherapy.
On the emotional side, Deb is facing a completely different level of difficulty than when the leukemia was newly diagnosed. The psychological stress of dealing with this new level of reality is very difficult for her. Throughout the last 15 months, Deb has remained extremely positive and is trying to keep up a positive spirit now. But this is hard for her to do with the prognosis she has received.
Deb and Andy were married in a lovely intimate ceremony on December 28, but unable to have a honeymoon celebration at this time. Andy came to the hospital faithfully to visit Deb every day until he got sick last Saturday. It’s particularly challenging for Deb now (and Andy too) because Andy has the flu and she is not able to see him because of possible exposure to infection. Andy is a huge comfort to Deb, and not being able to be with him at this time is very hard for her.
We are praying that this chemo treatment will put Deb’s leukemia back in remission. We are also continually looking at possible clinical trials for new drugs that may attack the leukemia in a different way than the conventional drugs. These new drugs fall into the category of immune therapy. Instead of targeting the leukemia cells the way chemotherapy does, they work by harnessing the immune system to attack the cancer cells. One drug, called a PD-1 Inhibitor, has received promising results for lung cancer, melanoma and lymphoma. There have not yet been any PD-1 Inhibitor clinical trials for AML, but we hope there will be one in the near future that Deb can participate in.
Many people mention clinical trials to us, and we always appreciate learning about a treatment which may be beneficial to Deb. But finding an appropriate trial can be difficult. One thing I have learned when researching the trials is to look first at the Exclusion Criteria. Some trials will exclude relapsed leukemia or patients who have had a stem cell transplant. Other exclusions include specific gene and chromosomal characteristics which the patient may need to possess or not possess. The trial must specifically be for acute myeloid leukemia, not one of the other types of leukemia. Also, the patient must be relatively healthy to enter a trial, so we need Deb to get well and recover her strength back after this chemo treatment.
As always, we appreciate all of your prayers, love, healing intentions for Deb, and messages. Deb is sorry that she cannot reply to each of you individually, but your healing thoughts and prayers really help a lot.
Mary Lou, Deb’s Mom