Transplant Day +49

“The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +49!

Guess what! We just finished enjoying our first weekend off! On Friday, Brandon’s transplant team was so happy with his progress that they gave us Saturday through Monday away from the hospital. We had a wonderful weekend of rest and relaxation. It was absolutely magical!

I am happy to announce that Brandon is continuing to progress very well. His transplant team is amazed at his healthy blood cell counts this early after transplant. He hasn’t needed a blood transfusion since leaving the hospital! We also found out that Brandon’s blood type has officially transitioned from O+ (his original blood type) to A+ (his donor’s blood type). This happened way ahead of schedule! Woohoo!

Today, Brandon’s transplant doctor gave us the thumbs up to spend more time away from the hospital. From now on we only need to visit the transplant clinic on Tuesdays and Fridays! We will be continuing Brandon’s IV infusions from home on our days off. I can’t tell you all how excited we are for this new change of pace. More time at home will allow Brandon to rest and recover at his own pace. I am so thankful that Brandon is doing well enough to spend more time at home.

Since Brandon’s leukemia was so aggressive and difficult to treat, Brandon’s leukemia doctor recommended placing him on a maintenance treatment to help ensure that he stays in remission post-transplant. Brandon will be re-starting Sorafenib, one of the medications that helped Brandon get into remission pre-transplant. Sorafenib is a type of medication called a targeted therapy, which targets cancer cells with the specific genetic mutation that caused Brandon’s leukemia. Taking Sorafenib will help to ensure that any lingering cancer cells don’t make a come back in the months to come as Brandon’s new immune system is gaining its strength.

Today marks one year since Brandon’s leukemia diagnosis. Today brings back painful memories of the days surrounding Brandon’s initial diagnosis that turned our lives upside down. I remember the heartbreak I felt as I rushed to the emergency room after receiving a phone call that I will never forget. It seemed surreal as the doctor told us that Brandon had leukemia. I thought it must be some kind of mistake. I couldn’t believe that it was real and that it was happening to us. It was a moment that I will never forget.

One year ago we made a decision that we would remain strong and hopeful no matter what. We vowed to never ever give up. That motto has carried us so far. A year later and we stand stronger than ever. It has been hard, but we made it. Brandon is +49 days post-transplant and he is CANCER FREE! If we can beat cancer, we can do anything! Our love for each other and the support from our family and friends have gotten us where we are today. Thank you all so very much. We are so blessed to have so many amazing people in our lives.

Though this experience has been painful and difficult, it has also taught me some of my greatest life lessons. As we move forward with our lives you can bet that they will be forever changed. Brandon and I are both looking forward to a new year of life without cancer. This year will be full of new experiences and days filled with laughter. We’ll be thankful for our lives and never take a day for granted. We’ll hug a little bit tighter and love a lot deeper. We will remember that any day on earth is a good day. We will be thankful for our blessings and bless those who come into our lives. We will see the beauty in everyone and everything. We will make a difference in the world of those touched by cancer. And despite what life throws our way, we will never ever give up.

Thank you all for your continuous love, kindness, and support. I will be sure to keep everyone updated with Brandon’s progress. We love you all!

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Our first “normal” Saturday night in a VERY long time!

 

Transplant Day +43

“Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy too.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +43!

We’ve almost been home for a week! It’s been pretty hectic, as we’ve been adjusting to life outside of the hospital. It’s been a huge struggle for Brandon to get up and around the hospital every morning with how exhausted he has been. I am so happy to report that the last two days have been a huge improvement. Today Brandon managed to get around the hospital almost all day without a wheelchair!

I have some incredibly exciting news! This week we got the chimerism report back from Brandon’s bone marrow biopsy. Brandon’s bone marrow consists of 100% donor cells! THIS IS HUGE! This means that the donor’s stem cells have fully engrafted and replaced Brandon’s old diseased bone marrow. To be at 100% donor cells at day 30 is amazing! This usually isn’t expected to happen until later after transplant. Brandon is totally rocking this transplant!

This week we also met with Brandon’s primary stem cell doctor for the first time post-transplant. He was extremely happy and excited with how Brandon is doing. He said that Brandon is exceeding expectations! I can’t tell y’all how big of a smile I had coming out of that appointment! It was such music to my ears!

In other exciting news, tomorrow is our first day away from the hospital in 51 days! Brandon has been doing so well that they are allowing us a day at home. If all goes well we may get consecutive days off very soon. Woohoo! Brandon and I are both so excited to sleep in tomorrow morning and spend a day lounging at home.

Brandon’s doctor also cleared him to eat raw, thick-skinned fruits and vegetables! This may seem small, but Brandon has been without any raw food for months. He was pretty excited to get this news! Bring on the oranges, bananas, melons, and avocados!

Thank you all for your continuous love and support! I can’t wait to share more good news as Brandon continues to recover.

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100% Donor Cells!!!

 

 

Transplant Day+40

“Life is a one time offer, use it well.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +40!

It’s been a hectic few days as we have been adjusting to outpatient life. We’ve been spending every morning at the stem cell transplant clinic since we came home. So far everything is going very well. Brandon hasn’t needed anything more than IV fluids with magnesium and his daily IV anti-fungal medication. His other blood cell counts (hemoglobin and platelets) have continued to rise so he hasn’t needed any blood transfusions. Yay! It’s been so amazing to see so many healthy cells growing back!

Brandon is doing well but is struggling some with normal post-transplant side effects. He’s extremely exhausted and gets fatigued very easily. He is still also struggling with some difficult nausea, but has managed to eat more now that we’re back home. Considering everything his body has been through, he is doing amazingly well! Recovery is going to be a very long process, but we continue to make the best of it day by day.

Now that things are slowing down a bit I will be posting updates a little less frequently. I’ll keep posting updates every few days and will be sure to let everyone know as we reach exciting milestones.

Just before Brandon’s transplant we had the pleasure of meeting a fellow leukemia warrior named Amy. Amy is the first person that we have met that has AML with the same genetic mutation as Brandon. Like Brandon, Amy has had a difficult journey since her diagnosis. We became instant friends. Amy had her transplant just 10 days after Brandon. She and her family have been a huge support system for us during this transplant journey. Tomorrow, Amy will have her day +30 biopsy. Please keep Amy in your thoughts and prayers as she approaches this big milestone. She’s a fighter just like Brandon so leukemia doesn’t stand a chance! Go kick some butt, Amy!

Thank you all for your continued love and support. We are so blessed!

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I live for these smiles!

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Same couch, 3 days of napping

Transplant Day +38

“Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you decide to enjoy your life.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +38!

We survived our first day of outpatient appointments! Although it was an exhausting day for Brandon, everything went very well!

From now on Brandon will be going to the hospital every day for blood work, IV fluids, electrolytes, and IV medications. He will also be seen by a doctor and pharmacist from the stem cell transplant team to evaluate his progress. We will be visiting the hospital every day until Brandon becomes more stable.

Our first day at home has been wonderful! You don’t realize how much you miss the simple things until you’ve been living at the hospital for a month and a half! Life’s simple pleasures will be so much sweeter now.

Thank you all for your love and support. I will continue to keep everyone updated with Brandon’s progress.

Transplant Day +37

“Today is a good day to smile.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +37!

Surprise!!! Today we got to go home!!! Brandon’s kidney function has improved greatly over the last few days so we were surprised with an early discharge! I can’t tell you all how excited we are to spend the night in our comfy bed after being in the hospital for 45 days. It feels so wonderful to be back home!

Thank you all for your kindness, prayers, and support during our time in the hospital. We are blessed to be home where Brandon can continue to recover and heal after his transplant. Wish us luck tomorrow as we will be navigating our first day of post-transplant outpatient appointments!

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Transplant Day +35

“I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have found my strength.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +35!

We got some more exciting news today! Another test came back from Brandon’s bone marrow biopsy that confirmed (in a different way) that no cancer was found! Woohoo! I’ll take those reports all day, every day! Thank you all for your overwhelming love and support yesterday when we shared the exciting news of Brandon’s remission!

While we are looking forward to going home soon, we learned today that we have a few more hurdles to jump heading out the door. Brandon’s kidney function has decreased over the last few days, which has prompted some more testing. They suspect it is being caused by his anti-rejection (GVHD prevention) medication but they are running other viral tests to be sure. If all the viral tests come back negative they will be switching him to a new anti-rejection medication that should take the stress off his kidneys. Due to these developments we will be in the hospital until this gets sorted out, which will likely be through next week.

Despite being days away from going home, we are still starting to prepare for our hospital departure. Today Brandon was switched off his IV pain medication and over to a pain medication patch that he can use outside of the hospital. We intend to be ready to run out the door as soon as we get the green light!

Thank you all for your love and support. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we travel this road of recovery.

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Transplant Day +34

“Keep going. Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +34!

You guys, my heart could just explode with excitement, joy, thankfulness, and a million other amazing emotions. After nearly a year since Brandon’s diagnosis he is officially CANCER FREE!

Neither genetic mutation that were driving Brandon’s leukemia were found in the cells in Brandon’s bone marrow. Yea, you read that right. NO CANCER WAS FOUND! This means that Brandon is in a COMPLETE REMISSION and the transplant is WORKING!

There have been so many happy tears today. We are just in awe at where we stand. Our hearts are so full of gratitude for every single person that helped us get where we are today. Thank you all for your constant love, kindness, prayers, and support.

And as if this wasn’t enough good news, Brandon has been without fevers for over 72 hours! Today the doctors started to make plans towards sending us home! Once Brandon is taken off his last few IV medications we can leave. We are hoping this happens by the end of the week.

Brandon’s nausea and lack of appetite have persisted so the doctors have decided to start treatment for his GI graft-verses-host disease (GVHD). Today he started taking a local steroid that will coat his GI tract and help to reduce the inflammation. Hopefully this will help so that Brandon can get back to his big appetite very soon!

Although Brandon is in remission and will be going home soon, the recovery journey will continue. Once discharged, we will be coming to the hospital daily for blood work, transfusions, and doctor’s appointments. Brandon will be closely followed for at least another 2 months before we are able to start distancing ourselves from the hospital. The recovery process is different for everyone and it can sometimes take a year to fully recover from the transplant. While we are excited to get back to normal life, we will be staying in Houston for quite some time so that Brandon can have the support and care that he needs.

Today is a day of joy and celebration! Thank you for being a part of our amazing story and thank you for sharing in our victories! We are so excited to continue to share more exciting news in the weeks and months to come!

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Holding the lab report that says Brandon is CANCER FREE!

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Transplant Day +34

Transplant Day +33

“Do what you can, with all you have, wherever you are.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +33!

We have made it over 48 hours without fevers! WOOHOO! I am so thankful that Brandon is starting to feel better. Hopefully this means we can go home very soon! We are both looking forward to continuing his recovery in the comfort of our home.

Over the last week Brandon’s blood cell counts have really started to recover. It’s so exciting to see so many healthy platelets and white blood cells popping up every day. Hopefully the red blood cells won’t be too far behind! This is a great sign that his new bone marrow is starting to recover and function after the transplant. I am looking forward to finding out what percentage of his bone marrow consists of his donor’s cells. Every cell that recovers is a constant reminder of how thankful I am to Brandon’s stem cell donor.

Thank you all for your love and support! I hope to share more good news tomorrow!

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Transplant Day +33

Transplant Day +32

“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +32!

For the first time in 18 days we have made it over 24 hours without a fever! Woohoo! Brandon has still been running low-grade temperatures but this is a HUGE improvement! I am hoping this means that things are on the up!

Today we got the results of Brandon’s PET scan. Everything was normal except for a small bit of fluid that they found around his heart. This was an accidental finding and is likely not causing the fevers. The doctors aren’t too worried but will be ordering an echocardiogram just to make sure everything is okay.

I am hoping and praying that Brandon continues to improve so that we can go home this coming week! Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers throughout this journey.

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Transplant Day +31

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”

Hey everyone, it’s transplant day +31! I have some VERY exciting news to share!

We have gotten the first test result back from Brandon’s bone marrow biopsy. The cell differential (i.e. the big picture) shows no obvious signs of leukemia!!!! WOOHOO!!! I’ve been doing the ‘normal bone marrow dance’ all day long! It is too early to say that the leukemia is completely gone, but this is an AMAZING start!

We are still waiting on the results of more sophisticated tests that will tell us if there are any genetically mutated cells or any small traces of leukemia. We should have those results back in a few days. Next week we will also know what percentage of Brandon’s bone marrow consists of his donor’s cells. We are praying for as close to 100% as possible!

The fevers have continued and so has the search to find the cause. Today we got back the results from Brandon’s MRI and everything was completely normal, no abscesses were found. The doctors have ordered more infectious disease tests and the results should be trickling in over the next week. Brandon also had a PET scan done today to look for more hints of infection (we should have the results back tomorrow). And on top of all that, Brandon was also seen by a rheumatologist so that they can start to investigate and rule out possible autoimmune disorders. It’s been busy around here!

Today we also got confirmation that Brandon does have a small degree (grade 1) of graft-verses-host disease (GVHD) in his GI tract. Don’t worry; it’s nothing to be too alarmed of. A small amount of GVHD isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it means that the new cells are capable of killing cancer cells, an effect called graft-verses-leukemia. The doctors are going to monitor Brandon’s symptoms a bit longer before they decided to treat the GVHD. This is because the treatment for GVHD is steroids, which would further suppress his immune system. Given all the fevers he has been experiencing, they are not comfortable with adding more immunosuppressants at this time.

Thank you all for your love and support! Despite all the difficulties over the last few weeks today is a day of huge celebration! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we anxiously await more results from Brandon’s bone marrow biopsy. I can’t wait to share more good news!

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Brandon One; Leukemia ZERO

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Kicking Cancer To The Curb!

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Transplant Day +31