Update About Brandon’s Treatment

In my last update, I shared that Brandon had been admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy to reduce his white blood cell count. I am happy to report that WE ARE HOME! After two doses of IV chemotherapy and some doctor supervision, Brandon was discharged Thursday night. Thankfully, it was a very uneventful hospital stay. Although Brandon has yet to start another treatment, his white blood cell count and other lab results are stable so they have allowed us back on an outpatient basis.

The treatments that Brandon’s doctors are considering require that he be off immunosuppressant medications for at least 2-4 weeks before starting treatment. Brandon has been off of his transplant immunosuppressants for a week and a half and he has been doing very well. He hasn’t showed any signs or symptoms of graft-verses-host disease, which I am extremely thankful for. Right now Brandon’s doctors are just managing the side effects of his leukemia while they buy more time for him to become eligible for additional treatments. We will be meeting with his leukemia doctor on Wednesday to discuss the next steps.

Brandon and I continue to remain positive and hopeful during this difficult time. We are constantly reminded that we have so much in our lives to be thankful for. Despite his leukemia relapse, we are determined to enjoy every day and see the beauty in everything. We know that God is leading our way and that we are never alone in this journey. I can’t even begin to explain how thankful we are for all the people that have rallied around us since Brandon’s diagnosis. We find comfort in knowing that there will be better days ahead. We will get through this and we will never give up!

This week was extra special, since Brandon and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Despite being in the hospital, we had a wonderful day full of love, laughter, and delicious cake. This past year has been the most difficult, yet most beautiful year of my life. I am so proud of how far we have come. Just days before our wedding, we learned that Brandon’s leukemia had not responded to a second round of chemotherapy. The day we said ‘I do’ there was so much uncertainty about where our future would lead. With our love for each other and our faith in God, we have made it so far. I am astonished when I think back on our journey. We have grown individually, and as a couple, in ways I could have never imagined. Today, there is still uncertainty, but I am sure that together we can overcome anything. I am eternally thankful for my wonderful husband who through it all, continues to light up my life.

Thank you all for your continued love and prayers. We will continue to fight through hard times, strengthened by your support. I will keep everyone updated as we move closer to this next treatment.

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One Year!

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Yea, we were pretty excited about our anniversary!

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Yum!

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Happy to be leaving the hospital!

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We made it home! 

Update About Brandon’s Treatment (10/16/16)

We met with Brandon’s leukemia doctor on Friday to discuss the next steps for Brandon’s treatment. Due to Brandon’s increasing white blood cell count, they decided to admit Brandon to the hospital for a one time dose of IV chemotherapy to bring his white blood cell count back down. Just to clarify, this was not an emergency admission. No need to worry!

Brandon received the chemotherapy early Saturday morning. His white blood cell count has already started to decrease and is heading in the right direction. He has been doing very well since the chemotherapy. He’s feeling good and hasn’t had any issues or complications. So far, this hospital stay has been very uneventful, which we like!

The leukemia team has been hard at work to place Brandon on the best treatment. Now that he has successfully been weaned off of the anti-rejection medication from his stem cell transplant, the list of available treatment options has lengthened. At this point, it’s a matter of looking into multiple treatments to determine which is best and which he is eligible to participate in. Tomorrow morning, we will be meeting with his inpatient doctor to discuss the next steps. The hope is that this hospital stay will fast track him into the next treatment.

I will be sure to share news as we receive it. I just wanted to let everyone know that Brandon is doing well! We’re ready and excited to start the next steps of this journey.

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Thanks for your love and support!

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Good thing he has video games to pass the time =)

Update About Brandon’s Treatment (10/11/16)

“You’ve only got three choices in life: Give up, give in, or give it all you’ve got.”

Thank you all for your kindness and support over the last few weeks as we have been facing Brandon’s leukemia relapse. It’s been so comforting to hear so many thoughtful words from so many amazing people. We feel very blessed to have such an amazing support system.

As you may know, Brandon has been transferred into the care of his leukemia doctor due to the progression of his leukemia. We met with the leukemia team a few times last week to discuss the next treatment steps. We are thankful that there are many treatment options available to Brandon. As it stands, the leukemia team is looking into all clinical trials and approved treatments to determine which option will be in his best benefit.

The anti-rejection medication that Brandon has been on since his transplant makes him ineligible for certain trials and treatments for a variety of reasons. The leukemia and transplant teams have been coordinating to transition him off this medication as quickly (and safely) as possible so that he is eligible for these other treatments. So far, his dose has been reduced in half and he hasn’t had any complications. We are hoping and praying that he doesn’t experience any severe symptoms of graft-verses-host disease (where his donor’s cells attack his body) as he is taken off this medication. Please keep this in your thoughts and prayers! Although it is important to start treatment as soon as possible, the leukemia team feels it is in Brandon’s best interest to wait until he is eligible for some of the more promising options. They are taking a very calculated and precise approach (as they always have) to fighting this disease.

During this transition, Brandon is being supported with blood transfusions as needed and oral chemotherapy to keep his white blood cell count from becoming too elevated. We have had a difficult few of days, but overall he is doing very well. He has managed to stay infection free (knock on wood) and out of the hospital. We have been visiting the hospital 3 times a week for blood work, fluid and medication infusions, and blood transfusions as needed.

We will be meeting with the leukemia team this Friday and hope to have news about what treatment they have selected for Brandon. We trust in the amazing team of leukemia and stem cell doctors at MD Anderson who are working diligently to get Brandon the best care. We know that God is leading their way and pray that he opens their eyes to the best treatment available.

Thank you again for all your love and support. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we transition to this next step. I will be sure to let everyone know if we receive any updates.

Watch out leukemia, we’re coming for you! We’re ready to give this all we’ve got!

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Transplant Day +84

Hello everyone, it’s transplant day +84.

As everyone is aware, a small amount of minimal residual leukemia was found on Brandon’s day +60 bone marrow biopsy. Since that time, it has been a top priority to get him on an appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. Brandon’s doctor had a trial in mind that would combine chemotherapy and his stem cell donor’s white blood cells to fight off the leukemia.

Last Friday, Brandon had a bone marrow biopsy to check the progression of the leukemia before enrolling him on this trial. Unfortunately, yesterday we found out that his leukemia has progressed too far to be enrolled in this trial. The trial will not be an aggressive enough treatment for how quickly the leukemia has grown. From the time of the day +60 biopsy to last Friday (roughly 3 weeks), the leukemia has gone from barely detectable to 42% blast cells (cancer cells) in Brandon’s bone marrow. To say that this news is a huge disappointment is an understatement.

Brandon’s stem cell doctor has decided that it is best to transfer Brandon back into the care of the leukemia doctor that originally got Brandon into remission in May. We will be meeting with the leukemia team on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the next steps. The plan is for the leukemia team to get Brandon back into remission while the stem cell team looks into the possibility of doing a second stem cell transplant using the same donor.

Brandon’s stem cell doctor feels like he is a good candidate for a second transplant because of his overall good health, age, and strength. Second stem cell transplants are not extremely common, but they have shown success in a set of patients that can tolerate continued treatment. Despite Brandon’s leukemia having relapsed, he is doing very well and has gained a lot of strength since his transplant. He is not ready to give up and will continue fighting this horrible disease.

As our stem cell doctor said yesterday, we are in the best possible place. MD Anderson is the place where miracles happen. Every day people travel to MD Anderson who are considered ‘lost causes’, and everyday people’s lives are saved. MD Anderson has saved Brandon’s life once before and I have no doubt that they will do it again. We continue to be brave and hopeful and have the upmost trust in the amazing team of doctors at MD Anderson.

We also have something today that we did not have during Brandon’s previous leukemia treatments. Brandon has healthy donor stem cells inside of his body!  His donor’s T-cells (a type of white blood cell) have the ability to seek out and destroy cancer cells. This is something that Brandon’s own immune system could never do, because it was unable to recognize the cancer as being foreign. Early on after a stem cell transplant, there are a limited number of T-cells in the patient’s body and the patient is usually on a large amount of immunosuppressant medications that lower their body’s ability to fight off foreign invaders. Brandon’s stem cell doctor has reduced the dose of his immunosuppressants to try and stimulate more of what they call the graft-verses-leukemia effect. While the leukemia is too great for his donor’s cells to overcome on their own, their effect is powerful in conjunction with other treatments.

The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for Brandon, myself, and our family. We are very saddened and disappointed by all that has happened. In between all the tears I have realized that this is our journey and we have to make the best of it. Though this journey has been hard and painful, it hasn’t all been bad. It has been full of some of the most beautiful and joyful moments of my life. It has allowed me to see the beauty in every day, everything, and everyone. Brandon and I refuse to live every day in fear of what may (or may not) happen. We choose to live in the now and focus on the blessings that surround us. Brandon and I will continue to have hope and faith as we walk this unknown road. We trust in God and His greater plan. He has gotten us this far and we trust that He will lead the rest of the way. We refuse to let cancer run our lives, steal our happy moments, and instill fear into our minds. We refuse to let cancer win. With the support of our family, friends, and amazing team at MD Anderson, we will continue this fight. With each other, and God, we can overcome anything.

Thank you all for your love and support. There is still a lot of unknowns right now as we wait to start this next treatment. I will be sure to let everyone know updates as we move forward. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we meet with the leukemia team and start this next part of our journey.

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Life is always beautiful, even during the hard times.