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.