Update About Brandon’s Treatment (11/17/16)

Hey everyone! I’m writing from our home away from home, a.k.a. the hospital! Brandon was admitted on Tuesday to be monitored while be begins the second medication of this new treatment regimen. A lot of work and prayers went into getting Brandon this newly approved leukemia drug, so we have been extremely excited to get started!

Brandon took his first dose of the medication on Wednesday and his dose will be slowly increased over 5 days. In less than 24 hours after taking his first dose, there was a significant decrease in the number of leukemia cells circulating in his blood! Brandon’s inpatient doctor, who played a major role in researching this drug’s success in AML, was extremely happy to see the initial results!

Brandon is doing very well and enjoying some rest and relaxation now that we’re in the hospital. With all the outpatient doctor’s appointments, blood transfusions, and chemo infusions, our last week has been incredibly busy. Although we’re stuck in the hospital, we are so thankful for the slower pace! The plan is for Brandon to stay at the hospital through the weekend, and then to go home on Monday. We are extremely thankful that Brandon hasn’t experienced any significant symptoms from this treatment. So far, it has been a very quiet and uneventful hospital stay; just the way we like it!

Thank you all for your love and support during this time. We are extremely hopeful for this new treatment and we can’t wait to see the results. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we begin this new part of our journey.

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Day One of Treatment!

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

It’s been over 2 months since Brandon’s day +60 bone marrow biopsy, which showed that his leukemia had returned post-transplant. The last 2 months have truly tested our patience and our faith as we have anxiously waited for Brandon to start his next treatment. There have been many disappointments along the way, as we learned that Brandon did not qualify for certain treatments or could not participate in others due to medications that he was taking post transplant. We have prayed that Brandon’s leukemia would progress slowly enough to give the doctors time to place him on the most promising treatment.

I am so excited to announce that Brandon will be starting his next treatment TOMORROW! The doctors have gotten approval to use a newly FDA approved medication called Venetoclax, which was approved for the treatment of CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) earlier this year. Venetoclax has shown amazing results in clinical trials for the treatment of AML and could lead to the first new therapy approved for AML in decades! If you’re interested, you a read an article by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society about their excitement in this new AML treatment here.

Tomorrow, Brandon will be starting a week of chemotherapy, followed by oral doses of Venetoclax. Brandon’s doctors have had their eyes on this treatment for weeks, so we are very excited to get started! Brandon has not been on any type of treatment like this before, and his doctors are excited to see the results.

I will be sure to keep everyone updated on Brandon’s progress. As always, thank you all for your kindness, love, and support!

Update About Brandon’s Treatment (11/9/16)

Hey everyone, I know it’s been quite some time since I did an official update about Brandon’s treatment. It has been very busy over the last few weeks for Brandon and I, as we have been adjusting to our new normal.

Things have been going relatively smoothly since Brandon was discharged from the hospital a few weeks ago. Last week, his white blood cell count started to rise again as the effects from the previous chemotherapy started to wear off. To prevent his white blood cell count from becoming too high, he was given another single dose of IV chemotherapy last Tuesday. Thankfully, Brandon responded well to the chemotherapy and his white blood cell count has been within a safe range since. We have been visiting the hospital 3 times a week for blood work and check ups to make sure all his labs are within a safe range.

Since he has been continuously receiving some kind of chemotherapy (either IV or oral), his other blood cell counts have been continuously low. This has translated into spending a lot of time at the hospital for red blood cell and platelet transfusions. We are incredibly thankful for all the blood donors that have supported Brandon and continue to support him during his battle with leukemia.

On Monday, Brandon had a routine spinal tap to check for the presence of leukemia cells in his central nervous system. Certain types of leukemia are known to migrate to the central nervous system where they become immune to standard IV chemotherapy. Since Brandon’s leukemia is particularly aggressive, he falls into a higher risk category for CNS (central nervous system) leukemia. During the procedure, they removed spinal fluid for testing and injected chemotherapy into his spinal cord. The injection of chemo was a preventative measure to ensure that any leukemia cells present are killed before they can become a problem down the road.

Brandon’s last spinal tap was done in March and we were blessed to receive negative test results for CNS leukemia. I am extremely happy to report that the most recent test came back with the same negative result! Brandon DOES NOT have CNS leukemia! We are incredibly thankful to have received this good news! Our prayers were answered in a big way this week.

As I mentioned before, Brandon’s doctors have been waiting for what’s called a ‘wash out period’ from one of his transplant medications prior to starting a new leukemia treatment. I am so thankful that this Friday we are hitting the big milestone of one month off his anti-rejection medication! His body has done very well adjusting to being off this medication and he has not had ANY signs or symptoms of graft-verses-host disease (where the donors cells attack the recipients body). Not only is this amazing for Brandon’s health, but it opens a lot of new options for potential leukemia treatments. Now that he has reached this important milestone, he should be able to start a new treatment very soon. We are anxious and excited to get back to kicking this leukemia to the curb!

We will be meeting with Brandon’s leukemia team this Friday to discuss the next steps with his treatment. We have been very blessed that Brandon’s leukemia has been relatively stable over the last month despite not receiving aggressive treatment. This has allowed the doctors ample time to make sure that he is eligible for the most promising treatments available.

Despite our difficulties over the last few weeks, we are focused on the wealth of blessings in our lives. We are so thankful for the kindness and support from our friends, family, communities, and Brandon’s treatment teams at MD Anderson. We are very excited to begin the next steps of this journey, and ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward.

I will continue to keep everyone updated with Brandon’s treatment and share the good news that we receive along the way! Check out some photos from our adventures over the last few weeks below.

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Someone loves their popcorn =P

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Weekly check up with the leukemia team

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Happy Halloween!

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Getting a dose of IV chemotherapy last Tuesday

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Feeling positive before Monday’s spinal tap

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Brandon always has a smile on his face, regardless of the circumstances. He’s my hero and my inspiration.

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Feeling blessed to be at MD Anderson!

The Gift of Today – A Reflection by the Wife of a Cancer Patient

The Gift of Today – A Reflection by the Wife of a Cancer Patient

This journey is hallmarked by incredible highs and devastating lows. One moment you feel on top of the world, and the next moment the rug has been pulled out from beneath your feet. Even during good times, there is a constant fear that looms over you. Fear that in any moment, something huge and unexpected could be hurled your way. Nothing makes that fear more obvious than to witness the grief of patients and their families who walk the same path.

Last week, we learned of the passing of a fellow leukemia and stem cell transplant warrior. This marks the passing of another friend, gone too soon because of this terrible disease. Our hearts ache deeply for the loss of their family and friends. Our hearts also ache for the world, because it has lost some truly amazing and inspirational people far before their time.

I think the most difficult part of this journey is the contemplation and realization of the fragility of life. Brandon and I have been on this journey for over a year, but it wasn’t until recently that we could openly discuss the darkest and scariest parts of this experience. For the longest time, it was a huge elephant in the room that we both saw but never wanted to acknowledge. After witnessing the passing of many friends, that fear has become more evident than ever. As a spouse, I have had to think about losing the single most important person in my life, wondering how I could go on without him. As the person battling cancer, Brandon has had to face the fear of leaving this world too soon and leaving his loved ones behind. I can tell you that these fears are some of the most painful emotions that one could ever feel. I could never describe the pain of having an open conversation with your spouse about losing them to cancer. It’s raw, heartbreaking, and devastating. It’s the most painful emotion I have ever felt.

Brandon and I always do our best not to dwell in sad places. We have made it our mission to stay hopeful and positive throughout this journey, regardless of what comes our way. Sure, we have our moments where we get upset and cry, but we’re back to laughing and enjoying life in no time. Nothing is guaranteed, and we don’t want to waste our precious time together by dwelling in sadness and fear.

We choose to count our blessings and enjoy every moment. And when I say every moment, I mean every single moment. While thinking about death is scary, it makes your realize how precious your life really is. The things that I thought were important before Brandon’s diagnosis are so minuscule today. The only things that truly matter are the memories you make and the people who you share them with. I wish I had known these things before the love of my life was diagnosed with cancer. I have wasted so many precious moments worrying about so many insignificant things.

Although Brandon’s battle with leukemia has been hard, it has given us the opportunity to truly cherish our time together. Although we spend countless hours in the hospital, we are blessed to spend them together. Every hug is a little longer, every smile is a little bigger, and every kiss is a bit sweeter. We are so grateful for every second of every day that we have together. I am not thankful for cancer, but I am thankful for what it has taught me. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to love and cherish my husband as deeply as I do. I am thankful for the beautiful memories we have made during the hardest year of our lives, and for having the clarity to enjoy every single second of our lives together.

If I could wish one thing for you, it would be to enjoy the life you have. The truth is, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. It may be more obvious as a cancer patient, but it’s really no different for everyone else. We all go through life assuming that there will always be a tomorrow, but life is fragile and never guaranteed. So embrace the ones your love and enjoy the truly breathtaking and beautiful moments of life. Cherish the time you have and allow yourself to see the beauty in all of life’s blessings. Enjoy the gift of every single day.