In my last update, I shared that Brandon had been admitted to the hospital for an infection in his lower GI tract. After about two weeks in the hospital Brandon had improved enough to go home. I am happy to report that we have been home for a week and things have continued to improve! The infection seems to have cleared up almost completely and Brandon’s pain has improved considerably. We are so thankful that Brandon is now able to rest and recover in the comfort of our own home.
We have resumed our three-day a week outpatient schedule for blood work and blood transfusions, as needed. This was our first week back and we’ve been busy re-adjusting to outpatient life. Being back as an outpatient is exhausting, we spend about 30 hours a week at the hospital and most of it is spent hanging out in waiting rooms. This week has been especially hard on Brandon since he is still extremely exhausted from spending two weeks in the hospital. Brandon’s doctor says that it takes three days to recover from every day you spend in the hospital, and I think she’s right!
Yesterday we met with Brandon’s leukemia doctor to discuss his progress and the next steps of treatment. Brandon’s doctor was very encouraged by the results of his recent bone marrow biopsy and would like to continue forward with the same treatment regimen. He’s happy that Brandon’s leukemia is responding to treatment and that things are moving in the right direction. Brandon will be continuing with this treatment for the time being, but a lot of things are up in the air as we start looking to plan his second stem cell transplant.
As we’ve learned multiple times in the past, Brandon’s leukemia is very aggressive. Although Brandon went into his previous transplant in a form of remission, he had detectable residual leukemia cells in his bone marrow. Unfortunately, the conditioning chemotherapy and transplant were not able to completely wipe out the leukemia that remained, which led to his relapse 60 days later. We’ve learned from this experience that we need to do something different this time around to prevent Brandon from relapsing again.
Brandon’s leukemia and stem cell transplant doctors have been busy brainstorming a lot of possibilities. Currently, they are looking into different types of pre and post-transplant clinical trials and therapies, in addition to considering a haploidentical transplant. In Brandon’s previous transplant, the unrelated stem cell donor was a 10/10 match to Brandon’s tissue type. This is normally the preferred option, since a fully matched donor lowers the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a complication where the donor’s cells attack the transplant recipient’s body. Unfortunately, this also means that sometimes the graft-versus-leukemia effect, where the donor’s cells kill diseased cells, is less potent because the donor’s cells are less able to identify the leukemia cells as foreign.
In a haploidentical transplant, the stem cell donor is only a half match to the recipient’s tissue type (5/10). Haploidentical transplants were originally designed to give a viable transplant option to patients that were unable to identify a fully matched donor, since a patient’s immediate family members (parents and siblings) are often times haploidentical matches. Recently, however, there has been a lot of research studying the success of haploidentical transplant for patients with more aggressive forms of leukemia, and many of the studies have been very promising. For this reason, Brandon’s mother, father, and sister are currently being tested to see if they qualify as potential donors.
Right now, nothing is set in stone. We are just looking into all of our options for Brandon’s continued treatment and upcoming transplant. There are a lot of promising options on the table. We hope and pray that God leads Brandon’s doctors to the treatment that becomes a cure for this horrible disease. We are thankful to be in a place with so much hope, because we know how it feels to be told that you’ve come to the end of the road.
Brandon is incredibly strong and bravely continues to push himself every day. These last few weeks have been very difficult, but we’re still here and we’re still fighting! Thank you all for your love, prayers, kindness, and support. We’re taking this journey one day at a time and counting our daily blessings. I will continue to keep everyone updated as we continue with Brandon’s treatment.