New Year, New Hope; An Update About Brandon’s Treatment (01/01/2017)

I hope this post finds everyone warm and cozy after a beautiful holiday season.

Brandon and I had an amazing Christmas with our family. Despite going through continuous treatment, Brandon was feeling well and was able to enjoy the holidays. I am so thankful that we made it through December without any unexpected hospital stays or complications. Spending Christmas at home with those we love was the greatest gift that we could have ever asked for.

Brandon has almost finished his second cycle of this new treatment! Since Brandon started this treatment almost 2 months ago, there has been a huge decline in the number of blast (leukemia) cells circulating in his blood. When he started, his white blood cells were about 90% leukemia cells. Just this past week, his white blood cells were down to about 15% leukemia cells! These results have been especially promising given how quickly Brandon’s leukemia progresses without proper treatment.

Since the leukemia cells are still present in his blood we know that he is not yet in remission. However, the steady decrease in circulating leukemia cells is a great sign that this treatment is moving things in the right direction! On Wednesday Brandon will be having a bone marrow biopsy to evaluate this treatment’s effectiveness at a deeper level. They will be looking to see the percentage of leukemic stem cells present in his bone marrow and which genetic mutations they carry. This will give the doctors a clear picture of how Brandon’s body is responding to this treatment. This will also allow them to plan for his continued treatment as we move toward a second stem cell transplant.

This coming biopsy will be Brandon’s 18th. The stress and fear that surrounds these results seems to only worsen over time. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we anxiously await this news. We are hoping and praying for positive results that will point us in the right direction. We will be meeting with Brandon’s leukemia doctor on Friday to discuss the next steps.

Overall, Brandon is doing well on this treatment regimen. Aside from the leukemia, he’s in pretty great health! The skin infection that he acquired a few months ago is almost completely gone. He was finally able to transition from IV to oral antibiotics after about a month and a half and things seem to be continuing to improve. He still has an extremely compromised immune system, so we are on high alert for potential infections. This means a lot of preventative medications, hand washing, temperature taking, and mask wearing. We are thankful that Brandon has remained relatively healthy despite his increased risk.

Brandon’s bone marrow is still unable to make enough of his own blood cells so he has continued to receive multiple blood transfusions throughout the week. This keeps us in the hospital about 30 hours a week between doctors appointments, blood work, and transfusions. We are thankful, however, that Brandon has remained on an outpatient basis since starting this treatment in November.

Just a few weeks ago, Brandon and I shared our story to shine a light on the importance of blood donation. We were interviewed by KPRC2 News to help motivate people to become regular blood donors. This time of year blood banks run critically low as people are consumed with their holiday plans. Blood banks get close to running out of blood and sometimes hospitals have to turn people away that need transfusions! This year, please consider making a New Years resolution to become a regular blood donor. You can make a difference and save lives! You can view the news story here.

As we move into 2017, Brandon and I have done a lot of reflecting about our journey over the last 18 months. We spent 2016 working towards one goal: beating leukemia. It’s been a long road with countless victories and accomplishments, in addition to many disappointments and setbacks. Although 2016 was difficult to depths I could never describe, it brought us closer and strengthened our love, faith, and commitment to one another. We learned the true meaning of love and now have a greater appreciation for the gift of life. This year, we bring with us a fire and determination to beat leukemia once and for all. We are so hopeful for what this New Year will bring and the miracles and victories that await us.

Thank you all for your continued love and support. I will continue to keep everyone up to date with our progress towards a life without leukemia. I can feel it, 2017 is going to be the year!


A Christmas moose in his natural habitat =P


Brandon’s interview with Phil Archer @ KPRC2 News


Cozy on Christmas


What a special Christmas


Some of our most memorable moments of 2016



Update About Brandon’s Treatment (12/10/16)

Hey everyone! I just wanted to share some news about Brandon’s treatment.

Yesterday, Brandon completed the first month of his new leukemia treatment! So far he seems to be responding to the treatment, but it’s a slow process. We know that Brandon is not in remission due to the presence of blast (leukemia) cells in his blood, however, Brandon’s doctor feels that the treatment is working because his disease has not been rapidly progressing. Without effective treatment, Brandon’s leukemia progresses very quickly and is expressed through an increase of his white blood cell count in his blood. Brandon’s white blood cell count has been well within normal ranges throughout the last month that he has been on this new treatment. Brandon’s doctor is encouraged with the initial treatment results and has given us the green light to proceed with another treatment cycle! Woohoo!

Yesterday, Brandon started the first of 7 days of a chemotherapy called Vidaza. He will also been continuing with Venclexta, the oral leukemia medication. Brandon’s doctor has decided to increase the dose of the Venclexta since he has tolerated the treatment well so far. Clinical studies of Venclexta for the treatment of AML have shown a more potent anti-leukemic effect at the higher dose, so we are excited to see the results for this second month of treatment.

Venclexta has shown incredible promise for many patients with AML in combination with chemotherapy, with clinical trials showing a response rate of over 70%. Prior to starting treatment, we pursued every option to try and get Brandon into a clinical trial involving this drug so that we could get the medication for free. Unfortunately, because of some of his prior treatments he is not eligible for the clinical trial for this treatment protocol.

Since the medication is FDA approved for another condition, Brandon’s doctor got permission to use it ‘off label’ to treat Brandon’s acute myeloid leukemia. This medication is incredibly expensive since it just came on the market earlier this year, and unfortunately there are not any financial assistance programs off-label use. For the first 6 weeks of medication, we have spent about $18,000 USD. This price will increase now that Brandon is taking an increased dose.

Initially, we made the decision to start this treatment because Brandon’s leukemia doctor (and many other doctors in the department) felt that this treatment had the best chance of success. This treatment combination is not like anything Brandon’s leukemia has seen before, so they are hopeful for the results of a completely new approach. Now that we have seen its activity against Brandon’s leukemia (even at a moderate dose) we are very hopeful for another month of treatment. Thanks to the generosity and support of so many people we have been able to afford the initial cost of this medication. Thank you a million times over to everyone that has helped us fundraise or made a donation towards Brandon’s treatment. You have been and continue to be a HUGE part of savings Brandon’s life. We are so incredibly thankful.

In addition to his leukemia treatment, Brandon is still being treated for a skin infection that he developed about a month ago. Unfortunately leukemia patients are extremely susceptible to infections, especially while their immune system is increasingly compromised during treatment. Brandon has been on daily IV and oral antibiotics for about a month, which has helped his body immensely. The affected area seems to be healing, however, it is an extremely slow process with a very suppressed immune system. Brandon’s doctors continue to monitor the healing process and are keeping a watchful eye for any signs of worsening infection.

The next month will be busy for us as we continue with this week of chemotherapy, the oral leukemia treatment, and the outpatient care that Brandon needs while his body is incredibly immunosuppressed and unable to create much needed blood cells. There will undoubtedly be lots of blood work, doctor’s appointments, medication infusions, and blood transfusions over the coming weeks.

We are incredibly thankful this Christmas season for the hope of this new treatment and for the kindness and support of Brandon’s care team at MD Anderson. We are also very thankful for all the love that we continue to receive from our amazing family and friends. This year we have realized that the things we want for Christmas cannot be bought or found beneath a Christmas tree. This Christmas, we hope and pray more than ever for Brandon’s continued healing and for a future without leukemia. This road has been incredibly difficult and long, but we are forever hopeful for Brandon’s complete healing.

Thank you all so much for your continued kindness, prayers, words of encouragement, and support. We are so blessed!


Cycle 2, Day 1 of Chemo! Can you tell we’re a bit sleepy?

Update About Brandon’s Treatment (11/30/16)

Happy (almost) December! I hope everyone is having a great start to their holiday season. I just wanted to update everyone about Brandon’s treatment.

Brandon started his new leukemia treatment about 2 weeks ago. Brandon is currently being treated with a combination of IV chemotherapy (Vidaza) and an oral leukemia medication called Venclexta. Brandon was admitted to the hospital on the 15th to start the Venclexta and to finish his week of chemotherapy.

Everything went well with starting the new medication, however Brandon developed an infection while in the hospital. This extended our hospital stay a bit, since Brandon was closely monitored and started on IV antibiotics. Thankfully, the fevers went away quickly and we were able to go home just in time for Thanksgiving!

Since Brandon’s immune system is virtually non-existent due to his treatment, he was sent home on a few IV medications (antibiotic and antifungal) that I have been administering from home. He has been recovering slowly but he is doing very well! It’s been so wonderful to be back in the comfort of our home. We are back to visiting the hospital on an outpatient basis 3 times a week for blood work and blood transfusions as needed.

Today we met with Brandon’s leukemia doctor to discuss the next steps. Brandon’s doctor is very happy with the initial results from this new treatment. Within the first week of starting Venclexta there was a drastic decrease in the number of cancer cells in Brandon’s blood. Since he still has leukemia cells circulating in his blood we know he is not yet in remission, but we are hopeful that things will continue to move in the right direction. Unfortunately, oral medications tend to work slowly so it will be some time before we know this treatment’s full effect. After a month of this treatment Brandon will likely be getting a bone marrow biopsy to evaluate the status of his leukemia. It will likely take a few cycles (28 day periods) of treatment to see any major results.

Right now its just watch and wait, which is honestly the most stressful part of this experience. We are hoping and praying that this treatment will be effective in getting Brandon back into remission and onto a second stem cell transplant. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue with our journey.

Thank you all for your love and support. We have so much to be thankful for, especially during this Christmas season. I will continue to keep everyone updated with Brandon’s treatment.


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.


Day One of Treatment!


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.


Someone loves their popcorn =P


Weekly check up with the leukemia team


Happy Halloween!


Getting a dose of IV chemotherapy last Tuesday


Feeling positive before Monday’s spinal tap


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


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.


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.


One Year!


Yea, we were pretty excited about our anniversary!




Happy to be leaving the hospital!


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.


Thanks for your love and support!


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!