Back to the Hospital

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 One Foot in Front of the Other…Tomorrow I check into the hospital the first part of my “Post-Remission Therapy” It has been 26 days since I was told that I was in remission, and the bone marrow biopsy that my doctor did one week ago confirmed this good news.

My time at home has been great. I am not on any medication and my appetite has returned. There have been lovely visits with friends. I feel healthy and strong. Yesterday, I returned from a wonderful Thanksgiving at our house in Milford PA…family, friends, kids, music, walks, waterfalls and lots of great food. Now it is time to pack and face whatever this next phase brings.

Starting tomorrow, I will be in the hospital five days for “consolidation therapy” aimed at “eliminating any remaining leukemic cells” (see below). after which I recover at home for 5 weeks and then return to the hospital for the bone marrow transplant.

Am I scared?…Yes, of course I am, But at least I have a fairly clear sense of what lies ahead and a deep faith in my doctors.

Am I optimistic?…Yes. My doctors say they are aiming for a complete cure, and it seems like things are going well so far.

How do I deal with my current fears?…Well, writing this blog is helpful. So is cleaning the apartment and packing my bags very carefully. In general it is good to keep busy, which is why I will now stop writing and head out for a walk. I think I will buy myself a treat.

The information below is from the Sloan Kettering website. (I have found that it is a serious mistake browse the internet for information on AML.)

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Treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia is typically divided into two phases: remission induction and post-remission therapy.

Remission Induction

The goal of the remission induction phase is to induce a remission, a state in which there is no visible evidence of disease and blood counts are normal. Patients may receive a combination of drugs during this phase including daunorubicin, idarubicin, or mitoxantrone plus cytarabine. ( I got through this in five and a half weeks, after two rounds of chemo!)

Post-Remission Therapy

In the post-remission therapy phase, patients may receive additional treatment to eliminate any remaining leukemic cells. Treatment may consist of cytarabine given alone, often in higher doses, or a combination of drugs such as cytarabine, daunorubicin, idarubicin, mitoxantrone, and etoposide. Some AML patients may undergo either an autologous transplant (using the patient’s own stem cells) or an allogeneic transplant (using stem or bone marrow cells from someone other than the patient) during this phase of treatment. ( I will get an allogeneic transplant in mid January. My sister Nancy is a perfect match.)

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On Wednesday I went with my sister Gail for a follow up visit to my doctor at Sloan Kettering. We discussed the possible new types chemo I might receive when I checked into the hospital on the following Tuesday. After this rather depressing conversation, he did yet another bone marrow biopsy.

On Thursday, my friend Lisa visited and took me to a lovely lunch at a local Italian restaurant. When we returned to the apartment there was a message on my answering machine from my doctor. He said to call him back because the results from Wednesday’s biopsy were “surprising and quite good” and that they “may alter our plans quite a bit”.

With Lisa standing by, I called him back.

 It seems:

1. The Tuesday biopsy showed my leukemia cell count had dropped to 1%. This was a BIG surprise. (Less the 5%means I am going into remission!)
2. I no longer need to go to the hospital on Tuesday.
3. I can stay at home until after Thanksgiving and will only need to check in with him once a week.
4. After Thanksgiving, I will enter the hospital for a final round of chemo, which will kill off any remaining cancer cells.
5.  In January, my sister Nancy (who is the sibling with the prefect match) will come to New York to donate her healthy marrow.
6. After the bone transplant, which will require another fairly long hospital stay, I will be CURED!

This, at least, is the plan.

So, all in all it has been a great few days.

Keep you posted….but things are looking up.

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Me in my new wig feeling pretty damn good.