Posts tagged leukemia

i’m still here….

I heard a rumor

And its about me

There’s this SMS circulating among my close friends and relatives  telling  them that I died on December 10 due to complications……

The rumor will remain a rumor for now ‘coz  I’m still here…….alive, breathing and busy smooching my rainbow……..opps

Well, I think its about time that I do some updates…..

  • I had my bone marrow biopsy last December 6. I still don’t have the results but I’m praying and trying to be positive about it. I took a picture of the needles and got scared afterwards. he he he.

needlewatermark

  • I had my pulmonary test last week—-another prerequisite for the transplant. I was told that its a standard test designed to measure my lung capacity. I’m proud to say that I got good results from that test. yipee! It really pays to be a non-smoker!
  • Finally, I got my transplant scheduled. I’ll be going back to the hospital to undergo sessions of chemotherapy for three days then another three days of radiation. A week after that, the transplant will begin. I will be staying at the hospital for 30 days after the transplant and then spend the remaining 70 days at home. I’m a little scared but I’m holding on to God’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake.

I think that’s all for now. I’m chillin’ and sleepy. I better hit the sack now. My rainbow’s tucking me to bed. Yahoooo!

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stem cell transplant: fast facts

What are stem cells?    

Stem cells are the basic building blocks of life, the basic cell from which our bodies are made. They are formed at conception and specialized to become all the different tissues of the body: muscle, nerve, organs, bone, blood and so on.

When do we use our body’s stem cells?

We tap into our body’s stem cell reserve to repair and replace injured or diseased tissue. Unfortunately our reserve is finite and as it becomes depleted, the regenerative power of our body decreases and we succumb to diseases, disorder and the ravages of aging.

What is stem cell transplant?

A stem cell transplant is the infusion of healthy cells to replace diseased or damaged ones.

How important is stem cell transplant to leukemia patients?

Cancer, particularly leukemia, is an important disease for stem cell transplants; bone and peripheral blood stem cell transplants have been used for decades. A patient receives chemotherapy or radiation treatment to destroy the cancer cells but unfortunately, healthy cells are also damaged. A stem cell transplant can replace the lost and damaged cells with fresh, functioning ones, which can then provide the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets that are important to metabolism, clotting and immunity. The other benefit of this treatment is that the newly formed white blood cells can further improve immune function such that they destroy any remaining cancer cells in the marrow.

What are the risks?

Stem cell transplants still have several risks associated with the procedure. Some people will find they experience few issues while others may require consistent monitoring and repeated hospital stays. Some of the complications that can occur with a stem cell transplant are:

  • damage to organs or blood vessels
  • graft versus host disease
  • Death

Thus, although some people will experience few complications, others may find they suffer from short and long-term problems associated with a stem cell transplant. The success varies widely and it is impossible to predict who will experience side effects and to what degree they will occur.

In most cases, the benefits of stem cell transplants will likely outweigh the risk of complications and these techniques can truly be life-saving for conditions such as leukemia and aplastic anemia. It is hoped and anticipated that future research can yield successful therapies for a broader range of diseases.

http://www.explorestemcells.co.uk/WhyPerformStemCellTransplant.html

photo credit: http://www.bcro-asia.com/home.html

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Coming Soon….

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My H-line for Healing

After more than a month of being on remission, I went back to the cancer institute for my scheduled consolidation or intensification chemotherapy. The goal of this phase is to destroy any remaining leukemia cells. It was also the start of the preparation for my stem cell transplant tentatively scheduled on July 2008.

First, my Hickman line was reinstalled. It is a silicon tube placed into one of my major blood vessels leading to my heart. It is used for giving treatment directly into a vein for my chemotherapy, administration of intravenous fluids, for my blood transfusion and for taking blood samples. The benefit of this thing is that it will save me the discomfort of having needles repeatedly inserted into my veins. I hate needles really. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The procedure actually started with a lot of x-rays in my neck and chest. When the vein has been identified, the line was then fitted. The procedure lasted for less than 30 minutes. Of course, it was done with a local anaesthetic and some intravenous sedatives. The line actually enters a vein in my neck (my collar bone) and exits from my upper chest. It was inserted through a tunnel in my skin. There were tingling sensations and pinches of pain during the procedure. It was very uncomfortable and I got four stitches after the incision. Keeping my “dangling line” in place is a stitch placed around the catheter. I was told that the stitch will remain there until the normal tissues has grown enough to hold the line naturally. Also, I was informed that there’s a small cuff in the tunnel which supports the tube.

I had four chemo sessions already using the reinstalled line. And as expected I was wasted, nauseous and exhausted. The day after my second chemo I’ve spiked a fever and was given a liquid paracetamol. When I woke up the next day, my temp went down from 101.2 to 98.5. Thank God.

Just a while ago, I was told that my “precious” Hickman line is due for flushing and cleaning with saline and heparin anytime this week so as to prevent it from being blocked by blood clots and also to avoid contamination. The nurse also told me that they will teach me how to clean it so that I can do the cleaning when I go home. Yahoo!

My oncologist told me that this “thing hanging on my chest” will now become my constant companion and best friend and I better give it a name so that our “bonding” will become more personal. Okay then, so from now on, my hickman line will be called “Hickie”. Ha ha ha.

I’m still up for more chemo sessions the coming days and I’m praying and keeping my faith that God will continuously show His face upon me and that He will help me get pass through it. Bless God!

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the waiting continues

i was supposed to get the result of my spinal tap yesterday but a few hours before my scheduled appointment, my oncologist  called and he told me that the pathologist still hasn’t reach a conclusive and definitive findings as to whether the blast cells found in the sample are normal immature white cells or abnormal or leukemic cells. my doctor said the pathologist requested that she be given  some of the slides from my original bone marrow biopsy for comparison and analysis. looks like i have to wait for two more days.  😦

i was told that if the test would remain inconclusive i have no other choice but to repeat the spinal tap. or if the pathologist will eventually conclude that the cells are indeed leukemic cells then there’s an immediate need for me to undergo a more extensive chemo, 3 days per week for 3 months and then depending on the progress, i’ll undergo stem cell transplant which will be my last resort. but the thing is: my oncologist is worried that my frail body would not be able to withstand another round of extensive chemo since i had 3 chemo sessions already. he’s afraid that my organs would not be able to take the repercussions and eventually they would fail and kill me. on the other hand, if i don’t undergo another round of chemo (assuming i still have leukemic cells), i won’t last longer than a year. this is so depressing.

on the lighter side, if the pathologist concludes that the blast cells were normal immature white cells it means i don’t have leukemic cells anymore and i will be in remission. i will then undergo a month of consolidation therapy to prepare me for the stem cell transplant.

i don’t know what to feel right now. my head is full of “what if’s”. i know He holds my life in His hand and i just have to accept His will and trust His plans for me, but then, this is easier said than done. nevertheless, I will keep on trusting Him and will continue to wait on Him. i know He will carry me through, He will not leave me nor forsake me.

thank you for your unconditional love Lord. Your love keeps me sane.

You are forever in my life
You see me through the seasons
Cover me with Your hand
And lead me in Your righteousness

And I look to You
And I wait on You

I will sing to You, Lord
A hymn of love
For Your faithfulness to me
I’m carried in everlasting arms
You’ll never let me go
Through it all

Hallelujah, hallelujah

through it all/hillsong

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just a quick update

Yesterday:

  • i had another round of chemo.
  • high dose ara-c was pumped into my body for two hours and the clear liquid felt like hell 😦 
  • ara-c is actually an anti-metabolites which is similar to normal body molecules. they stop the cells from making cancer cells and repairs DNA
  • as expected, i was exhausted, thirsty, was throwing up and irritated after the session
  • i got hives (sore, red spots on my neck, feet and arms)
  • i have 2 big mouth sores and it is so hard to drink water even with a straw. ang sakit! damn!

the-head.jpg

Today:

  • i was throwing up the whole morning.
  • early afternoon: my blood count dropped and was given platelets.
  • middle of the transfusion: i had an allergic reaction so they gave me 100 mg of benadryl
  • at this moment: i feel so tired and grouchy
  • praying that the Lord restores the spirit of submission, patience and hope within me
  • saw the assessment of my medical bill and felt sad about it (we need to pay at least half of it within the week)
  • i want to sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep and sleep

platelets.jpg

Tomorrow:

  • another round of chemo—- a date with ara-c
  • anticipating a good result from my cardiologist, re: 2D echo

Please keep those prayers coming.

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i found my perfect match

…….for bone marrow transplant! wink!

my younger siblings, godfrey and reese, were both tested positive for bone marrow matching and were considered “well matched”. this great news was relayed to me yesterday. based on the results of their tests, the doctors compared the characteristics of their stem cells to my stem cells and found out that the protein content are similar. thank God!

i know i still have a long way to go as i need to have “complete remission” from my “repeated” chemo therapy first before the allogeneic stem cell transplant. but nevertheless, the reality that i now have genetically perfect matches has raise the positive feeling that my body will definitely accept the donated stem cells.

i had my chemo yesterday, the last for daunarubicin. i still have four more days for ara-c and then i’ll have another bone marrow biopsy. i feel a little low today because i’m having  hypercalcemia or high calcium level, which they say is a typical complication from chemotherapy. the nurses are now giving me calcitonin every six to eight hours to lower the calcium level. 

i was talking to the oncologist a while ago re: stem cell transplant and he told me that it is not really recommended for all AML patients because of the high risk in complications and in some cases there are no clear benefits. in my case, he said it seems to be appropriate because i failed to achieve a remission following my initial induction therapy.

i had another session with my psychotherapist this afternoon and it was an hour of expressing my emotions using crayons and colored pencils. i was slumped on the floor doing some drawings of the sun, moon, stars, skies, rainbows, clouds and rain. i felt like a kid again 🙂

oh well, i’m kinda sleepy now so i’ll be taking a nap after posting this entry.

again, i want to say thank you to those who are still offering/whispering prayers for me, those who sent e-cards, encouraging sms, giving me financial and spiritual support—–words are not enough to express my appreciation, i’m overwhelmed.

thank you Lord for Your love and for being true to Your words….i’m pressing on with the journey and i’m trusting You more each day…….continue to do Your will in me.

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my choice

yesterday……. i had my contrasted CT scan in the morning (to determine if i have secondary infection causing the recent fever spikes), another round of chemo during the night, was throwing up, had difficulty sleeping and drank almost two liters of water. whew!

and today…….i woke up feeling some aches and pains in my lower back and i threw up twice already. but i definitely feel a lot better and I’m looking forward to an hour session with my psychotherapist. i’ll also have my ECG later and the usual drawing of blood.

the past few days…..my spirit is actually down and weary. i feel very tired. this continued treatment is starting to drain my positive energy. and oftentimes i feel like i’m just going with the flow without that much conviction. yes,  i’m still praying and holding on to my faith but my being human is taking its toll on me.

a while ago i was scanning/reading some passages from the Bible and this verse caught my attention:

“I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessings and God’s curse and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose Life”

                                                            Deuteronomy 30:19

wow! what a perfect verse for me. all of sudden i felt like a comforting hand has touched my head–giving me enough boost to go on with my treatment.

so here i am with my choice: i choose life. i choose to fight. i choose to go on with this journey. i choose to be a betterman.

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next level: consolidation therapy

and so my treatment continues……… 

since i’m now done with induction therapy and got partial remission from it, i’m moving on to the next level which is the consolidation therapy. this phase is designed to further diminish the number of cancer cells and achieve complete remission.

my treatment plan is called three-plus-seven method. i was told that this is the most common drug treatment plan for AML. this would mean i will be treated with a combination of anthracycline (which in my case is daunarubicin) for 3 days and 7 days of ara-c.

so, two days ago i had my first round of chemo. daunarubicin was administered manually every 5-10 minutes. i was told that this was the standard procedure as to ensure that the drug doesn’t enter my bloodstream that quick. after almost two hours, they then hooked me to a bag of ara-c. i was a real mess after—was throwing up, grouchy and depressed.

yesterday, my numbers picked up. (ANC: 200; WBC: 1.0; HGB: 9.3 and platelets: 206) but there’s still a leukemia blast in my blood: about 5%. i had chest pains in the middle of the day and there were little aches and pains in my lower back and in my legs. it sure made sleeping very difficult that i had to ask for adavan so i could get some rest. i also got my anti-nausea pill, my all-time favorite, the yellow candy-like drug called zofran.

today, i woke up feeling very lazy and my spirit was down. how i wish i could convince myself that everything miserable will stop dead if i just don’t talk about it. (of course it won’t work that way). i had body pains and was throwing up. suddenly i felt like i was a little scrap of humanity lying in bed, sick and wet. damn!

some relatives visited me and prayed with me so i felt a lot better now. i’m looking forward to my chemo later. i hope my numbers will continue to pick up and then eventually i get complete remission at the end of the treatment. i’m keeping my hopes high.

“……though i walk in the midst of trouble; You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes; with Your right hand You save me”…..Psalm 138:7

thank you my Lord and Savior for Your great love. i am in awe of You. i’m also sending my warm hugs to those who are continuously praying for me. words are not enough to express my gratitude. God bless all of you.

still a long way to go……..but i’m giving it a good fight……..the journey from brokenman to betterman continues!

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the journey continues

when the oncologist walked into my room three days after my bone marrow biopsy,  i told myself “this is the moment“. i tried showing a brave face as i felt the sudden surge of emotions but i guess i’m really not good in acting. after the usual pleasantries he finally opened a brown envelope and read through the results of the biopsy.

i’m on partial remission——meaning the stubborn leukemia finally responded to the chemotherapy but it did not disappear completely with the treatment. (this leukemia must have fallen in love with me and doesn’t want to leave. ha ha ha. silly thought!)

the doctor said my suppressed marrow function is beginning to return to normal but in a very slow rate. this was also confirmed by the latest results of my cbc and reticulocyte count  which were used to evaluate cell production in my marrow. he told me that treatment via radiation therapy plus oral medication will continue so that complete remission can be achieved.

initially, i was disappointed with the result as i was expecting complete remission. the feeling of uncertainty went back to me and consumed me. but when the night came, i found myself talking to God, asking Him “what are you trying to tell me Lord?”, “what do you want me to learn from this new development?“. i asked Him to give me His peace and to hug me as I embark on my journey to radiation oncology.

i already had two sessions of radiation therapy and will have five more the coming days. i’m actually on “break” right now. i personally asked for it as i want to spend the holidays with my loved ones “radiation free”.

i’m keeping my hopes high, trusting Him and letting Him do His will on me. i know that He will complete His work and I’m holding on to His promise that “He will never leave me nor forsake me”.

I then remembered I Thessalonians 5:18 that says “Give thanks in all circumstances….” and i just felt that this is what He wants me to do—to continue thanking Him inspite of all the painful things coming my way and He wants me to look around and appreciate the beauty of life.  there are indeed countless reasons to thank Him for His love and faithfullness. i thank Him for the gift of life, the gift of time, the gift of love, the gift of family, the gift of friends—–the list could go on and on—–mercies that will never come to an end.

again, i want to thank the people who journeyed with me and prayed for me. i want to send my warm hugs of appreciation to my family, my children, my best buddies, friends, classmates, aunts, uncles, cousins, other relatives, family friends, online friends and those who’ve just chanced upon my blog and offered prayers, online strangers and “you” (wink!)  thank you very much.

my journey from brokenman to betterman continues………please journey with me.

a belated merry christmas and a blessed new year to all!

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