Tuesday, July 7, 2015

One Year Anniversary July 8, 2015

Today marks the end of one year since we made our first visit to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX., a remarkable institution. There is much about health care in America that is broken and in need of major change. Cancer research and treatment at MDA has been a shinning star for me, however.

A year ago I was sick and getting sicker. One of my many tests at MD Anderson on July 8, 2014 was a Bone Marrow Biopsy and Aspiration. The results not only confirmed my earlier diagnosis but showed my condition was getting worse than when first diagnosed. Without quick intervention my life expectancy was not too long. So intervention became the goal and work of my medical team. I was given two weeks off from treatment and we came home knowing we faced a very difficult time ahead. Upon return to Houston later in July 2014 my treatment would begin aggressively.  New more intense chemotherapy was started requiring hospitalization. The goal was to improve my condition and enable me to have a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant, the only cure for my condition.

We learned that finding a suitable match for stem cells was going to take time. After it was determined that my siblings were not a match, which would have been the best possible solution, we waited for the process to locate a perfect match. In the mean time, I did not respond well to the chemo treatments that weakened me such that even my doctors doubted I would be able to withstand the intensive level of chemo necessary to prepare me for a transplant once a donor was secured.

This is when the miracle happened. MD Anderson is blessed with outstanding people from just about every imaginable cancer fighting discipline. Within my team in the Leukemia department are doctors and other clinicians who are on the cutting edge of research in these conditions. Additionally, they participate with other institutions and physicians throughout the world doing research, trials and studies in hundreds of new drugs and therapies. My team matched my specific cell mutation (IDH2) with a new promising study that was enrolling new participants with my condition and cell mutation. Through careful screening and care they saw that I got quickly qualified for this study. The medication given me began working almost immediately. Within two months many of my blood count indicators began to vastly improve. Bone marrow test also showed greatly improved indicators as well. Within seven months my doctors declared me to be in complete remission and this good result continues until the present.

The pharmaceutical company, Agios involved in this drug known as AG-221 released its third results on the trial last month showing significant benefit to many of the participants being studied. Below is a link to this most interesting report.

So as we mark the one year anniversary of my MD Anderson experience, our road to recovery and a more productive life is celebrated thanks to great science, good luck and miraculous intervention from many caregivers both seen and unseen.

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