Many of you have been following the journey I have taken with my friend Bev, who is battling leukemia. Here's a recap of the last 2 years.
January 22, 2007: Bev (age 32) is diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia). Prognosis is not great. She undergoes 7 months of INTENSE chemo.
August, 2007: Bev has her own stem cells harvested for a bone marrow transplant. Reactions to this kind of transplant are less severe.
January, 2008: A bone marrow biopsy comes back clear. Bev is in remission.
August, 2008: Bev's symptoms return. A biopsy confirms she has relapsed. A donor bone marrow transplant is necessary to give Bev a chance at life. The search for a donor begins. She undergoes heavy chemo in the process.
October, 2008: A donor is located! There are 10 proteins in the marrow that are considered in bone marrow matching. A strong match occurs if all 10 proteins are identical. 8 matching proteins are necessary for the transplant, though the success rate is lower with that scenario. Bev has an extremely rare condition--she only has 9 of the 10 proteins. Her donor also only has 9...and all 9 are a perfect match!
December 5, 2008: Bev receives her bone marrow transplant. She is in the hospital for 3 weeks, and then must remain house-bound for 100 days. The greatest concern is GvHD (Graft versus Host Disease), in which the donor cells recognize the recipient's body as foreign, and attack it. GvHD can be fatal.
December 10, 2008: Bev begins to display the early onset of GvHD in her intestines, skin, and bones.
December 12, 2008: I receive a call from Bev's aunt telling me that Bev is dying. She has lost consciousness and her body is shutting down.
December 15, 2008: By some miracle, Bev pulled through. Even her doctors claimed a miracle.
December 24, 2008: Bev has made so much progress that her doctor agrees to let her go home for Christmas. She ends up not having to return to the hospital. Begin the 100 days of confinement.
From that point on Bev's progress has been slow, but steady. Occassional flare-ups of the GvHD have made life miserable at times (imagine diarrhea that can't be controlled...up to 20 times per day, the sensation of having sand in the eyes, chest to toe itchy rash, severe leg pains, etc.). But the GvHD has responded well to steroids. At the same time, the GvHD is a blessing because it destroys any leukemia cells that may be present.
April 8 was Bev's 4-month post-transplant bone marrow biopsy. It was excruciatingly painful, and then the wait for the results was agonizing. But the results are in. Bev is in remission! 100% of her bone marrow cells are donor cells. No mutated cells at all! Just a few months ago the doctors put Bev's chance at surviving this transplant at only 25%. She has beaten the odds and is doing great. She's even starting to get some hair growth back on her head! Her next biopsy will be in December, provided she doesn't experience any leukemia symptoms.
To all of you who have prayed for Bev, sent her cards, participated in gift giving, thank you. You have made a difference.