Month: November 2013

Chemotherapy and Transplant

This post will be a random compilation of stories since I have not posted in awhile.  On Sunday, November 10th, my mom’s brother, Cau Thanh, arrived in the United States from Vietnam.  It has been quite the journey to get him here:  Obtaining and FedEx-ing blood samples from Vietnam, HLA-Typing match, letters and documents from City of Hope, VISA application, United States consulate interview and flight to Los Angeles!

My mom is now in the hospital for her fourth round of chemotherapy.  She is on the Nelarabine again.  This is the same chemo she had last time.  There are still 10% blasts (bad white blood cells) in her bone marrow after the last round of chemotherapy. Hopefully this round will help get that number lower.  Since they cannot do a typical transplant unless she is in remission with less than 5% blasts, her doctor is now planning to put her through a clinical bone marrow transplant trial that involves both a transplant and radiation.  This is a trial done on patients who do not respond well to their chemotherapy and need the radiation in addition to the transplant.  As of now, this looks like the rough timeline:

  • November 11th: Hospital Inpatient admission for 5 days of Nelarabine chemotherapy
  • November 15th: Discharge
  • November 15th-December 1st: Wait for chemotherapy to finish (about 3 weeks)
  • December 1st-7th:  Prepare for bone marrow transplant.  Mama Pham goes to classes and takes fluid samples for the doctor.  Cau Thanh needs 5 days of Neuopgen  shots to boost his body’s ability to make healthy white blood cells.  Cau Thanh also goes through a series of tests to make sure he is healthy and does not have any communicable diseases.
  • mid-December: If all goes well, the radiation + transplant happens
  • mid-December – mid-January:  Mama Pham is hospitalize for 1 month post-transplant.  Her body’s defenses are completely wiped and need to slowly build back up
  • mid-January – mid-February:  Mama Pham is home, but most likely bedridden.  She must be closely monitored 24/7 to ensure that all her meds are taken at the right time, her daily needs are taken care of and she eat
  • February onward:  Mama Pham makes visits to the hospital for check up.  A patient is not considered in full remission and cured until 2 years after the transplant.

That is the tentative timeline for now.  Of course anything can change.  We are still waiting on insurance approval for the bone marrow transplant so they haven’t been able to start my uncle’s full paperwork or officially schedule Mama Pham for any bone marrow transplant preparations.

Her spirits are overall well.  Some days are harder than others, but she is mostly cheerful and hopeful.  She has gotten used to the stent that was put in about a month ago to make sure her kidney works correctly to filter all the drugs.  She has a large kidney stone that is currently inoperable due to her weak immune system state.

Here’s to a successful round of chemo, seamless bone marrow transplant preparation and a successful transplant!

Vietnam Visa Acquired!

We just found out that my mom’s brother who is a stem cell match just passed his US Consulate interview and was granted a VISA to come to the United States! Due to high cases of fraud (fake marriages, fake organ donors, fake students…) it can often be difficult to obtain a Visa from Vietnam to the United States. Thankfully, the United States consulate saw the sincerity in our case and granted my uncle a Visa! Every little battle helps. Next battle: Get Mama Pham into remission!