Some days, the acts of kindness of strangers is overwhelming. Many thanks to Cheryl, a physical therapist across the country, who sent my mom a personalized Physical Therapy package in the mail after learning about the weakness and weight loss she has experienced after the last round of chemotherapy and Donor Lymphocyte Infusion.
Up until February of this year, my mom has started to gain weight, slowly returning to normal. Then we heard news of the relapse. That was when we went through three more rounds of chemotherapy, and a Donor Lymphocyte Infusion. All caused various side effects that made it harder to eat including nausea, throat constriction, mouth sores, and loss of taste. Then she had really bad swelling of the feet, which made it difficult to walk and exercise. The combination of both resulted in a greater loss in weight, bringing her down to 82lbs. In February, she had slowly climbed back up to 94lbs, which was a great accomplishment! Before cancer, she was 125lbs and very active. We will slowly get there again, especially with help from people like Cheryl!
Since Mama Pham has responded well to the last two rounds of chemo (no Leukemia cells present!) we are clear to move on to the Donor Lymphocyte Infusion! Dates below:
July 6th, 2015: Awesome donor uncle gets labs (must be within 7 days of donation)
July 9th: 2015: Awesome donor uncle sits with an apheresis machine and donates lymphocytes
July 10th, 2015: My mom gets the lymphocytes and we being our journey of watching for Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) and hope for full remission forever and ever!
Last month, I attended the Stanford Big Data in Bioscience conference. My mom had labs and a possible transfusion during one of the conference days, so I conveniently dropped her off at the Stanford Cancer Center, parked in free patient parking, and walked around the corner to attend the conference on the university campus. One moment I was on the patient side, and a couple of blocks later, I was on the provider side, talking to physicians and clinicians as my peers in this quest to bring better care to patients and better decision making capabilities to doctors. Talk about integrating work and life into one!
During the conference break, I ran into the Asian American Donor Program students who were hold up a lovely sign that said “Will you marrow me?” If you have not yet, you can help save lives like Mama Pham’s by going to register at Be the Match! It is a very simple process of sending in saliva samples, and if you are lucky enough to be a donor, the donation process is pretty simple as well! It just involves some lab draws, a physical exam, and several hours on an apheresis machine!
Mama Pham’s biopsy came back clear! On April 1st, she started on the CALGB 9511 regiment for her relapsed T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This was a very aggressive regimen with asparaginase, and Mama Pham definitely had some tough days. This is her 8th round of chemo overall. None of the other chemotherapy regimens over the past 1.5 years have EVER brought her to full remission (Hyper CVAD, Nelarabine), and they did the Stem Cell Transplant last year with active Leukemia (not ideal). We are not fully in the clear because we still need to do a Donor Lymphocyte Infusion from my uncle, but this gives us a clear to charge forward and that we will! Many thanks to our amazing family of supporters and the doctors at City of Hope, UCI and Stanford for getting us to this next milestone. I am forever grateful.