The past few weeks have been a roller coaster and a huge learning period for our whole family. Late March,while on vacation, our Dad become extremely fatigued, even unable to walk the sand to the local beach front tavern (which, if you know our Dad, there’s not much that keeps him from missing out on a day of vacation… especially when it involves a cocktail on a sunny deck!). Upon return home, he had more feelings of fatigue and episodes of dizziness, ultimately resulting in a visit to his physician.
After several tests and a visit to a specialist,Dad was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer called Myelodysplastic Syndrome (or MDS). MDS stems from the production of abnormalities in the bone marrow, resulting in deficiencies across different blood levels (including red and white blood cells and platelets). The disease is a continuum, which will progressively get worse, eventually turning into Leukemia. The stages of the disease are measured by what are known as “blasts” or abnormal white blood cells in bone marrow. At >20% blasts in the bone marrow white blood cell counts, the disease is considered to have progressed to Leukemia.
The good news is, Dad’s blasts count is around 6% – not very close to the Leukemia levels yet. The bad news is, the specific type of MDS that they believe he has (“Therapy-Related MDS”, likely caused by medicine he’s been taking for his kidney transplant) is one of the more aggressive types of MDS, and we need to move quickly.
Ultimately, the only cure for MDS is a stem cell transplant. Before he’s eligible for this, they need to get his blasts count to