Denny Ottem

First post: Jun 22, 2020 Latest post: Jul 23, 2021
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As many of you know Denny had a cancer scare back in April 2017, when a cancerous lesion formed on the floor of his mouth to the right of his tongue.  This turned out to be a form of skin cancer and was removed immediately, along with all of the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck.  His surgery was very extensive, but his recovery was extraordinary.  The surgery was a success, and no chemotherapy or radiation was required.  Since then he has regularly followed up with his ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) team and gets a PET scan (A positron emission tomography scan is an imaging test that helps reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning. This procedure uses a radioactive drug (tracer) to show this activity. This can sometimes detect disease before it shows up on other imaging tests) every May to make sure the cancer doesn't attempt to sneak back into his body undetected.

While at his annual appointment with ENT on May 21st, his care team indicated that the scan showed abnormal activity in his bone marrow back in 2019, and when the 2020 scan repeated the same results, including a slight splenomegaly (enlarged spleen) he was referred to the hematology department to follow up.

After a number of days and tests (see journal entry 'Diagnosis' for details) Denny’s doctor informed us that his PET scan and blood work initially indicated a case of CMML (Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and invades the blood).  Upon further testing the condition proved to be more advanced than anticipated and his ‘chronic’ condition (a long-developing syndrome) was in fact ‘acute’ (serious; crucial; critical).  She told us that Denny has AMML- Acute myelomonocytic leukemia (a cancer that typically develops in the bone marrow and blood of older individuals, it is a blood cancer that occur when the amount of white blood cells increases rapidly).

The treatment is a 28-day cycle, 7 days of IV/oral therapy followed by 21 days off.  During the 21 days off blood work will be performed twice a week in Rochester.  This treatment will have no end, there is no chance of remission.  There is no way to know how it will be tolerated or how effective it will be until the first cycle takes place.