Don Anton

First post: Jul 18, 2022 Latest post: Sep 24, 2023
Welcome to Don’s CaringBridge page. Updates on his leukemia journey will be posted here.

The back story:

Don had not been feeling well for weeks - fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, bloating. The good wife that Trish is, she was bugging him for a while to see a doctor & finally convinced him to go. 

On Friday, July 9 he was going to head to Convenient Care Plus at Carle (the Plus means it is adjacent to the ER due to the likely need of advanced diagnostics & such - typically where the Antons of Urbana go given their history.) It was a rainy Friday and on the way from work in Bloomington, IL Don's work vehicle hydroplaned off I-74 into a ditch. Luckily he didn't roll, but the car took some significant body damage. (So sorry, Legacy Solar friends!!!!)

After the tow truck & state trooper pulled him out of the ditch Don & Trish made their way to the Carle ER, skipping CCPlus. Don was clearly in shock from the accident. The car accident complicated the insurance & check in process slightly, but Trish was was successful in focusing the doctors & nurses' attention on Don's ongoing symptoms that were not due to covid-19. 

After several hours of blood work, scans and tests the ER doc let Don & Trish know that he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and needed to be transported ASAP to the University of Chicago Medical Center where there are doctors and treatments that specialize in leukemia in particular. In the middle of the night Don was transported by ambulance to Chicago and Riley & Trish drove up from Urbana and Ryan , who lives on the north side of Chicago now, met them at the hospital Saturday morning. 

The first 48 hours was filled with absolute shock. Although Don had kidney cancer 7 years ago & lost a kidney due to it, all were focused on his heart & lungs, as he also had open heart surgery that same year to repair a broken heart valve. But, life has a funny way of seeing how much one can adapt, especially the Urbana Antons when it comes to health. 

In the first few days of being up at UC Medical it was learned that there were at least 5 other individuals from Champaign County who had been referred in almost the same way as Don within the last few months. Don's medical team is well aware, but offered no explanations.  Covid-19 was brought up but they said that it could take decades of research to know if covid-19 infections altered patients' blood to know if there was a connection. They seem focus on treating the known, not the unknown. 

Immediately after the diagnosis friends & family both in Urbana-Champaign and nationwide had already come to organize & support.  Care for the dogs, Pete & Piglet, was arranged through the summer. Ryan received contributions from friends & family to help him Uber safely after work during the week from his office in the Chicago Loop to the south side, as he was advised by the nursing staff to not take the train as the station is located in an area known for high crime. The Antons/Bellers/Stells & friends from northern Illinois helped with the weekend hotel bills in the Hyde Park area of Chicago so Trish & Riley to be close to Don and a convenient place to rest when he needs to nap or have a procedure done. Grocery & meal delivery cards, coffee shop gift cards, and care packages arrived daily!

Don spent 6 weeks of the summer 2022 in Chicago. At the time of his first discharge he was considered in remission but would need at least 4-5 more cycles of chemotherapy to keep him there. He successfully returned to UC Medical in September for the next follow up round, but things went downhill from there.

Don spent the greater portions of September through December hospitalized locally at Carle for dangerous infections, thus delaying his chemo for months. This resulted in the cancer returning in full-force with no answers from the various options that chemo treatments would offer.

By winter time the UC staff was considering evaluating Don for a stem cell transplant. Although a long & complicated process, it is curative. Don’s younger sister, Amy, tested as a 100% match. Things were looking up and plans were being made to relocate to Chicago for the long (minimally 3 months post-transplant) treatment starting in February.

During a routine appointment day at UC Med in January, however, it was discovered that the at-home, oral “maintenance” chemo that Don was taking at the time wasn’t working at all & his cancer was back to the same levels as the start of all of this.

He was hospitalized 2 more times at UC in the spring for chemo & finally achieved remission to a point where Northwestern Medicine in Chicago was going to accept his case for transplant, but the last dose of chemo at UC attacked his body & immune system so badly he ended up in the ER at Carle with a brush with death due to sepsis in early May.

Within 1 week’s time we went from preparing family & friends for what could be the final goodbye to him once again rebounding and being pu on a fast track for transplant! The northwestern team wanted to move fast knowing his body couldn’t take another round of chemo so he was admitted by the end of the month to start the process.

On June 7 Don had his stem cell “re-birthday” thanks to his sister’s life-giving donation. He’s now working on his body accepting those cells & his new immune system this summer as a patient at Northwestern.

Our team of cheerleaders near & far have also been a key part of all of us surviving this. Don, Trish, Ryan, & Riley are eternally grateful for all the support. This would be a million times harder without the love & help of everyone near & far.