For those of you who are not familiar with the initial chapter of Don's story, it began with total knee replacement on 3/31/2015. While the knee surgery went extremely well, a routine blood draw the day after surgery was a different story. Red and white blood cells and platelet counts were all alarmingly low so Dr.Gregory Crane, a KU Cancer Center hematologist/oncologist, came to see Don and suggested he schedule a follow up visit in a few weeks. The appointment with Dr. Crane on 4/20 showed the counts had markedly improved, but were still slightly outside of the normal window so he recommended a 90-day follow up visit. On 7/17 the counts had fallen dramatically again, so much so that Dr. Crane ordered a bone marrow biopsy the following week. On 7/27 we got the results of the biopsy which confirmed that Don had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer of blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. Abnormal immature white blood cells (blasts) fill the bone marrow and affect production of normal cells. The biopsy indicated that 63% of Don's white blood cells had blasts.
Dr. Crane recommended that Don start standard chemotherapy treatment the following week which provided little more than a brief extension and dismal quality of life. At that point, we started questioning the availability of more progressive therapies (possibly bone marrow transplant or stem cells) and were told that, at Don's age, the treatment could be worse than the cure. The only other option was a clinical trial which combined low dose chemo with the possible inclusion of a research drug. That option seemed to offer a more optimistic approach and greater hope that we could move the dial on the longevity and quality of life meter. Less than 24 hours after we met with Dr. Crane to tell him we were going to proceed with clinical trial instead of his chemo regimen, Don's temp spiked and he ended up in KU ER, followed by admittance to the hospital on 8/4. After several days and scores of tests, it was determined that he had Aspergillosis (fungal pneumonia). Brief translation: Aspergillus spores are everywhere in the environment and most humans inhale thousands of them daily without negative impact. However, acute invasive aspergillosis occurs when the immune system fails to prevent the spores from entering the bloodstream via the lungs.
The rest of the story plays out in the periodic journal updates.