Julie was diagnosed with CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) in November 2011. CLL is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow and progresses slowly. She had not required any treatment other than iron infusions. Julie's CLL has now transformed into an aggressive form of lymphoma - diffuse large B-cell lymphoma - which occurs in the majority of these cases. This process (when CLL transforms into something else) is called Richter's transformation. Richter's transformation is uncommon as it is observed in around 10% of patients with CLL. Her CLL has also begun to act aggressively.
The oncologist we met with on Friday, Dr. Tim Larson, believes the transformation process began about a year ago. Julie was experiencing pain in different parts of her body for well over a year. Often, the lymphoma is centralized in a certain area. However, in Julie's case it is throughout her body. This information comes after the many tests and biopsies she's had done over the past week beginning in New Ulm on August 31st and continuing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital as of Friday, September 1st.
The plan going forward is as follows. She will receive 6 cycles of chemotherapy treatments. They are intended to take place every 3 weeks. Each cycle should take around 5 or 6 days depending on how her body responds. The medications she is receiving include - Rituximab (her very first one), a combination of Doxorubicin, Vincristine, Etoposide, followed by Cyclophosphamide. She needs to remain in the hospital for each of the treatment cycles. The hope is she will be well enough to return home in between treatments.
A PET scan will be performed possibly after the second treatment cycle to evaluate whether the chemotherapy is doing its job. At some point she will also meet with the University of Minnesota transplant team to determine if she's a candidate for a stem cell transplant.
We will continue to update as new information becomes available. We all appreciate the care and concern you have shown Julie, Mike, Megan, Jocy, Ellie, and Milo as well as the rest of her family and friends as well as the many prayers. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.