It feels so strange to be writing this, but last Friday Marshall was diagnosed with Leukemia – what we now know is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He had not been feeling well the past few weeks and went to see his doctor on Friday. By the time he arrived home the doctor had called and asked him to go immediately to a nearby Emergency Room. He was taken to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
During the weekend he was given both platelet and blood transfusions, as well as some medications to monitor his vitals. In particular, the large number of white blood cells were crowding out the red blood cells, which carry oxygen to his heart, brain, etc. In addition, he had a very low platelet count.
Monday there were two major developments critical to beginning his treatment. He had a bone marrow biopsy in the morning. During this procedure they drew marrow from his bone from his hip. They take many samples and hope to get bone chips in first draw and get some bone in the second to test for the particulars of his leukemia.
In the afternoon he had a PICC line put in where his medications, blood draws, chemo will be administered. He is ready for his treatment regimen.
Now for the treatment options. There is a critical piece to this that will inform what next and he will find this out today. If he has what is called the Philadelphia Chromosome (PC from now on - and no relation to the fact that he grew up there:) then he does a month of medication to get him into remission and will have to have a bone marrow transplant. If he does not have the PC then he will undergo a cocktail of chemo with the initial goal of getting him into remission. It sounds like they hope to do that in a month of treatment. It is possible he could be in for several more months of chemo (6-8) and then up to a year and half after that, but as an outpatient. This is the possible chemo route with no transplant, but it may be that a transplant is the recommendation after some time doing chemo. Simply put, there are several options and it is too early to script. What his doctor said (who is just terrific) "my goal is to cure you." The biggest risk right now, and going forward with treatment, is infection - and that is the main reason he has to stay in the hospital. While they kill the bad cells they kill the good ones too.
Marshall is in great hands – he has a team of doctors and nurses that run an impressive, thorough, careful and sensitive operation in his “Pod” of the hospital. He has enormous amounts of love and support and he will make it through this!
- Johanna Neilson Boynton (Marshall's sister in Concord, MA)