Jerome Ison Team Jerome

First post: Mar 15, 2023 Latest post: Aug 30, 2023
Jerome’s cancer journey started at his yearly physical in May 2022 where he had routine blood work done that found an abnormally high white blood cell (WBC) count. A normal WBC ranges from 4,000-11,000 and Jerome’s was 380,000. His doctor ordered an urgent bone marrow biopsy which confirmed our worst fear, CANCER. Jerome was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in the Chronic Phase on May 27 at the age of 32. 

Jerome met with several oncologists that detailed his prognosis. The news was thankfully optimistic. They explained that Jerome could be treated with oral chemotherapy with potentially minimal to no side effects for the rest of his life. More so, as Jerome was young and healthy, the doctors proposed a more aggressive treatment plan with the goal to be cancer free and off treatment in 2-3 years. With this promising plan, Jerome started his oral chemotherapy regimen in July 2022. He tolerated treatment with few side effects, so much so that you couldn’t tell that Jerome had a serious illness. He continued working and excitedly planning for his wedding to his fiance, Jennifer. We all had high hopes that he would eventually be cancer free soon.

However, those good days were soon followed by some bad ones. In September 2022, after 3 months of treatment, he had his first cancer marker test (BCR-ABLE) to see if the cancer was going away. Unfortunately, the test revealed a poor response to the treatment. A good response is under 10%, but Jerome’s cancer marker was greater than 50%. To make matters more complicated, his blood platelets dropped so low it was unsafe to continue his treatment. He encountered more side effects, felt tired, and bruised everywhere because of the low platelets. He needed weekly platelet transfusions to prevent bleeding out. He was off treatment for a month, meaning more time for the cancer to grow.

To better fight his disease, he switched to a new treatment and continued weekly platelet transfusions, but his platelets continued to stay extremely low. His doctors were confused as to why his platelets wouldn’t improve. If the cancer treatment was working, the platelets would trend upwards, instead they continued dropping. After multiple discussions with his oncologist at Kaiser and the UC Davis tumor board, it was agreed that Jerome’s cancer had worsened and he was now in the Accelerated Phase of CML. His cancer was showing resistance to treatment and his best chance for a cure was a stem cell transplant. This was devastating news as the doctors had hoped to avoid a transplant as it is extremely challenging on the patient, requiring hospitalization, harsh chemotherapy, and year long isolation.

In November 2022, Jerome met with the Stanford Bone Marrow Transplant team who confirmed he would need a stem cell transplant. Jerome would require stem cells from a healthy donor. The process to find a donor would take 2-3 months. The best match would be a sibling, but we learned that his only brother, Jeff, was not a match. The search then expanded to the national donor registry for an unrelated donor. Jerome continued to take his new oral chemotherapy medication and get platelet and blood transfusions as he waited for the transplant. In December 2022, Jerome took an early BCR-ABLE test that showed the cancer had actually decreased to 11.1%. This was amazing news as it meant he might be able to stay on current treatment and avoid the transplant!

But once again, bad news would follow shortly. On January 12, 2023, Jerome took his 3 month cancer marker test, and his BCR-ABLE marker had increased to 16%. He took the test again on January 30, 2023, and it had doubled to 32%. It was evident that a transplant was desperately needed. Finally, after almost 3 months of waiting, a match was identified. He is now ready for the stem cell transplant.

Jerome will be admitted to Stanford Hospital on March 15, 2023. He will receive 5 days of intense chemotherapy (Busulfan and Fludarabine) which will seek to kill all the cancerous cells in his body, but will also kill healthy cells as well. On March 22, 2023, he will get a stem cell transplant, followed by an approximate 21 day stay in hospital where he will be under the watchful eyes of the specially trained BMT nurses. Once his blood cell counts have recovered to acceptable levels, he will be discharged to his home, where he will continue to require 24/7 care and complete isolation because of his weak immune system. He'll need frequent doctor appointments for at least 3 months, including at least 3 times a week for the first month, and will continue to take immunosuppressant medication for at least a year to try and mitigate the risk of graft vs. host disease (GVHD). During this time, any infection, like a cold or stomach bug, could put him in the hospital.

Possibly the hardest part of Jerome’s cancer journey will begin this month. Jerome will be unable to work for at least 3 months and will not be permitted to physically return to work for at least a year. Jennifer will be taking at least 3 months off to care for him post-procedure and Jerome's mom will be moving in with them to help with the strict cleaning and cooking requirements.  

We made this website because we know many of you are interested in following Jerome's journey and/or have asked how you can help. By subscribing to this website, you should receive updates every time we post a new blog with updates on Jerome's condition. For those looking to be actively involved in Jerome's recovery, visit our "Ways to Help" tab which links to our "Planner" and our "GoFundMe." 

Thank you for your love and support thus far and we'll see you soon. 

P.S. CaringBridge will run ads across our pages asking you to donate money to "Help Jerome Stay Connected to Family and Friends." While you are welcome to donate to CaringBridge directly if you want, PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE DONATIONS DO NOT GO TO JEROME AND JENNIFER. If you'd like to financially support them during this time, please use the GoFundMe under the "Ways to Help" tab or find them on Zelle/Venmo using their cell numbers.