On a Friday in late November 2017 Terri went to her doctor's office for what seemed like vague, but persistent symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
At the office her white blood cell counts were higher than normal . Terri was a transferred to Mass General in Boston to confirm her suspected diagnosis of leukemia. After a few days and many tests, Terri's diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) was confirmed.
Leukemia is an overproduction of immature white blood cells. These white blood cells are in extremely high numbers, but are not mature and cannot fight even small infections. With such a large amount of white blood cells circulating, it does not allow for a lot of red blood cells that carry oxygen or platelets to clot the blood to do their job. That would explain Terri's symptoms of fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath.
She has a wonderful and organized oncology team at MGH including Dr. Hoch and Dr. Fathi that have outlined a very detailed plan of testing, steroids, IV and pill chemotherapy as well as leukemia surveillance for at least the next month. She will stay in the hospital for at least that time so she can recover and be monitored.
Once further testing is completed and her chemotherapy is underway she will have a better idea how she is responding to treatment and what the next steps will be.
Terri has been encouraged to take each day at a time during this induction stage. She has been told that if all goes well this could be two years of treatments to go into full remission.
Due to the leukemia and now subsequent chemotherapy, Terri has a condition called neutropenia. She has so few infection fighting cells that she is at significant risk for infections that would not normally affect one with a healthy immune system. It is imperative that Terri get rest and minimize visitors in the hospital as much as possible to reduce her chance of acquiring an infection.
Terri is so incredibly grateful for the all the love, support, phone calls, text messages and cards.
During this initial time, probably the next month that the oncology team calls induction therapy, Terri is going to focus on staying healthy. She is having a hard time keeping up with all the messages. She feels she cannot text, call, and email back as often as she would like. It has taken a lot of energy to re-tell the same medical information over and over again.
Here is where Caring Bridge comes in......Please come here for updates in Terri's condition, treatments and to send messages of love and support!
We all want to help support Terri during this difficult time. There will be many opportunities for help with meals, household chores, rides and well deserved distraction dates with friends and family when this first phase is completed.