I'm writing this to keep the friends and family of my mom, Vonda Singer, updated in regards to her medical journey. About a month ago mom was hospitalized with kidney issues and it was discovered that her white blood cell count was very low. After they got her kidney function straightened out, the doctors recommended she go for a bone marrow biopsy to see why her count was low. Before she could make that appointment, she was hospitalized again - this time it was shortness of breath and chest pain. After several more rounds of testing, they determined that her heart was fine but discovered that her hemoglobin levels were dropping dangerously low as well. The doctor ordered a blood transfusion and then the bone marrow biopsy to be done ASAP. A few days of waiting went by and mom had some answers, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
AML is a rare form of cancer, accounting for about 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year. For this next part, I'll just copy/paste so I'm not paraphrasing:
“(AML) is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells that build up in the bone marrow and blood and interfere with normal blood cells. Symptoms may include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Occasionally spread may occur to the brain, skin, or gums. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.”
The normal course of treatment for AML is an intensive round of chemotherapy where the patient is given strong chemo for 5-7 days and then hospitalized for 4-6 weeks while the bone marrow attempts to regrow healthy. Because chemo wipes out the white blood cells (the body's infection-fighting soldiers), it is very important the patient not be exposed to anything in this timeframe. If remission is achieved, a couple more courses of chemo are administered. The medical team at the IU Simon Center downtown did not feel that mom is strong enough to undergo this treatment. They felt that if she made it through the chemo cycle, she would have other organ failure that would make the treatment not worth the risk. In cases such as this (if the patient is too old or not healthy enough for this line of treatment) an outpatient regimen that is 10 days straight of a lighter chemo is recommended. This is an ongoing treatment to be administered 10 days of each month, indefinitely. This treatment usually has fewer side effects, however is less effective at reaching remission. Something to note (that isn't pleasant) here, the doctor told us that for mom, this is an "incurable" disease...regardless of if she reaches remission, AML will return. It might be a couple months or a year, but it will return - and when it does, it will be more aggressive and likely, remission won't be achievable. Also, the doctor told us that stem cell transplant and bone marrow transplant are not options for mom.
Mom chose the outpatient option. However, when she called to schedule her sessions, she was told an option three had been scheduled for her. I called to confirm and ask questions, and was told the same. So, starting tomorrow, mom will be receiving a chemotherapy shot 7 days in a row, on a 28-day cycle. We're told the remission rate is the same as the outpatient treatment, but the side-effects are less. Hopefully, this will keep mom feeling well for as long as possible. I believe the name of the drug is Vidaza, but we'll know more tomorrow.
Please keep mom in your thoughts and prayers as she goes through this journey. Our goal is to keep her feeling well as long as possible and show her love. We will keep you updated as we learn more.
With Love, Kimberly (daughter), Steve (son) and spouses and children