I haven’t posted an update on Luke in a while mostly because my life has been so chaotic trying to get up here to Winnipeg, but also because I wanted to have as much information as possible.
Luke went through two rounds of the Blimatumomab immunotherapy, to try to decrease the amount of leukemic cells in his body prior to going into transplant. This drug worked by having his own immune system attack the leukemic cells. This was an experimental option as this medication is not normally used in patients with so few leukemia cells. Normally it is used in patients who relapse or don’t reach remission with the induction phase of chemo. Luke had achieved remission, but he still had a small amount of cancer cells remaining, but the doctors wanted to try it in order to improve long term outcomes after the transplant. When Luke was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday to begin the process for the transplant, the doctors told us that Luke still has some of those leukemic cells left in his body, meaning that the blimatumomab didn’t help, or didn’t help much. While this was a disappointment for all of us, we knew it was a possibility since this was something not usually done.
Next step, the transplant!
On Monday, Luke had a central line put in. This is a catheter that runs into a larger vein in his chest. Having this in place will make giving chemotherapy and the stem cells much easier. This process took a while as he needed a catheter with three ports on the end and it had to be sent over from another hospital because his hospital had somehow run out. Once we got the port it was successfully placed and everything went smoothly.
Luke was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday to begin the process of getting a stem cell transplant. Yesterday (Wednesday) he started the chemotherapy that will kill off all of his own stem cells in preparation for receiving his brothers stem cells. This is a high intensity chemotherapy regimen that is expected to drop all of his blood counts prior to the transplant. This will leave him with no immune system. He has a rest day on Saturday and then on Monday he has two sessions of radiation prior to the transplant that afternoon/evening. The lack of immune system means we have to take many precautions to avoid spreading infections during this time and even after the transplant as it will take some time for his blood counts to recover.
Prior to this Luke had been feeling really good. Unfortunately, he slept on his shoulder funny in his sleep Friday night and has had a considerable amount of shoulder pain. So much so that it makes simple tasks more difficult. Luckily it seems that this is most likely just a muscular pain as the x-ray showed nothing to be wrong and it isn’t bone pain caused by the leukemia. Hopefully he will be able to heal in the next few days.
Ben’s miraculous stem cells!
As an update on this front as well, Ben (Luke’s brother) will be donating his stem cells for Luke. This makes him a hero in my book. Over the next four days Ben will get a shot of Neupogen daily to help increase the production of his own stem cells. This is a relatively easy process but may cause some bone pain along the way. Then on Monday he will go in and donate his stem cells by having his blood filtered so that only the stem cells are given. This allows the stem cells to be fresh when they are given to Luke later in the day. I cannot thank Ben enough for doing this for his brother.
I will do my best to keep everyone updated. I am so proud of how hard Luke has been fighting and how positive he is. I am also so thankful for all the support we have. We couldn’t get through this without everyone who has been helping us along the way.