Friday, January 27, 2017

Curve Balls

I've heard that saying that life throws you curve balls every once in a while - oftentimes when something unwanted occurs and you have to stand strong to face it. We've just been pitched one of the shittiest curve balls...

On Monday this week Markus was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He is doing well, but as of Wednesday he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). As you can imagine, this is devastating news to us. We are taking it in stride, one moment at time, one day at a time. Our doctor has told us that APL is very treatable and treatment has an 80-85% success rate with treatment. Treatment is underway and he is being monitored very carefully along the way to ensure that things go well. I will explain more about his treatment down below. 

Background/how we got here: After reporting low energy and getting easily fatigued for a couple of weeks, Markus went to the doctor on Monday to see what was going on. We learned that his hemoglobin was low and it was suspected that he had internal bleeding - possibly due to an ulcer. He was sent to the hospital for admittance and for a blood transfusion. At the ER we learned that all of his blood counts were low - hemoglobin, white blood cells, and platelets - all severely low. When further tests showed that it wasn’t an internal bleed, they recommended a bone marrow biopsy. The biopsy was done on Tuesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon we had our diagnosis.

Treatment has started already. On Wednesday he was given a preliminary drug to prevent any side effects from the form of chemo treatment that he’ll begin on Thursday. It is a less invasive and least toxic form of chemo. It is called All-trans ketonic acid (ATRA). It’s a chemotherapy drug in pill form. Our doctor said that ATRA paired with arsenic trioxide (ATO), which is another chemo drug, has proven to be very successful in curing this disease.

Treatment will be administered in phases - induction phase, consolidation phase, and maintenance phase. Markus is currently in the induction phase. He will continue to to get fluids, platelets, and blood transfusions from time to time. Once he is stabilized, then he will enter the consolidation phase of treatment that will help to keep him stable and get him to the maintenance phase. The induction and consolidation phases can be as long as a few weeks (say a month or so) and then the maintenance phase can be a couple of years. 
From what we have heard from the doctors and nurses, although this is very rare, the few cases that they have seen have all had very successful outcomes. This is encouraging, and so we remain optimistic and will fight our hardest to beat this back. Markus is in good spirits and is very positive.

We welcome any help and support that you are willing/able to lend while we focus on Markus’ health. Our dear friend Clare Nieto has put together a care calendar for us. Let me know if you interested in helping out and I will share that calendar with you. Otherwise, Markus welcomes visits (send him (or me) a quick text to see if/when he is up for a visit), jokes, and moral support. He is at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in the East building in room E3065. You can also reach him by cell phone.

Please note that he is in the oncology wing now and there are a few restrictions for visitors. As of today (Friday), he has contracted influenza because of his compromised immune system. He is being treated for it. If you have not had the flu shot this year, it is recommended that you stay away. If you do get the flu shot, please wait until it is effective before you visit. If you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, please stay away until you are well (at least three days symptom-free). You are encouraged to wear a face mask and foam in and out when you enter and leave his room. No coats/jackets in his room - you’ll have to leave your coat in the hall. No plants, flowers, or balloons. No fruits.

Thank you all for your love, friendship, and support - every little bit of it helps us to stand strong.


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