A New Chapter

Steve McKinionUncategorized12 Comments

First, a quick update on Harrison’s treatment.

Today was a scheduled LONG day, requiring about 6-7 hours of chemo following a spinal tap for methaltrexate injection. The chemo itself takes only about 30 minutes but is preceded by 2 hours of hydration and followed by another 4 hours of fluids. The reason for the fluids is to be sure the chemo is flushed from Harrison’s bladder to prevent infection.

His blood counts this morning were very good:

Hemoglobin – 9.4 (normal is 11.5-15.5, but transfusion isn’t needed until less than 8)
Platelets – 1053 (norm is 150-450. Extremely high, but a sign his bone marrow is recovering)
ANC – 1900 (this is great for where he is right now. Had to be 750 to proceed with treatment today)

These numbers will CRASH over the next two weeks.

Harrison goes home accessed so Ginger and I can give him chemo at home the next three days. A nurse will de-access him at home on Friday. Same routine next week.

Previously I mentioned The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer . I read it in two days. This well-written and well-documented volume tells the story of the treatment of cancer over the past two thousand years or so. Central to the story is leukemia. I absolutely loved the book, and plan to read it again in the next week, skipping the chapters on solid tumor cancers.

How the book ends is fascinating, the author tells the story of Gleevec’s discover and use. He ends the chapter, and really the book, expressing hope that Gleevec will one day be used to treat leukemias other than what it was originally intended to treat.

Gleevec is the drug that has put Harrison into remission, and is central to his treatment.

The book needs another chapter, this one telling the story of how this “miracle drug” is killing Harrison’s otherwise untreatable cancer. Dr. Weston has said several times, repeating it this morning, that Harrison is on the cutting edge of cancer research and treatment. We are grateful for the researchers who have worked tirelessly to bring cancer treatment to its current state, and are praying that Harrison’s extremely unfortunate struggle will force the medical world forward in its pursuit of a cure.

After talking with Dr. Weston this morning, it appears that already such progress will be taking place. In the future, all children diagnosed with leukemia will perhaps be tested for this “Harrison translocation,” as they are currently tested for the “Philadelphia translocation”. More kids will perhaps avoid risky bone marrow transplants. Fewer kids will be subjected to higher doses of more powerful drugs with both short-term and long-term complications. There will be fewer funerals, we pray, and more adult survivors of childhood cancer because of an observant pathologist at UNC, a diligent doctor at UNC, and a courageous little boy who wants to grow up.

This story is long from over. There are still 37 months of treatments ahead. Remission may still turn out to be short-lived. But for now leukemia diagnosis and treatment will be radically improved because of Harrison’s struggle. Leukemia has written a new chapter in our lives, and Harrison has written a new chapter in The Emperor of all Maladies.

12 Comments on “A New Chapter”

  1. This is absolutely God at work at His finest! He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think! Praise Hus holy name!

  2. After reading your last post, I checked out The Emperor of All Maladies (once upon a time I wanted to go into the medical field). The book reads like a medical mystery! I cannot put it down. The advances in cancer research and the vigor with which the researchers sought a cure is astounding. I thank God for these men and women and their discoveries, and ultimately for the effect all of their work has had on Harrison. Thankful the research continues today.

  3. Amazing. I know say that a lot but it seems appropriate in that I’m otherwise speechless. Harrison’s struggles, the blogs your share that are insightful and heartfelt in a time that might push you to be something else and the faith and perserverance that you and Ginger have bring tears to my eyes as my heart leaps to behold God’s work in your lives. Thank you for sharing and I remain in prayer…

  4. That’s awesome news…very encouraging to others who are fighting. Still praying for a full recover for Harrison.

  5. Steve and Ginger,

    I would have been asking God how He could have given my child this disease… For you guys He has given you an answer! Heavenly Father allowed Harrison to be the pioneer for this drug to save others lives… How many people can honestly say they have been so selfless as to give OF themselves! You should be so proud of yourselves and of Harrison! Thanking God that He has chosen Harrison to be this type of pioneer!

  6. We rejoice in the courage and bravery you all exhibit! We know it is Christ in you who does the work. How exciting to have hope that your suffering will produce fruit and help for others.

  7. What an amazing story. It is enough that he has this disease, but to have one that is so rare, yet to be doing so well with the treatment after the initial scare with the stroke is awesome. For as hard as it hit your family, I am so impressed with the way you have just “fallen into place” and are living each God given day to the best of your potential. I am a fourth grade teacher and always develop a love for my kids. I would be blessed and privileged if I were to teach Harrison. I love baseball the way he does and hope that sometime he gets to go to the College World Series in Omaha. My parents live there and would be proud to have him (and the family) as visitors. When Harrison takes the field this Spring/Summer for baseball, I would consider it a privilege to watch. Please inform me WHEN this happens so that I can attend a game. Blessings, hugs, love, and prayers to you and your family and doctors Harrison.

    1. Dr. McKinion,

      My husband is one of your former students, and we’ve been following Harrison’s journey here and on facebook. Gleevec truly is a miracle for so many people. I have CML and take Tasigna, a second generation drug in the Gleevec family. There is a third generation drug under FDA review now. Gleevec changed everything for patients with CML; it’s hard to believe it’s only been around for a little over a decade. My husband read The Emperor of All Maladies after my diagnosis, and he read parts of it aloud to me; esp the part about the scientist who discovered the Philadelphia chromosome (the 9:22 translocation) by crawling around with a magnifying glass on an enlarged human DNA map on her dining room table. One of these days, I am going to read the book, too! We are praying for Harrison’s complete healing.


      Elizabeth Beatty

  8. That’s amazing!!! I am so glad that this treatment is working and you can already see some “greater good” from your struggle. Harrison’s story has profoundly impacted me and my family… My girls and I spend time in prayer for you all daily. Keep the faith!!!!!

  9. Upon your recommendation, I ordered and have already received “The Emperor of All Maladies.” I’m excited to have this insight, as I have a rare form of cancer and have had 10 surgeries in the last 4 years. My husband teaches at Shepherds Seminary where Randy also teaches. It’s through Randy & April that we learned of Harrison’s battle and your family’s journey through the maze of cancer treatments. We pray for Harrison every day. God bless all of you.

  10. I am so happy for Harrison’s progress. I shall continue to pray and light candles for his recovery and that God will help and strengthen his loving and devoted parents.

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