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.