Every leukemia patient deserves a fight. The words of one of the doctors struck me as many would consider having leukemia as a death sentence. I understand with the disease process and the treatments to undergo, it will not be an easy path and the medical costs are high and sadly quite a number succumb to the disease. Last July 1, 2017, Drew and were happily married. We were in a relationship for 6 years but we didn't rush things as he was supporting his parents financially and on my end I was helping out with the dialysis of my father. When things were setting and we felt that we were prepared already, that's when we exchanged our vows.
However just two months after our wedding, Drew was going about his shift as a nurse in the hospital when he felt tired and somewhat out of breath. Something was off and his workmates said he didn't look good. I was still to get off from work and he messaged me that his blood count was taken and it didn't look good. I asked him to send over the details and when I saw that the hemoglobin was dangerously low and the lymphocytes were abnormally high, I felt the dread come over me. Even if we're both in health care, seeing abnormal labs of your loved ones makes one worried sick. We did a repeat blood count and peripheral blood smear that night and the troubling results remained the same. Abnormal lymphocytes were seen and these don’t fight infections very well and crowd out healthy blood cells. He had to be admitted for blood transfusion and further work up. It was difficult to wrap our heads around the imminent diagnosis of leukemia since Drew isn't into vices and is into sports although cancer is both present in both paternal and maternal sides. When we were dating, we used to run together and I would support him in his badminton and basketball games. In about a week's time, the labs and clinical findings ruled in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He had 86% of his bone marrow invaded with leukemic cells. He was advised to undergo chemo right after as ALL is an aggressive cancer in adults. The first round of standard chemo didn't achieve remission (lowering of leukemic cells to 5% or below) as it only dropped to 25%. We tried another round of standard chemo with different set of medications and when the bone marrow aspirate results came back, it went up instead to 34%. After two sets of standard chemo not achieving remission, our doctor advised already for high dose chemo regimen as the next step. Right after his 31st birthday on January 4, we started with the first cycle of what they called hyperCVAD regimen. The dosage of the chemo meds are higher and would now require the patient to be admitted in the hospital for monitoring and resolution of side effects. This was different with the standard chemo wherein he could go home after sessions. We were in and out of the hospital not just with the chemo but due to admissions from infections and fever that come with extremely low white blood counts. With chemo, the bone marrow is wiped out in the hopes that the cancerous bone marrow cells are killed and only the healthy cells grow back. But during that period when everything is erased, the patient is in a very delicate situation and blood counts go very low. In the course of the months we have transfused many bags of packed red blood cells and platelet apheresis. We also had numerous injections of Filgrastim which helps the neutrophils (a kind of white blood cell that fights off infection) grow back. Currently we just finished the fourth set of high dose chemo and we are awaiting the schedule for another bone marrow aspirate. This sample of bone marrow would say if he achieved remission or not. We are hoping for him to achieve remission and plan out the bone marrow transplant. Our doctors have recommended him to go through the transplant after the series of chemo sessions as this will be his best chance of being cancer-free. It hopes to replace the unhealthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) with healthy ones.
In the months that passed, we have tried to make both ends meet to cover for the medical costs from the labs, medications, diagnostics, blood transfusions and admissions. We have lined up for government assistance and these have helped but there is still a lot of costs that are not covered. We are grateful for the family and friends along the way who pitched in their help as we would not be at this phase of the treatment without them. As we are trying to continue on with the cycles of his high dose chemo in preparation for his bone marrow transplant and eventually having him undergo the said procedure, we are humbly asking for your assistance in making this possible. We are currently residing in Cebu City and unfortunately the bone marrow transplant is not yet available here so we would have to go to Manila to have it done. The quotation for the procedure is at 2.2 million and that doesn't cover yet the bone marrow donor work up. Drew is an only child so if he doesn't have related bone marrow donors, he would have to get it from a bone marrow bank to find a good match, which would be more expensive (getting it from Taiwan is pegged at 400,000 at least). Timing is essential as when he is remission that is the best time to do the transplant. These figures are huge and we are overwhelmed if we are able to meet these and be able to provide the treatment Drew needs. In light of this, we appreciate any help and hopefully we are able to give him the best chance to live.