Yesterday, I met with Dr. Lipton at PMH to discuss my situation and next steps. I didn’t recall hearing any of the doctors use the word “relapse” so I asked him point blank, “Is this a relapse, and if so, how bad is it?” He said let’s not use the word “relapse”, at least not yet. He acknowledged that “something” was definitely happening inside my body, but that more time is required for my BODY to work things out. Great, my body can’t even figure out what it wants to do…
The mechanics of what is happening inside my body right now is complex and I don’t want to get bogged down with all the scientific terminology and stuff, so I’m going to try to explain it in layman’s terms as much as possible.
As you already know, my latest PCR test results indicated that there were still CML (cancerous) cells in my body. This means that the chemo/radiation and transplant, in and of themselves, did NOT kill all of the CML cells. So, yes, this means that I STILL have cancer.
However, according to recent bloodwork, and how I presented in clinic over the past several weeks (i.e., having to do with my GVHD of the skin), there is reason to believe that I am currently having a GVHD flare. Commonly associated with a GVHD flare is something called the graft vs. leukemia effect or “GVL”, where the donor stem cells are trying to kill off any remaining CML cells in my body. So, right now, the recommendation of Dr. Lipton is to let the GVHD and the GVL effect run its course naturally as much as possible, without any medical intervention. Hopefully, by doing this, the GVL effect will be successful in killing off all of the remaining CML cells, or at least most of it. I understand that the GVL effect can be very powerful in doing this, even better than any medication or treatment.
Of course, no one knows how this battle inside my body will turn out. There’s nothing I can do right now but to root for my donor cells to FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT those bugger CML cells! Please pray that my donor cells will win this fight!
Blood was drawn for another PCR test yesterday. The results of this test will hopefully give us a clearer indication of whether the GVL effect was successful in killing the remaining CML cells. The test results are expected in a week or two. The waiting is killing me, but there’s nothing I can do. At least for now, there is still hope that I might still win.