Since receiving news of Emily’s Minimum Residual Disease at the end of the normal one-month Induction phase, we have been praying for good news on her remission. That news finally came yesterday when Emily met with her oncologist at the U.C. Davis Medical Center.
The results of last week’s biopsy have actually not been completed, yet Dr. Ducore says he has enough information to move Emily forward to the next phase of treatment, the Consolidation Phase. In fact, he explained that Emily was, by definition, in remission three weeks ago (remission being defined as having Leukemia cells below 5%). However, her counts were higher than average, which is what prompted the doctor to schedule an additional two-weeks of Induction chemotherapy. It is better to pile on extra drugs in the early stages of Emily’s treatment, then to wait till the end and find out not enough was done.
We’re beginning to understand that treatment decisions aren’t always easily explained or understandable. Dr. Ducore has been a pediatric oncologist for over thirty years. He is a lead researcher in the area of children’s cancer and was named a U.S. News top doctor in 2011-2012. No matter how much reading and research the family does at home, in the end, we trust Dr. Ducore to make the best decisions for Emily’s health.
The decision he is making now is to place Emily on a high-risk treatment plan. “High-risk” raises a lot of concerns for us but Dr. Ducore has assured us Emily’s overall chances have not changed much. She is still looking at a 76% permanent cure rate. The main difference between a high-risk plan and standard or low-risk, is that it pushes a little harder to ensure the best results. Again, it is better to push now, in these early stages, to make sure that Emily has the best chance for a long and healthy life.
Today marks the beginning of Emily’s Consolidation Phase, the goal of which is to eradicate the Leukemia in her spinal fluid. The first four weeks will include doses of intrathecal chemotherapy by way of spinal taps, as well as up to five days of chemotherapy medications. This week alone, she will spend four days visiting the hospital infusion room. She will then begin receiving a daily oral drug administered at home.
Next will begin Emily’s Interim Maintenance Phase, a period in which she will need to be regularly hospitalized to receive high-dose Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that causes severe side-effects and will require an antidote, or “rescue”, to make it less toxic to Emily’s body. This drug is still a few months off, but it is already looming rather frighteningly on the horizon.
This new phase is supposed to be a “lightened up” period, but already the family’s calendar is getting filled with trips to the hospital and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. One baseball schedule has been eliminated after Adam fractured his right arm this weekend jumping off a ladder, but the Interim Maintenance Phase and its 3-4 day hospital stays will be coming right as the family’s homeschool charter program is to start up again.
Emily and her family will continue to need the support and prayers of her family and friends in the weeks ahead. The new drugs will bring increased side-effects, lower blood counts, and greater worry. Just below is a message Christina put on facebook asking for continued prayers:
Today is the beginning of an intense few months of treatment for Emily, and I’m realizing this morning how much she will need to endure to make it through. Please pray for strength in her little body and for fight in her spirit. And please keep her siblings in your prayers too, as they will be affected deeply with her and I at the hospital so much and her feeling so sick. ~Christina Love
We are thankful that Emily’s treatment is moving forward, but now more than ever, need to stay strong, be supported, and have faith in God’s healing power over Emily’s body and all of our hearts.
Below is a short video of Emily being entertained at the hospital yesterday with a stuffed pig she was given by the hospital staff: