Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California
LLS donor development friends:
Gail Sperling, Carson Jacobi, Sharon Ladin, and me
What an incredible past few weeks it has been!
I flew to a vineyard in northern California to talk to some pharma sales reps about oral cancer drugs. It was important for them to talk to a real live human who is alive because of the novel cancer treatments they are selling to medical doctors. They had lots of questions. I looked in the audience and saw such wonderful smiles. They filled my bucket, as my granddaughter says.
Then my husband Carl and I flew to Bethesda, Maryland for my medical testing and I met my new doctor. More about that in a minute.
Then we had out-of-town family/friends fly in from Santa Barbara and Houston to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday. Yes, you heard me right. They flew into Phoenix during our heat wave. I told them it was like flying into Toronto, Canada during a snow blizzard. They must love us a lot. LOL.
Then I gave a talk to the national Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) donor development staff at the Renaissance Hotel in Phoenix. My talk was about my diagnosis, how I got involved with LLS, how LLS helped me, and my message to donors. I threw in some of my stand-up comedy, which was unexpected to them. I got a standing ovation. I was deeply touched.
So getting back to my leukemia update:
I met Dr. Ahn Inhye again at NIH. She is now the doctor I will see when I go to NIH for testing. I met her originally at the beginning of my clinical trial journey. She is short like me and Asian and I could actually look her in the eye. LOL.
Two years ago (July 2014) medical tests indicated that I had 23% leukemic cells in my blood. One year later (July 2015) I had 3.8% leukemic cells in my blood. I was thrilled to know that this visit to the NIH I did not have to have a bone marrow biopsy, because the one I had July 2015 showed a normal bone marrow biopsy. I was hoping that my flow cytometry test would come back showing I had reached MRD (minimal residual disease) negative. MRD negative disease in CLL is not “no disease” but an incredibly low level that is below the detection cut-off of 0.01%.
The flow cytometry test results came back a week after I got back to Arizona indicating 3.2% leukemia B-cells in my blood. Good results, but not the kind of results that would have “knocked my socks off,” that I say to my students.
I wondered if anyone in the clinical study had reached MRD negativity. I found out there were two participants. The majority of participants did not reach MRD negativity, but continue to respond on low level of detectable disease. So this is my case. The doctor considers 3.2% a low burden of disease, and interprets this result as a very good response since I have been on IMBRUVICA (a.k.a. ibrutinib, PCI-32765) for four years now.
Happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and being grateful for what we do have.