Dear Friends and Family,
It has been far too long since we have provided a good update and for that we apologize. It has been such a long time of unknowns and not having solid answers ourselves making it difficult to know what to share.
For clarity, the purpose of this update is to inform you that Abrielle still has Leukemia and the prognosis is not good. The rest of this message will provide more details of how we got to this point and what is happening soon.
A brief history of last year: In February of 2017 Abrielle successfully completed the bulk of her chemo treatments in Dallas. At that point maintenance treatment began, the stage where we were supposed to get back to normal life. We chose to move to North Carolina to begin working at Missionary Air Group Headquarters. A couple months into our time in NC it was discovered that there was still Leukemia present.
With relapse the next course of action was a stem cell transplant providing Abrielle with a new immune system to fight the cancer. For a variety of reasons we chose to have the transplant at the National Institute of Health in Maryland. The transplant occurred on August 17th and recovery had been going well. One thing of note is that Abrielle did have active Leukemia at the time of transplant which is far from ideal.
Last week it was discovered that Abrielle still has Leukemia. It was hoped that transplant would prevent the cancer from returning but evidently the cancer was too aggressive and adaptable. Transplant was still the best course of action and has given Abrielle more time.
With the news of relapse we are left with two options for care. The first option is to again receive chemo and immunotherapy which will not cure Abrielle but it will prolong her life.
The second option is the only possibility of cure, apart from a miracle, and that is CAR T-cell therapy. CAR T is very similar to the stem cell transplant. Essentially they would harvest her immune cells and then genetically modify them to specifically attack the cancer. We are hoping that the CAR T treatment can happen but it does come with its own set of risks and it is by no means a guarantee for a long term cure. The biggest hurdle is that the treatment cannot happen until at least January of 2018.
The sad news is that Abrielle's disease is very aggressive and from the doctor's knowledge her life expectancy is only one month from right now. We are praying for a miracle that cancer is eradicated or held down to the point that she can make it to CAR T treatment but we are ready for whatever the Lord has for us.
With the possibility of only one month left to live we are transferring care back to Dallas to be near Abrielle's family. We arrive in Dallas on November 12. If everything works out we would return to NIH in January for the CAR T.
Obviously we are extremely sad by this news, but right now emotionally and spiritually we are ok. A lot of the time we just don't process the information so we can get things done and let people know. We aren't in denial though. Our hope and faith is not in doctors, medicine, or anything on this earth. Our hope is in Messiah and eternal life with our Creator. Regardless the outcome, we are so thankful for the time Abrielle and I have had together and we plan to have joy with whatever remaining time we have together.
Joel and Abrielle
Info about CAR T therapy for those interested:
Short Video about CAR T-cell therapy
Article about CAR T