Monday, December 14, 2009

Watch and Wait

David the nurse and David the patient give two thumbs up to the end of Dave's 2.5 years of treatment for B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. (He'll be monitored every 3 months until he needs treatment again.)

Well, we just crossed into new territory today. Dave is officially on "Watch and Wait", which is a term used by people with Leukemia, to describe the state where the progress of the disease is being monitored, but not treated. Treatment will resume when Dave starts having unacceptable symptoms or dangerous blood levels.

It goes without saying that it's been a difficult 2.5 years since he was first diagnosed. But it was harder than I expected it to be. Seriously - I thought, since I've been through this kind of thing before with other family members and friends, that I was not going to have any major problems handling what needed to be done, and I think that part is true - with the help of friends and family, I stayed on track and was able to hold things together. What I didn't expect was the emotional toll. For the first year we were in a constant state of fear, uncertainty, and outright panic. But I had to ignore that and keep on keepin' on. After Dave's condition stabilized, and the situation became more routine, I went into a major depression, which I also pretty much ignored and didn't even recognize until about 8 months ago when I started coming out of it. (Note to friends: if you didn't hear from me for a couple of years, that's why.)

Things are going great now and we're living for today, focusing on what's really important to us, in ways that we couldn't imagine before this all came down.

Dave asked me to post this message from him:

"Today, after two and a half years of infusions, transfusions, injections, and countless bottles of pills, I had my last infusion of Rituxan. Now I begin what I hope will be a long period of "watch and wait." I will be having blood drawn every three months, followed by a visit with the hematologist-oncologist.

Right now my numbers are great and they have been that way for over a year. The question is how long will they remain "great" without the Rituxan therapy? Based on my history and my good response to treatment, I expect to hold good numbers beyond the standard five year estimate. New treatments are coming up fast, so I also expect it will be easier to keep the CLL in check in the future."


Jonnihoo said...

Dear Anna and Dave,

So glad to hear the good news. I have kept you in my prayers. Hope you have a great holiday season. Take care, both of you.


Anonymous said...

Stuart and I are so grateful to be reading this. May 2010 be a healthy and happy year for both of you.

Barry B. said...

Congratulations to you. You are a lucky man. Rituximab doesn't always work so well in CLL patients.

As to your prediction about the next five years and beyond in terms of research into CLL, I'd be even more optimistic. Personally, I believe that with scores of clinical trials on-going in CLL, many if not most patients will either be cured or have a disease like diabetes, that can be controlled indefinitely.