Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blood Harvest

This past year Jessica, Sue and a bunch of the ladies they associate with have been reading the Twilight vampire book series. Jessica organized a Twilight party which was well attended. The attraction women have for these blood-loving characters escapes me.

Tuesday June 14 Sue had an appointment with a blood-loving character of a different kind. Dr. Jeffrey Wolf of the UCSF Medical Center is a specialist in blood and bone marrow cancers and has particular expertise in treating the cancer Sue has, multiple myeloma.

Dr. Wolf says the chemotherapy treatments Sue has received to date have been targeted to get Sue's myeloma cells down to 10% of what they were in April. If her numbers are good enough he wants to hook Sue up to a dialysis machine at the UCSF Medical School hospital in early August and "harvest" some of her good blood stem cells from her and freeze them for future use.

Then, in late August Dr. Wolf wants to re-hospitalize Sue at the UCSF Medical School hospital and, here's where the fun begins, they intend to start her on super toxic chemotherapy until they kill all or almost all of the remaining cancer cells (apparently the chemotherapy treatments she's been receiving to date are mere child's play compared to what they intend to administer). The problem is that this procedure will not only kill all the remaining cancer cells, it will practically kill Sue as well. It will kill all her bone marrow, completely wipe out her immune system, cause all her hair to fall out, and possibly cause myriad complications with her internal organs etc. etc. When this near killing is over (the odds of dying from this procedure are actually quite low) they intend to reintroduce her good stem cells back into her blood stream, which will start the process of her healing.

The second hospital stay will last for 3 to 4 weeks. The recovery period is 3 to 6 months. Dr. Wolf predicted Sue will be back in the classroom by January of 2010.

While he wears a lot of wool sweater vests, it does not seem like this doctor is just some Wolf in sheeps' clothing who's just out to hit up the insurance company and us for a hundred grand. To the contrary, Dr. Wolf claims, and the current literature seems to support (some of the most current literature on the subject is written by Dr. Wolf), that stem cell transplant is the current state of the (still experimental and evolving) art/science in treating mutiple myeloma. He's been performing bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants -- several thousand to date, for quite a few years

Dr. Wolf is encouraging but makes no guarantees. This is a little like playing Texas Hold 'Em poker, and it looks like Sue's about to go "all in." It bothers me a little that Dr. Wolf has some dark shadows under his eyes. Somewhere in the back of my mind I keep hearing strains of Quenten's Theme.


  1. thanks for the update, George. we have been praying for you. sounds like quite the process but i'm glad the doctor sounds hopeful. james bergen

  2. Hello stranger. I only know you as my Uncle's friend or my Aunt's friend's husband and the author of this blog. I have commented before and regularly check all three of your family's blogs. I hope you don't mind. Not sure if I introduced myself. I am Becky Luedtke.

    My family stands at the end of the road you are about to travel. It was a difficult, exhausting, gut renching, amazing, and for us a miraculous journey. Reading your entry brings back many memories. On this road called "stem cell transplant" pray, accept help and support (which seems to surround you), laugh, cry, question, accept, and endure day by day or moment by moment. We are grateful for that long ago road, glad it is over, and do not wish to travel it again. It is not easy watching a dear loved one be extremely ill. I pray for you very, very hard!!! Life is more than precious and every day is truly a gift of God!