I'm sorry to hear you lost your mother to leukemia. Leukemia is treatable and there is much better success today in treating it than ever before. I'm proud to say my son is a survivor of secondary AML leukemia. There are different types and subtypes of leukemia that are all treated differently. I know more about the acute leukemias so I can tell you more specifically about them.
Acute leukemia is treated as a medical emergency as every hour counts. Treatment will begin within 48 hours of diagnosis for the best chances at survival. My son was diagnosed last December and he began treatment almost immediately. Cancer in general is tricky, it may come back at any time but it can be put into remission. At the 5 year mark post-treatment, it is generally accepted as a "cure" although it still may come back. My son was put into remission after his third remission induction cycle of chemotherapy and he was given a complete remission status on his third birthday (October 3rd) this year. If he keeps his NED status until 5 years from now he'll be considered cured.
His treatment consisted of two steps, although it may be 3 if it is ALL. First, he had remission induction chemotherapy, then he had consolidation chemotherapy after he reached remission. Remission induction chemotherapy (often called induction chemo) typically lasts 5-7 days and is usually on a 21 or 28 day rotation. It is 5-7 days of an intense round of chemotherapy in order to try to put the leukemia into remission - meaning that it appears that there is no disease left in the CBC after the round. My son had a secondary AML leukemia that was most likely caused by the chemo he received as an infant for a Wilms' Tumour, nephroblastoma. His induction chemo failed twice but thankfully the third time he was put into remission.
After this, he was put on a 28 day schedule (some may have 21 days depending on the drugs they receive) but the next set of chemo is what is called consolidation chemo. It is either fewer drugs, weaker drugs, or both. The purpose of this is to "clean up" the remains of cancerous cells left in the body after induction chemo. Most people will probably have 3-7 rounds of this.
For ALL (not AML) the patient will also receive maintenance chemotherapy after the consolidation chemo. From my understanding, since we didn't go through this for E, this is typically done outpatient and goes on for up to 2 years but it is done for as long as the patient can tolerate it. It does, as the name suggests, maintains the remission and keeps the cell cycle in check.
All through the treatment E deals with feeling nauseous (he takes Zofran to battle the nausea and vomiting), and he has a lot of bone pain due to the chemo drugs attacking the cancerous bone marrow (motrin helps E when he isn't receiving heavy pain killers such as hydrocodone), and he's often tired. He gets worn out much easier than he does normally. He receives steroids which will rev him up, make him hungry and feel sick at the same time, and even make him feel like his heart is about to jump out of his chest. He has lost his hair due to the chemo but it doesn't seem to bother him much. He's 3 years old but he knows there's something missing from his head and whenever he has stickers he'll stick them all over his head to be funny or he'll draw all over it with a marker. He spends a lot of time in the hospital so we try to have things for him to do like watching movies and colouring books, big legos, and things that are fun for him to pass time with.
It's important to remember that a leukemia diagnosis is absolutely not a death sentence. It's treatable but you have to keep in mind that it does take lives. I know many children and adults that have gone on to live completely normal lives after getting their No Evidence of Disease (NED) status. Sometimes a patient does relapse but it is absolutely possible that a patient can reach remission and eventually NED status.
I hope this answers your question. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send me an IM (crazycanuckj).
My 3 year old son is a warrior who beat a Stage I FH Wilms' Tumour and Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and is still fighting hard against a Stage III Hepatoblastoma.
· 10 years ago