Many people in Lynn Valley and beyond were moved to empathy and action by the plight of local mom Erica Harris, who has spent the summer battling an aggressive leukemia that was not responding to treatment. People and agencies moved heaven and earth to find her a bone marrow donor, but when one was finally found, it was determined that her leukemic cell load was still too high to enable a transplant. At that point, Erica was sent home to spend as much time as possible with her husband, Harley, and their two sons. It gives us much pleasure to share with you this update from Harley:
(Please continue to scroll down for a further update, dated Nov. 9, 2012)
Hello to our entire Circle of Love,
We have some very exciting and joyous news to share with you!!!
Firstly, thank you, thank you all for your dedicated and ongoing support of Team Harris – your prayers, thoughts, strength, encouragement and support have been truly uplifting and inspirational. You are a circle of love for all of us.
Since Erica’s discharge from VGH in-patient care on August 1st, we have spent most of our time exclusively on the homefront enjoying beautiful moments with the boys….with many backyard splash adventures, games of hide and go seek, puzzles, reading, sing alongs etc.. and the simple pleasures Erica loves most of all – being the first smile the boys see each morning and the last to kiss their cheeks as she tucks them in each night. When the boys sleep/nap, Erica has dedicated herself to creating amazing mementos for our boys – making beautiful scrapbooks, photos, writing letters, making CDs , videos and other many other special memories.
We have also been busy seeking as many wellness options as possible – from our amazing circle of love that surrounds us, we have been introduced to the world of meditation, visualization and healing hands practitioners. We have become connected with top naturopaths and pharmacists and are following their advice and supplements diligently. We have been blessed with multiple prayer groups/circles and have even been gifted a beautiful wooden hand held cross of Saint Mary MacKillop (who was credited with curing someone’s leukemia) brought to us from Australia. So many of you have done such extensive research on our behalf for treatments and forwarded us pivotal tips that we have pursued…we apologize if we have not responded to you, but all of the insights and suggestions have been put to great use and we feel so fortunate to have accessed so many healing paths because of your assistance.
The boys have been incredible. Hudson puts his hands on Erica’s cheeks each night to help heal her and has created a little lego “machine” to help pull the bad weeds (as we have explained the cancer to him) from her body… he massages her back every day and these healing hands are truly miraculous. He said to Erica the other night all on his own “Mama, you have to believe!” Hugh loves to rest with mama – giving her the longest snuggles, humming together so beautifully.
Thanks to all of you, the fire within Team Harris to find a cure for Erica and Erica’s unfailing strength, courage, determination, love and faith, she has done much better than the original prognosis given to us on July 31st. Indeed, our doctors at VGH were so pleased with Erica’s weekly blood test results and recovering “counts”, they ordered a bone marrow biopsy to find out what was happening in Erica’s bone marrow. The biopsy was yesterday. We received the results this afternoon.
Erica’s July 30th biopsy indicated that there were approximately 25%-30% leukemic (bad) cells in her marrow.
To be considered in remission, VGH advised us that patients need to have 5% or less leukemic cells in their marrow.
At VGH they will only do a stem cell/bone marrow transplant if a patient is in remission.
Today we learned that the biopsy from yesterday shows that Erica now has less than 3% leukemic cell in her marrow.
This means she is in FULL REMISSION!!
This is the best possible outcome from the biopsy that we all prayed and hoped for.
Our doctor had no explanation for this amazing result and said that they had not seen anything like it before. He asked if Erica had received any treatments in August that we had not informed them of…
A miracle. That is the explanation. A true, blessed and God-given miracle.
In conjunction with our dedicated BMT Coordinator, One Match and all of your support, a 10/10 unrelated stem cell/bone marrow match was found for Erica at the end of July. This donor is now in the process of being “activated”. Another donor’s blood is also being tested as a “back up” and we are hopeful that this donor will also be a match for Erica, if necessary.
They are trying to fast track the donor process as much as possible and our doctor is hopeful Erica may be able to start the stem cell/bone marrow transplant process at VGH in October. The transplant process usually takes approximately 3 months in hospital.
We have been truly blessed. You are all witness to a spectacular and glorious miracle.
Thank you to each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts.
Faith, Hope and Love Always,
Nov. 9, 2012
By Harley Harris
– Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Transplant UpdateHello to our Circle of Love,
It has been quite a turbulent ride over the last few weeks. Apologies for not being in touch sooner….
As many of you know, Erica was admitted to VGH Leukemia/BMT ward exactly 3 weeks ago today (October 19th) to start her stem cell/bone marrow transplant – in typical determined Erica fashion, she insisted that we climb the 15 flights of stairs on the way to being admitted…always great to start with a bang… she was blessed with an amazing room, with a panoramic view of downtown Vancouver, False Creek, the North Shore Mountains and all the beauty our city has to offer, and, of course, she was blessed with an incredible and dedicated team at VGH by her side.
The transplant process starts with three days of chemotherapy (using one of the aggressive salvage chemo drugs), three days of TBI (total body radiation – 2 sessions each day) and then the transplant. We were told going in by Erica’s attending doctor that the entire process after the transplant takes many weeks in hospital, with the fastest discharge being 4 weeks after the transplant – but sometimes it can be 3 months or longer in hospital.
Erica persevered well through the chemo, however, she found the twice daily TBI very difficult.
Erica had her transplant 2 weeks ago yesterday (on October 25th) soon after her last TBI treatment. The team at VGH calls it your new birthday. The transplant itself (using the donor’s stem cells) was relatively short in duration (under an hour). All progressed well until the very end when she developed a severe acute allergic reaction…close call.
Through it all, Erica was truly amazing and tenacious – she fought hard every step of the way, keeping as active as possible, using her stepper and crazy heavy medicine ball whenever she could muster up just enough strength. She did laps around the 15th floor tossing her med ball in the air. She endured the usual nausea, retching and lack of appetite with mucositis and ulcers covering her inner mouth and throat yet she was determined to stay off of the IV feeding that caused many problems to her liver in the summer. This meant she needed to eat and keep what she ate down. We were told that transplant patients rarely avoid the IV feeding due to all of the mutiple side effects of the process (including the post transplant immunosuppressant drugs) that cause the very painful mucositis. Yes, you guessed it, Erica was able to keep down enough nutrients on her own to keep the IV feeding away. My incredible wife.
Thanks to the super donor’s super marrow, Erica’s blood counts (white blood cells/hemoglobins/platelets etc.) recovered quickly – as has Erica. Indeed, her condition improved so quickly, we are pleased to share with you that she was officially discharged from VGH this morning (November 9th) on Day +15 post transplant. We were told by VGH team members that this is the fastest discharge they had seen following an unrelated stem cell/bone marrow transplant.
All that said, Erica is still very weak, very tired and her immune system is still incredibly vulnerable. In turn, we will be spending a few weeks at a place we secured near VGH as she gets stronger and more stable. She has a busy day care regimen ahead at the VGH outpatient clinic and she is certainly not out of the woods. A long road lies ahead with many potentials bumps as her new marrow takes hold. The entire engraftment process lasts many months – including daily immunosuppressant and multiple other medications. Her lead doctor indicated that it may take up to 9 months before engraftment is fully confirmed.
We are taking today’s fabulous news and discharge from hospital as a blessed gift from above.
As you know, Erica is happiest in the great outdoors as fresh air means so much to her… she soaked it all in as we left VGH. She had not been outside since she was admited. Today we walked a few blocks, we may try to walk a a few more tomorrow. One day at a time. Together, hand in hand.
Our plan is to surprise the boys tomorrow with a short surprise visit – at Hudson’s soccer game. Erica can’t wait to surprise them and hold them tightly in her arms.
Thank you all for your kind and generous support of Erica and our entire family during this challenging journey. We have cherished your thoughts, prayers and strength and everything that you have done for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you,
May God bless each of you and all of your loved ones.
Faith, Hope and Love Always.