Monday, March 29, 2010

First Round of Antibodies

We started the next phase of Jordan's treatment, immunotherapy, last week. In order to prepare Jordan, we had to start Leukine shots the week before last. Leukine is a medication that increases Jordan's white blood cells to help make the antibody therapy more effective. Because Leukine is not FDA-approved for this use, we had to go through the appeal process with Craig's insurance. (What is FDA-approved for neuroblastoma? Umm, nothing...) While waiting for the appeal approval so we could fill the prescription, we had take Jordan to MSKCC each day to receive Leukine. Lots of driving and traffic for a shot that took all of 10 seconds to administer. Fortunately, all was in order by the weekend so I could start administering the shots at home.

On a side note, we ended up at MSKCC for a Leukine shot on Saint Patrick's Day. As the hospital is only five blocks from the parade route, we decided to take advantage of being in the city and swung by the parade for a bit. I think my expectations were a bit high (a mini-Thanksgiving day parade?!?), but Jordan seemed to enjoy the horses and the drums....but she was probably equally interested in the golden retriever sitting next to us wearing a green sequined bow tie.

Immunotherapy consists of a 30 minute infusion of the 3F8 antibody each day for one week. The medical team at MSKCC cautioned us many times about the intense pain associated with antibody therapy and I was hopeful they were somewhat overstating it...unfortunately they were not. Jordan's pain started five minutes into the infusion and the next twenty-five minutes seemed like an eternity. Jordan was red and sweating profusely, her stomach was rock hard, and she was screaming and writhing around in my was horrible and definitely the hardest thing I have seen Jordan endure. I remember feeling so sad and so angry...angry that this painful treatment is the best option for preventing relapse and sad that it is not always successful.

MSKCC has a team of nurses dedicated to 3F8 and they were right there with us, administering pain medications and antihistamines, monitoring Jordan's respiratory and heart rates. There was also a dance therapist, Suzi, to help Jordan and me cope...not by dancing (although that might have made a better story) but by physically helping me rock Jordan in my arms and sing to her. I'm not typically into the touchy-feely therapist thing but Suzi was so key in helping me care for Jordan.

Jordan received so much Dilaudid for her pain that she was completely knocked out the rest of the day. When we got home she would sit up and attempt to play with a toy for about 30 seconds and then put her head back in my lap.

Fortunately, the infusions the rest of the week were not quite as traumatic. They were still extremely painful for Jordan but the nurses said the first day is always the I knew what to expect. Jordan even started tolerating the pain medications a little better and was waking up by early evening, ready to play for a bit.

Despite the difficulties, I am thankful Jordan is able to have this treatment and grateful that we have this first cycle of antibodies completed. Jordan will continue with the antibody therapy every four weeks for three more cycles. After that the frequency decreases to every eight weeks. Antibody therapy continues for two years or until Jordan mounts an immune reaction to the antibodies (a HAMA response). We are praying that Jordan will be able to continue for a long, long time so that she is able to get the maximum benefit from this treatment.

Pictures from the St. Patrick's Day Parade

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Complete Remission

Starting last Friday after Jordan's MIBG scan and bone marrow biopsies, we began receiving small pieces of good news. The CT scan was clear...the MIBG scan preliminarily looked good but we needed the final results... Today all the pieces of the puzzle came together and we found out Jordan is in complete remission. The absolute best news that we could have received. I feel joyful and thankful to God for this wonderful, fantastic thankful to all our friends and family who have been praying on Jordan's behalf. I also feel humbled. I know that there are parents of children with neuroblastoma who will never get this news and never get to experience this joy. While I celebrate Jordan's health, I am going to keep praying for all those children who are not in remission.

In addition to all the happy emotions, I'm also feeling scared...honestly, more scared than I thought I would be at this point. Jordan starts the next phase of treatment, immunotherapy, on Monday. Jordan will be receiving IV infusions of 3F8, an investigational monoclonal antibody, at MSKCC. 3F8 is investigational because it is not FDA approved, but it is one of the standards of care for neuroblastoma. The idea behind 3F8 is that it will find any residual neuroblastoma disease too small to show up on scans and destroy it to prevent relapse. The main side effect of 3F8 is pain...serious, intense nerve pain that isn't even relieved by morphine or Dilaudid. Patients also have allergic reactions to 3F8...hives and rashes, some even have difficulty breathing. Jordan had the typical issues with chemotherapy....vomiting, diarrhea, fever...but mostly she tolerated it very well. I am really nervous about how Jordan will tolerate this new treatment.

I am also scared about relapse. I know, I know...Jordan's first day in remission and I'm already worried about relapse. It's just that even with the best treatment, the relapse rate is still around 60% and getting into a second remission is much, much harder than getting into the first. Jordan will continue to get scans every three months to closely monitor for relapse. I just hope that relapse is the fear that Craig and I will live with every day but never a reality that Jordan has to face.

So thank you again for all your kind words and thoughts and prayers. They mean so much to us and provide us so much strength. And I ask that you continue to keep Jordan in your prayers as she moves into the next phase of treatment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I don't like suspense. If Texas doesn't have a big lead going into the fourth quarter of a football game, I have a hard time watching...and that's just a silly football game. Wondering what is going on in Jordan's body and waiting for the results is creating a palpable anxiety. As much as I try to distract myself, I have a hard time focusing on anything else...I doubt hardly a minute passes without me thinking about it. My stomach is twisted and my shoulders are knotted. I am way more of a spaz than usual. I should (and hopefully will) get more comfortable waiting on the scans and results because Jordan will be having them every three months for quite awhile.

When Jordan was originally diagnosed, neuroblastoma was not even in the realm of possibilities I was worried about. Hearing that word for the first time....such a scary, ugly was shocking. To try and prepare for the results of these scans, I made myself think of all the options and what they would mean for Jordan and how it would feel to hear them, the elation or the disappointment...trying to lessen any shock value. It's not that I'm not thinking a lot of ways I think I am a little foolishly optimistic...I'm just trying to prepare myself and lessen the power of the suspense.

In my mind I sometimes think there are two types of results, good and evidence of disease (NED, remission in neuroblastoma world) or disease. But I have read enough stories to know that there a lot of different possibilities and that each child's case is truly unique. I have read stories of children that were NED after induction but relapsed three months later....I have read stories of children that took a loooong time to get to NED but years later are still doing well. I would, of course, love for Jordan to be NED but even if she needs more chemo or some other treatment, it doesn't mean she won't get to NED at some point.

There was an older neuroblastoma patient, a man in his early twenties who relapsed after more than a decade as NED who said he didn't worry over the results of his scans...his worry would not change what was going on inside his body and he relied on God to help him through whatever the scans revealed. I didn't state this nearly as eloquently as he did but I think of his bravery often when the worry gets consuming. Another friend, both of whose parents have battled cancer, recommended repeating a bible verse over and over during times filled with anxiety. Today I was focusing on John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." And then there is my precious child who really has no idea what is going on and was just excited to get to ride the trike in the playroom and look at the aquarium....she is not worried, she just wants to play and cuddle and I try to focus on that.

Today Jordan had the CT scan and MIBG injection. We had minor trauma when Jordan refused to drink the CT contrast solution and had to be pinned down and forced to drink it, one ml at a time....but at least she did not have to get a tube down her nose. Despite this and not getting to eat until almost 2:00, Jordan did fantastic. It was a very long day in NYC and we have another tomorrow for the MIBG scan and bone marrow biopsies. And then more waiting for the results next week...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yet Another Fever

The last time Jordan had this regimen of chemotherapy (round three) she did not get a fever...that has been the only round after which she has been fever free. I was hopeful, very hopeful. But in clinic last Wednesday Jordan's ANC was 10....same story, different day. She got a fever of 101 Thursday evening and we ended up back in the hospital. Bravo to Jordan on the timing because we arrived just as the snow storm was gearing up.

Jordan's chest x-ray did not show a pneumonia but she seemed to have some sort of respiratory infection. Jordan was definitely feeling pretty punky on Friday. It was probably the easiest day we have had in the hospital because all she wanted to do was lay in bed and watch kind of day. By Saturday Jordan was feeling better and wanting to explore but some of her oxygen saturation tests were low (mid 80's to low 90's). Jordan had to have a continuous oxygen monitor attached to her toe, not necessarily conducive to a toddler wanting to practice walking. Ultimately all issues resolved and we were discharged late Monday night.

As to the ongoing bruise/blood clot/partially collapsed lung dilemma...the chest x-ray showed that the spot had completely cleared. One less thing to worry about! The pulmonologist also said Jordan's reactive airway disease seemed improved and that we could taper the respiratory medications in hopes of being completely off them in a month.

We also scheduled the appointments for scans at MSKCC on March 11-12. Jordan will have bone marrow biopsies, CT scan, and MIBG scan to determine her response to the induction phase of chemotherapy. These results will also dictate her next phase of treatment. We are praying for a complete response and would love any extra prayers and positive thoughts for Jordan these next few weeks.

Our exciting news this past weekend...the return of grandparents! My mom arrived on Sunday to start a three week visit. We are so lucky to have her with us as we figure out the next steps for Jordan and our family. And Craig's parents returned from a vacation in Florida and stopped by for a visit on Sunday. Jordan was a bit overwhelmed to wake up from a nap and have three grandparents in the room staring down at her but deep down I think she was pretty excited to see them all. :)

Bad Mommy forgot to take pictures this hospitalization so I just snapped this today...I love how she thinks the bottom step is her own little chair!