As many of you may already know, in March of 2017 our good friend Oliver “Ollie” Stephens was diagnosed with a very rare form of blood cancer called Langerhans Cells Histiocytosis (LCH). This type of cancer only affects one in a million people so there isn’t much information about the disease and not many doctors have treated patients with LCH. This cancer presented itself in his stomach, digestive tract, and they suspected it was also in his bone marrow, but the doctors could never prove it with certainty as LCH cells are very similar to healthy cells, making it hard to find.
Ollie was put on a chemotherapy treatment with a drug called Cytarabine for five consecutive days, every month, for a year. But, after six months of treatment, his oncologist accelerated the treatment to five consecutive days, every two weeks because the treatment appeared to be working but slower than usual. With three treatments left, Ollie started feeling much better. He gained back some of the 40lbs he had lost from chemo and was ready to start back on his old routines. Unfortunately, he has had a significant set-back:
In early November Ollie was running a tennis fitness session with some young tennis players and spontaneously lost peripheral vision on his left eye. He was rushed to the ER where they realized he was having a stroke and one hour later had emergency brain surgery to remove blood clots found in his brain. The surgeons were able to recover about 20% of his lost sight but he is visually impaired.
Ollie is still hospitalized. He’s been there since the stroke and unfortunately the bad news keeps coming. His cancer has developed into Acute Myeloid Leukemia, in addition to LCH. The initial disease in his bone marrow which the doctors were never able to prove, resisted the chemo and fought back significantly… ultimately causing the stroke.
Ollie and Milena are now starting a new battle. He will be hospitalized for a least a month with a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen. A bone marrow transplant is scheduled a few months later. This will be followed by a prolonged recovery period, during which he will not be able to work.
The road ahead will be long and challenging. But if you know Ollie, you know he’s a fighter. He’s not giving up. And neither should we. Ollie and Milena need our help now more than ever. ANY donations would be extremely appreciated.
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