On April 17, 2014, my father Tommy Fulcher, went in to see his primary physician for a seemingly routine check-up. However, it turned out to be anything but a routine day. On this day, we learned that my father had Acute Myeloid Leukemia or AML, for short. He was immediately admitted to St. Francis hospital where he began his first round of chemotherapy. The prognosis looked good, so long as the doctor's could get the cancer into remission and get dad set to have a bone marrow transplant.
Fortunately for dad, after one round of 7-day chemo and a month-long stay in the hospital, the cancer went into remission, he was released and the search for a bone marrow donor began. The first choice for a donor is typically one of the patient's siblings. Though, none of my dad's brothers or his sister were a match. Next on the heirarchy is to seek a match from the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Again, no match. The next option was to use cells from a matching umbillibal cord.
It was then that dad met with the Bone Marrow Transplant Team at the University of Kansas Medical Center and learned of a clinical trial that the team was working on involving the use of stem cells from umbillical cords and a hyperbaric chamber. Dad made the decision to become Patient #9 in this clinical trial and the transplant team got to work straight away preparing his body to receive the cells with another 5-day round of chemo and 1 day of radiation. On June 16, 2014 they introduced the cells into my dad and we have anxiously awaited since then to see if the cells would engraft and if the transplant would be successful.
That brings us to now. Earlier this week, on July 28, 2014, my dad and I met with the doctors for a conference to learn the results of his bone marrow biopsy and chimerism. Chimerism is the measurement and ratio of patient cells to donor cells. The desired result is for the percentage of donor cells to increase and the percentage of recipient cells to decrease. On day +41, we learned that my dad's cells were 100% his and that the donor cells were no longer detectable, the exact opposite of what we all hoped to hear. The transplant has failed. If my dad does not have a successful transplant, he has an 80% chance of relapse. Back to the drawing board and back to the heirarchy or donors.
At this point, the best option for dad is to have a haploidentical stem cell transplant, or "half-match", meaning that if we cannot have a 100% match to use the next closest thing: his son. My brother Tomas, as a male and my dad's youngest offspring, is the best possible donor. Tomas will be my dad's hero (and mine!) and will be his donor.
This fundraiser is to help offset the travel expenses required to bring my brother here from Phoenix, Arizona, where he must stay for the duration of his labwork, pretreatment, and harvesting of his stem cells. And also to help with his bills and living expenses during this time that he will be off from work and school.
We have tried to seek out financial/travel help from large cancer charities, but at this time we have been turned down because of the type of transplant and because it is using a related donor and because of the type of leukemia that my dad has. Please know that no donation is too small. My family understands that there are so many people experiencing hardship and going through tough times, but if you are able to help, we'll be forever grateful.
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