January 16, 2006
Two thousand and five has come to a close, a new year is already upon us and we
have received many calls of concern for Howard’s condition. Since the last posting in
November we have remained busy with lab testing, doctor appointments, holiday
celebrations with family and all that come with Christmas traditions. This update has
been longer than usual in posting due to all the activity here, so it may be a bit more
detailed as a result.
Howard’s mouth ulcers caused by some GVHD as well as possible side effects from
the Mylotarg chemotherapy have finally subsided. Those sores in his mouth and throat
brought about a change in diet that required blending of all his foods so he could
swallow with the least amount of pain. His weight has dropped to his boxing fighting
weight of 146 as a result of all the mouth and intestinal upsets.
Getting enough nutritionally balanced foods into Howard is a real challenge. He has lost
a lot of weight with all the changes. I began adding a protein powder supplement,
initially purchased to help me slim down, to his Boost Plus supplements with bananas
and other fruits to bulk up his caloric intake. Our thanks to Howard Jr. and a good
friend in Texas , Troy Dorsey for the additional protein supplements gifted to Howard
to help rebuild his weight. Getting to the store to pick up items such as these has
become a challenge without a vehicle.
Just before Thanksgiving we enjoyed a surprise visit from the Norris family. After
visiting with Chuck and Gena in the hospital room we showed them around the new
hospital and also the beautiful grounds here. Joining them on this trip from Texas was
Kim and Kevin Cass. It was a very pleasant reunion to be able to sit and visit with
Howard spent Thanksgiving Day with his oldest son Howard Jr., while I spent it with my
youngest daughter, Sarah, my two nephews and their mother, whom I had not seen in
many years. It meant a great deal to me to be able to be with them all again. The day
after Thanksgiving, I joined Howard at Howard Jr.’s home for the rest of the holiday
weekend. Amber, Howard’s daughter, was able to spend the long weekend with her
dad and the rest of the family, which just made Howard’s weekend.Due to his condition,
he is not able to be around anyone with a cold and Amber has suffered quite a few
lately, so it was a real treat to have her around again.
During the weeks before Christmas, we were blessed to be able to take a quick trip to
the Crystal Cathedral to see the annual “Glory of Christmas” presentation. Howard and
I were both very impressed with the production and we recommend it to all who have
not seen it. The story of the birth of Jesus is presented with all the real life settings.
Angels flying overhead added a sense of realism to the presentation. Our friends’ Pam
and Steve Gooderham picked us up and drove us to Garden Grove to enjoy the
evening on them. We returned to the village immediately afterwards to more rest and
The morning of Christmas Eve day was spent in the clinic where I requested Howard
receive the platelets a little early, as he would be doing a lot of moving around and be
over an hour away from the hospital if any problems occurred. Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day were also spent at Howard Jr.’s home. Jeremy, Howard’s youngest son,
and his girlfriend, Jade, joined us making it a special evening for all. Much of this time
Howard was taking “power naps” as a result of the effects of the medications and his
weakened condition. But, he did what he wanted to do most, spend Christmas day with
the family. Thankfully we had no problems and he returned to the village the day after
Christmas to receive a much needed transfusion of blood.
The Hydroxyurea (chemo type medication) Howard has been on since the last Mylotarg
therapy has been able to keep the leukemia cells under control while waiting to start the
next therapy. The white counts drop and rise with the amount of the Hydroxyurea he
takes. Finding the right balance is the tricky part. He has developed a cough that
causes him pain in his right chest area. X-rays were taken and nothing showed up to
indicate what may be causing this pain. It is on the same side as the blood clot was
removed, so we will continue to monitor this problem closely.
The latest therapy, which started six days before Christmas, is one that is repeated for
several months before they expect to see any concrete results. It consists of five days
of shots of Vidaza, two daily in his abdomen, combined with a continual oral medication
of Valproic Acid, taken three times daily. After three weeks of only the oral medication
he then repeats the shots again for three to four cycles. During the three-week interval,
the after effects of intestinal upset and nausea begin to appear. The Hydroxyurea will
be discontinued once the Vidaza is started. The initial effects of the shots are painful
knots that form where the two injections are placed into his abdomen. They are
supposed to slowly dissolve over time, but some knots seem to still be there after
Howard remains very fatigued and requires much rest. Every other day he has clinic
appointments for lab tests. These tests reveal the white cell count as well as the need
for platelets and/or blood transfusions every few days. As with the other chemo drugs,
when the Vidaza therapy works, it brings the white cell count down to almost zero, then
slowly his new engrafted stem cells rebuild the blood system with hopefully no
leukemia cells. That would produce normal white counts between 4,000 and 11,000.
When the counts come down his immune system is low and he is again open to
bacteria related illnesses. If the white counts rise above 11,000, it is an indication that
the bad cells are back and reproducing mutant cells. This condition also leaves his
immune system open to infection without medicinal prevention, so this is the reason for
such frequent lab testing and maintaining a close proximity to the hospital.
By continued cycling of the therapy, they hope to remove any stubborn cells. Vidaza
has been used for about two years and more specifically with elderly patients with
AML. One of the reasons is that it is less damaging on the organs. The doctors are
working to protect Howard’s after all the previous stress from the stronger
chemotherapy drugs. Both Barbara Stehr and Dr. Forman agreed that this would be a
good option for him based on his present condition.
Howard had about three days off from any clinic appointments during the New Year’s
holidays that we chose to spend nearby the hospital, in the village. He was feeling
weak from the new therapy and just dealing with all the intestinal issues. He was still
complaining of the pain in his right chest area and taking pain medication for it, so we
were not venturing far from the village. On Jan 1st I noticed he was sweating quite a bit
after taking his pain medication. I did not realize that it also contained Tylenol as well as
a painkiller, so Howard was breaking a fever that day.
On the morning of January 2, he slipped and fell in the bathroom in the village. He
landed on his behind, and was not apparently injured, but I wanted the nurses in the
clinic to take a look at him and determine there were no internal injuries as well as the
reason for the sweating. It had been a little longer than normal between platelet
transfusions and that concerned me. Although his appointment was not scheduled until
the following day, there was enough going on to take him in and get him checked out.
He had fever and was still having the sharp pain in his chest when he coughed. Blood
tests revealed his platelets were low. The fever alone was enough to admit him to the
hospital again for observation and immediate antibiotics. They sent him for another
chest x-ray and a pneumonia type mass showed up where he was having the pain.
Apparently, the painkiller also contained a fever reducer and was masking the fevers
he was experiencing the day prior.
I waited several days to see if Howard would be returning to the village and it became
clear that he would need to be under close observation and treatments for some time. I
spent a few days packing things up and was able to send some boxes back to Texas
to store until we return. I then moved the rest of our items to his new room in the
hospital. An entire day was given to this task, as it seems we have acquired a few
more items in the nine months we have been here than we arrived with. I was pretty
wiped out from all the packing, moving and staying up nights and days with Howard. So,
I was getting my sleep when he falls asleep whenever that may occur.
Since the second of January, Howard has had many tests. A bronchial scope of his
lungs did not grow any bacteria as of the 10th, so they had to do a needle biopsy of his
lung to try to determine the cause of the pneumonia. After that and all the coughing, he
spends a lot of time sleeping. It was a little tense for knowing that this biopsy can be
dangerous, but knowing this is a great hospital with some very specialized doctors.
On the 8th Howard took another fall in the hospital bathroom, which left him with a golf
ball-sized lump on his head for the rest of the evening. I had finally fallen asleep after
so many nights of trying to stay awake to help him, and he passed right by me. It was a
very scary for me to hear the sound of his head hitting the floor after the door closed
behind him. Ice packs and constant testing were needed the rest of that night to make
sure he did not have a concussion. A CT scan of his head the following day showed
no damage. He seems to have recovered from the bump pretty quickly.
He is sleeping quite a bit as has been the case with him for the last two months, some
days he has his voice and some days it is gone. This is primarily due to the coughing
that causes a major strain on his vocal chords and keeps him out of breath. So, he is
not really communicating with everyone as much as he had been previously.
The doctors are hopeful that they will be able to identify the specific pneumonia
infection in his chest and treat it better once they have the biopsy results. In the
meantime, the white blood counts seem to losing ground due to his weakened position
and again some blast cells have returned after the first cycle of Vidaza therapy. The
good news is that it did seem to remove all the blast cells at one point before he got so
sick with the pneumonia. So the future cycling of this therapy is still very hopeful.
As of today, January 12, it has been determined that Howard’s pneumonia is fungal
related so some antibiotics have been discontinued and they will continue to use a very
strong antifungal to clear this problem. The cause of the fungus is unknown, but is all a
part of a low immune system resulting from this disease and treatments. The infectious
disease doctor said fungus spores are in the air and everywhere . . .
The next cycle of Vidaza shots will begin on Friday the 13th, and will last for seven
days. They are still hopefully optimistic that this therapy combined with the already
engrafted stem cells from his sister will give him much hope for remission. It has
Howard’s weight went up to a little more than 160 pounds at one point, but is all due to
the medications and fluid retention. He has some pain in his right side from the needle
biopsy and has begun some occupational therapy as well as physical therapy walking
again. His feet and legs are still swollen, but the walking is recommended to help with
his general recovery. Along with the physical therapy, the goal will be to keep him
eating well in spite of his body not feeling like it because of the nausea and intestinal
upsets that will come with the therapy.
As of today January 19, Howard is still in the hospital and under supervision for the
pneumonia and a blood infection that has also appeared. He is still very fatigued and
not speaking much. The reports show the blast cells are decreasing today and
perhaps this is the beginning of a change for the better. We have no promises, but a
lot of hope.
Thank you all for the cards, calls, prayers and visits during the holidays. Your
encouragement means a lot to us. A special thanks goes out to our friend and brother,
Don Peake. Your help during this time has been an incredible blessing to us both. We
hope everyone’s a new year has started off on a better note and God’s love will be felt
in each of your lives and bless you with spiritual and physical health in 2006.
It is unknown what unit we will be placed in once we return to the village, so it is best to
use the general mailing address here. Patient: Howard Jackson . . . 1500 East Duarte
Rd . . . Duarte , CA 91010 . Any cards will make it to him with this address as
moving back and forth is all a part of the process here.
Hope everyone enjoyed Veterans Day. We would like to send a special salute to Mark
Leach, who is still in Afghanistan and hopefully returning home to Texas soon.
Howard is a former marine and was proud to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday on
the 10th of this month. Howard sends a “Simper Fi” to all his fellow Marine brothers.
He pulls his strength from many experiences in his past and the days in the marine
corp., like the martial arts, is a big part of the development of that focus and strength
today. “Once a Marine always a Marine” he says. The description of a marine is proud
and strong. Howard embodies both of those descriptions. It may be just mentally right
now, but he is still strong.
Although the mind is willing sometimes the body is weak, and that is his situation now.
Two weeks ago he was so weak he spent very little time awake much less out of the
bed. He is regaining his strength extremely slowly. Howard’s physical activity is very
limited now. He left the village room only for doctor appointments, slept the majority of
the day and was not even strong enough to take calls most of the time. I was
concerned, because he had never been quite so fatigued as he has been recently. I
believe that his condition was caused by a combination of factors including the time
span between the stem cell transplants, the Mylotarg therapy, the Centercid antibiotic’s
arthritic effects, and perhaps the addition of an antifungal, Itraconazole that also causes
side effects including weakness and mental depression. It was apparent that he was
really being hit hard by having to deal with all of these at the same time especially
considering he has been enduring one treatment after the other for the last eight
For anyone reading this posting and has someone you know is going through a similar
situation, I strongly advise you to research the side effects of each medication being
taken. I highlight the ones that could be of concern and bring that to the doctor visit with
me to discuss. Sometimes an alternate drug can be used with lesser side effects. I
have a binder listing all his medications and the side effects to help me keep up with
what to expect from each new one. It also helps me be prepared for what to expect
and it helps him knowing this also.
On the last appointment Dr. Forman agreed that he had not seen Howard experience
this degree of weakness before. He agreed to stop the Itraconazole antifungal for the
weekend to see if his strength increased during that time and started him on an
antibiotic to prevent any pneumonia or other complications due to his suppressed
Dr. Forman wanted to motivate Howard to get more physical if possible and insisted
that he get out and goes do something he enjoyed. I think his body was just too tired to
care, but as the doctor asked him what he might enjoy doing, I spoke up (hoping to hit
a positive note and inspire him) and said “how about some boxing or a matinee
movie?” Dr. Forman smiled and said the annual City of Hope LASD verses LASD
fund-raiser boxing tournaments were taking place the following evening in the Olympic
auditorium. At that point he insisted on giving us two front row tickets and VIP passes
and really pressed us to go. Howard said he would let him know if he was feeling up to
it early the next day. After speaking to his son, Howard Jr., who offered to drive and join
us, he accepted and we finally had a day outside the hospital grounds.
It was very tiring for Howard, and he moved slowly, but he had a good time. Dr.
Forman was there, looking the crowd over to see if he made it and was elated to see
he did. Howard’s former boxing manager, Gwen Adair Farrell was also there as a
regular boxing judge for this event. It was a great pleasure to visit with her again. This is
the same auditorium Howard boxed in years ago and won the “ fight of the year” so it
has special memories for him. Another friend, Terry Warwick, who was pleased to
experience his very first boxing matches at the ring with us, also joined us. It turned
into an unexpected evening of fun for us all.
Since that outing Howard and I made it to a local afternoon matinee and we walk to and
from the appointments here at the COH. It is a very slow recovery of strength this time
around. His body still requires a lot more rest than before. His sister’s stem cell is
showing some signs of engraftment in the form of itching, nausea and constant upset
stomach and some skin color changes again. Apparently he will be going through the
GVHD again. To what degree is different for everyone, but that is a good sign. He is
producing his own platelets now, which is also a positive indicator. On the other hand,
some of the bad cells are still showing up in his tests. They will continue to keep them
at bay and suppressed to the point that the new stem cells can take hold. It is truly a
balancing act with the disease and the drugs.
It was so nice to hear from all the office staff again recently. Kimberly, Marie, Laura and
Lani we love you. Thank you for the support and special things you have each done for
us. You bring that famous smile back to Howard’s face and “that’s what I’m talkin bout!”
We appreciate Ilona’s ever encouraging support for us both and her wisdom from one
who has personally walked this path of chemo and radiation therapy. You are all a part
of our extended family always. We miss the daily life interactions we all enjoyed there
in the office together. We have shared some good times, and look forward to having
some more good times together again in the future when this is all just history.
Dr. Forman informed us we would be here through Christmas and probably for a while
longer. It all depends on how well the engraftment of cells and recovery goes. Living in
the future only adds stress to the situation, so we live in the moment. However, we are
blessed and thankful that the Norris family has continued to hold the job position
available to Howard upon remission and his ability to return to work. What a blessing
they have been to us.
Howard’s temp flared on Monday night after he took a warm shower, so we decided to
try Tylenol and see if that would bring it down. His temperature then dropped to a
normal reading, so we decided to watch it overnight to see if it remained there. Early
the next morning we arrived for the doctors’ appointment and lab testing. Howard’s
temp was back, so they took extra blood cultures and sent him for an array of tests.
The fevers indicate an infection somewhere in the body. Other tests reveal his liver
counts are higher than they should be which is and an indicator that perhaps there may
be some liver damage from all the therapies. Or perhaps it could be from the stem
cells engrafting. He has been given a variety of antibiotics to target a large span of
His platelets were low, so he had to have a transfusion also. The pre mead for
platelets put him to sleep for quite a while. He has been pretty fatigued from all of this,
and he needs a good rest anyway. He sleeps most of the time in the hospital now, but
is getting the constant care he needs right now.
For those of you who communicate with Howard via email, he is still unable to answer
you personally, but I do print out your emails from a patient services area and read or
give them to him. So, know he does get your emails. It may take me awhile to respond
to you, depending on the daily situations and events, but I do my best to get all your
messages to him. You may also visit his site at www.howardjackson.net to read these
updates and more on the champ.
I have learned to be thankful in all things, for even the unpleasant ones can end up
producing a blessing. Character is truly formed in the trenches. Remember, all things
work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His
purposes. We are thankful for the many friends and family who have constantly
encouraged and prayed for us throughout this very challenging struggle for life. Each
of you has eased our burden in some way and even if you have not been able to visit in
person, know that we know where your hearts are. For all of you, and for our
all-powerful and loving Heavenly Father, who holds each of our breaths in His hands,
we are ever humbly thankful.
May you each be blessed with a Happy Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for.
Sharon & Howard
These past several weeks have been tough ones. Howard has been extremely
fatigued from the two therapies’ so close to each other and the hiccups continued for
more than four days. One of the drugs they used to treat the hiccups acted as a
sedative so during that time Howard spent a lot of time sleeping. Unfortunately, the
hiccups would come back as soon as he sat up and ate anything. He had a bout that
came so fast that he could not catch his breath, and we all had a moment of real panic.
He finally was able to relax himself enough to slowly take in a breath, and when it was
all over the hiccups had disappeared. For the time being no hiccups have returned.
Howard had to be put on the antibiotic that causes him major muscle pain and stiffness
for precautionary measures in preventing a bacterial infection. He was on this
medication until they were sure he was out of danger and were able to discontinue its
use. It literally makes him feel as if he had a severe case of arthritis with all the aches
and pains all over his body. Walking for just 15 minutes takes all his effort and he would
immediately fall asleep after returning to his room. It has been four days now that he
has been taken off the antibiotic and he is still moving very slowly.
His sister arrived on the 19th and was sent for blood work ups and testing the following
day. Her results were all good and they informed us they would need her stem cells
once again. The procedure was similar to the first one. Corliss received two shots
every day for four days and on the fifth day, October 25th; she donated 4.8 million
stem cells after six hours. This time the Quentin catheter was placed in her upper body
and it went very well. Once the donation was complete and she was resting for
observation, I returned to Howard’s room to be with him while he received the new
He slept through the 45-minute infusions and did not experience any side effects this
time around. He woke up soon afterwards and was able to eat a meal and spend
some time with his sister and myself before I took her back to stay in the village room
with me. She is now fully recovered from the donation and will be returning to Detroit
on the 2nd of November to schedule surgery on a knee injury (which took place in July)
that has kept her in a brace and wheelchair during the time she was here.
Howard’s white blood counts rose after three days to the point that he was allowed to
return to the Village to bed rest here. He is still unable to go anywhere except to the
hospital for appointments. His body is just too fatigued and he is still very vulnerable to
catching anything going around. With his return to the village I am back in charge of the
daily care for his new Hickman catheter as has been the case in the past. Although he
is still unable to go anywhere yet, he is receiving home cooked healthy low bac meals
again that he is more accustomed to and getting to sleep without the constant
interruptions that is all a part of the hospital scene.
We have been alerted to the potential for a flare in his GVHD at this time in the form of
fever, intestinal problems and the same side effects he experienced with the last stem
cell transplant. He is presently experiencing a very sensitive stomach especially after
eating. One of the reasons for the flare is because Howard is off the anti rejection
drugs this time around so his sister’s stem cell can engraft completely and to fight
against any leukemia cells that may have possibly survived the last targeted
Dr. Forman will be keeping a close eye on Howard. He is hopeful that the stem cells
will be able to fight against the leukemia and bring Howard’s condition to remission.
There may be more of a battle ahead for Howard which could possibly include more
treatments, but that has not been determined yet. He is now spending most of his time
resting and trying to rebuild his energy level. We will have regular doctor appointments
on Mondays and Thursdays while here in the village. Please keep Howard in your
October 15 was the 100-day marker for the post stem cell transplant. This is the date
that we had been counting down to, with hopes of a forth-coming release date from the
hospital. But with the latest complications, there is no telling when he will be well
enough to leave. On Oct 10th Howard was readmitted to the hospital and the targeted
antibody therapy was given. Mylotarg (which is a type of chemo) is used specifically for
post stem cell AML patients who have been determined to be in remission and then
experience a first relapse with the leukemia. They have to choose the medications
carefully based on the stress they may have on Howard’s internal organ functions. As
mentioned earlier the high doses of chemotherapy previously given have put a great
deal of stress on the kidneys and liver functions and he has already had the maximum
radiation allowed by this time. He is still in a weakened condition as recovery takes
time after the stem cell infusion and while engraftment is taking place.
He has now experienced the skin discolorations, itching, and tenderness in various
areas and intestinal changes as normal side effects from GVHD. He has had some
mouth irritation recently that included a large ulcer type sore that ran the length of his
tongue. The ulcer is so painful that he can only eat really soft foods. The cause may
have been the GVHD or the Mylotarg, but it was not pleasant. Speaking was a real
effort, and those of you who know Howard, know he enjoys talking, so this was tough
on him. He has healed at this point from that problem and hopefully it will not return
His recovery from the blood clot and its removal has gone very well. Once the Hickman
shunt was removed, he began feeling a little better and more independent again. But
soon after the Mylotarg was given the first time Howard began to experience some
major fatigue. On the 12th Howard had to have the Hickman replaced to allow for future
infusions, blood tests, etc., and the next round of the Mylotarg scheduled for the 17th.
Unfortunately by the 13th or 14th Howard began running fevers and it appears a post
surgery staff infection set in. In his weakened and immune-suppressed condition it is
not a surprise as it is always a risk.
On a good note, I was able to stop Howard from receiving an antibiotic that had been
ordered by an on call doctor while Dr. Forman was out of town. It was the one that
caused him so much suffering with muscle pains back in June of this year. She
listened to my request to try something else and kept him on an alternate antibiotic that
seems to have worked for the staff infection. I knew the added stress of this on top of
his present problems would have put him in a really bad way at this point of treatment.
The antibiotics did the trick just in the nick of time because he was fever free and able
to continue with the second round Monday night the 17th as planned.
Recently Howard is battling the hiccups, which are either a result from one of the
medications recently given or some irritation to his esophagus and has battled that for
the last three days now. The medications used to calm the hiccups also put him to
sleep, so he has done a lot of that lately and been unable to carry on a very long
conversation with anyone. Rest is good for the fatigue and there is more to come with
the latest round of Mylotarg. The specialist will decide tomorrow if a scope of the
esophagus is necessary or not. I hope the new drug he is getting will do the trick and it
will not be necessary, but can you imagine having the hiccups for hours at a time! He
exhausts me just listening. We tried every antidote for hiccups I could find on the
Internet. Nothing has worked completely yet, but the professionals are working on it.
I have made arrangements for Howard’s sister, Corliss, to arrive here on the 19th. She
will do lab tests the following day and begin whatever plans Dr. Forman and his team
has decided upon at that time. It may require boosting her cells again taking her blood
on about the 4th or 5th day. Her blood cells will then be given to Howard to boost the
blood already in his body, which are all her blood type now. They do not plan to draw
the blood from the same area as before due to the problems she experienced
previously with healing the site of the incision. The groin area is just used too much and
seemed like it was not able to handle the pressure from even minimal movement to
allow for quick healing. The doctor feels a one-week stay will be sufficient to do what is
necessary before she returns home to Detroit . As always, Corliss is willing to do
what she can to help with her brothers recovery. He will also be requiring extra blood
transfusions and platelets during the next week, so I will be heading back to the blood
donor center to offer my help again as well.
Dr. Forman is optimistic that this therapy with the extra blood boost will accomplish the
task to return Howard to a state of remission while his body regains strength. The
positive news is that the blast cells (leukemia producing) that were present have
disappeared completely after the first round of Mylotarg. The future treatment plans for
Howard have not been decided at this time. It is one day at a time and dependant on
the results of the present therapy.
We are keeping a very positive outlook on this “set back” and continuing to pray for
Howard’s complete remission and recovery. Each of us has to endure our own times of
physical trials and tribulations, but through it all God can refine us to become more
aware of His love for us and our purposes. One cannot be involved in something like
this without feeling the rippling effects. Life is a gift to each of us and to be valued
every day. Howard says this is just all a part of “doing the dance.”
My closing thought today would be that each of you who reads this will tell someone in
your life how much you appreciate them while you are still able. Thanks to each of you
for your visits and thoughtfulness. God bless you and may you bless God.
September 29, 2005
Living from moment to moment can be challenging. We never know what will happen
next. But something has happened that we were really hoping would not. The leukemia
has returned to Howard's blood again. He is such a fighter and he gives 110% all the
time, so he will continue to. But, this is a very aggressive type of cancer and requires
more therapy to achieve the results we are wanting. Howard will be going back into the
hospital on Monday to begin a new therapy called antibody therapy. First the anti
rejection drugs have all been stopped as of three days ago when we got the news that
the bad cells were showing their face again. That will help the donor cells begin fighting
full strength without anything holding them back. Second Howard has been put on an
oral drug to bring his white blood counts back down less than 10,000 so the antibody
therapy can be started Monday. Right now his counts are above 40,000. Normal is
between 4,000 and 11,000, so he has all those mutant white cells reproducing once
again. The stem cell just has not been able to hold for whatever reason.
The doctor mentioned that perhaps the blood clot that he just had removed was
somehow connected to the leukemia cells returning and causing them to clot. That has
not been verified, but mentioned as a possibility by the doctor. I am still giving him daily
injections of the blood thinners to keep any more clots from forming in the meantime.
The doctor has assured me that the thinners have not had anything to do with the
leukemia returning. But the blood clot and the weakened position it put Howard in at the
time may have left an open window for the cells to crawl through (so to speak). It is all
just speculation as to why the leukemia is back again.
The next step is to push the leukemia back into remission through the antibody therapy
and allowing the donor cells to take over. The possibilities in the future may include
another round with chemotherapy and another stem cell transplant. We are waiting to
see what the definite plan will be once the antibody therapy has been put into place and
Dr. Forman makes that decision. We are preparing for another battle here by taking the
weekend off to visit his grand kids and some friends. He will be away from the hospital
and the village this weekend but back again on Monday.
September 25, 2005
Just as we thought Howard would glide through these last days of the 100-day post
transplant period, he hit a bump in the road. He was feeling well enough to do a little at
home exercise here at the village, when he noticed that his right arm was swelling. At
first we though he was just getting a nice pump, but when we noticed it was only on one
arm, we knew we had to make a trip to the emergency unit. The on-call doctor took a
look and proceeded to readmit him to the hospital and do some tests. It turned out that
his catheter had been drawing poorly for the last four or five weeks and this was the
source of the problem. It had moved from its original position, near his heart, to a total
different place in his right shoulder. It was hitting on a main blood vessel in his arm and
caused a blood clot to form. The clot began to restrict the blood flow through his right
arm. It has the potential to break away and cause other serious complications. Howard,
the doctors and I discussed the options and agreed to remove the clot through an
An angioplasty is the surgical repair of a blood vessel, either by inserting a
balloon-tipped catheter to unblock it, or by reconstructing or replacing part of the
vessel. By doing this surgery, Howard will be able to continue to a workout in the future
without concern that part of the clot might remain and cause problems. All went well
with the surgery and they reported that 85% to 90% of the clot was removed by this
method. While he was hospitalized, his chest catheter was also removed and the
doctor put him on blood thinner injections twice a day until further notification.
Five days passed in the hospital before he was released and allowed to return to the
village. We were reminded of the freedom he enjoys here in the village verses the
isolation that is required when he is hospitalized. I administer those at noon and
midnight regularly now that we are in the village. Not my favorite thing to do, but
sometimes we have to do things we are not always completely comfortable with, to get
the results we want. The thinners help to assure that another clot does not form again.
His health is my goal, so I take a deep breath and give him a shot in his stomach area
The Graft Verses Host has begun to show with skin discolorations, a rash and major
itching. Medications are being used to offer some relief, but it is still a constant irritation
to him. This is day 80 post stem cell transplant and things are going just about as
expected, other than the clot. Since the catheter is no longer in his chest there is less
chance of an infection and a little less upkeep there. However, he has to get a lot more
shots from the lab when he goes for his biweekly check ups. We are hoping that the
need to replace the catheter will not arise again. Most patients who are not using their
own stem cell have to keep the catheter in for the entire 100 days and sometimes even
longer. There are a lot of side effects and complications from the GVHD that can
require hospitalization and intravenous medications. Howard keeps his strong positive
outlook and prepares mentally for all the possibilities taking the offensive position
whenever possible. Hopefully he will be able to remain here in Parson's Village without
Since arriving here spring has changed to summer, which has now changed to fall. The
air is a bit cooler at night and there are a few more overcast days than before. During
my daily walks through the gardens I have noticed ripening apples as well as a second
crop of oranges, lemons, mandarins and limes all about the property. The peaches and
pears are long gone but I am keeping an eye on a lone persimmon tree with fruit that is
nearing the picking stage now. I learned there is such a thing as a strawberry tree with
lovely multicolored balls that turn from green to yellow to bright red before falling to the
ground. The head of the landscape department tells me that they are edible, but not
very tasty. I will pass on testing these.
An interesting observation here has been the flock of bright green parrots that have
been visiting the grounds and causing a lot of excitement. They are large, very noise
and cause me to stop and follow them. Time passes very slowly when waiting to be
healthy again, but living one day at a time I always find something God has placed in
my path to be thankful for. Through the beauty of His creation surrounding us, the
extremely talented medical staff, and family and friends he has blessed us with, I can
truly say we "feel the love!” One of those blessings that have played a major role
during this entire process is the support and love that have been felt from Chuck and
Gena Norris. They have been there from the very beginning of this journey starting four
years ago. Their constant prayers, concern and unconditional support through this
entire process, has been a blessing to us both. Not only have they been Howard's
employers, but also his family. Erik (Shadow Duck) Thanks for the wheels, that loaner
means a lot to our daily routines. Mom (Wilma), we love you and appreciate you so very
much. The impact your life has had on all of us is unmistakable. Thank you for taking
the time to pray and being such a constant warrior for the Lord. Finally, Aunt Gladys,
you better get well yourself so we can all go dancing together! We love you all.
It seems I spend a lot of time thanking people on this site, but without them this road
would be so much harder to travel. The past webmaster, Marie White for all you have
done establishing this website for Howard and the present webmaster Kevin Burton,
without you these postings would not even be possible. For the time Kevin gives to us
designing this site and therefore time his family has to sacrifice, Sara and girls, we love
you too! There are so many more that have not been mentioned that should and I hope
you all know how important you each are to us.
September 14, 2005
Almost a month has passed since the last update. Howard and I are blessed to report
no major occurrences during that time. Howard's recent bone marrow biopsy just came
back and he is still clear of any leukemia cells to date. However, he has just started to
experience some of the Host Verses Graft Disease in the last few days. A rash has
appeared on his neck along with some full body itching. A cream and oral medication
has been somewhat helpful in reducing the discomfort it brings. We are not surprised
to see “a little something” going on, as this is day 69 post transplant. Many of our
friends here have had to go back into the hospital numerous times during the 100 days
and especially as they entered the last 30 days. The intestinal upset seems to be one
of the most common bacterial reactions. We are hoping that Howard will not have to do
that "dance." Our prayer is that the GVHD reactions won't be severe enough to make
the move back to "The Big house,” but we won't be too surprised if that ends up
happening at some point soon.
Howard has kept the indomitable spirit that he has always displayed while facing any of
his opponents in past "fights.” He is standing strong and positive that his leukemia will
remain in remission. However, he lives his life day-to-day and moment-to-moment
when it becomes necessary. Considering all the human suffering and tragedy of
heartbreaking magnitude in New Orleans and Mississippi , we are just counting our
Since the move to the village and becoming an outpatient, Howard has not had access
to the physical therapy training he had in the hospital. Walking to and from the hospital
for appointments are the main form of exercise we have available to us right now. I
have improvised my fitness regime from the beginning. Staying physically and mentally
fit is very important not only for the patient, but also the one in a caregiver capacity.
With that in mind, we were thankful when Bob Wall and David Krapes delivered one of
Bob's total gyms to us this week along with a new supply of his Kickbars and K.O.
recovery fitness water. Bob has been a consistent encourager and friend delivering
packages of health promoting products for us both. Robert Temple, and Steve Fisher
also have our thanks for their kindness, generosity, and concern for our fitness needs
as well. We truly appreciate you.
We have a several very special friends and fellow cancer survivors, Denise Singson
and Ida Fogarty, who have also gone through the stem cell transplants at the City of
Hope during Howard's first stay here and during the follow-up treatments three years
ago. They are in remission now and have been able to return home to continue their
lives in positive ways. You both have been so supportive and continually encouraging
to Howard and myself during his relapse and return. They are proof that "what goes
around comes around.” You will always be our family. Aloha. Also, Carol Kaufman,
keep being strong and positive with your battle, we love you so very much and stand
with you in your present struggle with your recovery. As the song goes "We all need
somebody to lean on, and you can always lean on us!"
To each of you who have lifted Howard up in prayer, he thanks you. We have felt the
touch of your prayers every day. We have faith in the power of those prayers and
believe that Our Lord will continue to hold Howard in the safety of his loving care and
bless you for your compassion.
August 17, 2005
On July 28, Howard was able to move to Parson's Village! His white blood counts were
up to 5,600 and all other counts looked good enough to allow some independence and
freedom. This move meant we are now responsible for preparing all our own
low-bacteria meals and taking the 35 to 38 prescribed pills daily. I flush his catheter
every day and also change the dressing on his catheter every few days when it gets
wet. Howard has regular appointments on Monday's and Thursdays for blood work and
x-rays. A bone marrow biopsy was done on August 4 and the results came back clean.
Dr. Forman's words to Howard recently were "you are once again in remission and God
willing you will stay that way, now let’s hope they hold." That was very good news.
Our hopes are that he is past the hardest stage and that there will only be minimal
GVHD. Howard has not had any Graft Verses Host Disease as of yet, and he is on
daily anti rejection drugs to help accomplish this acceptance of the donor's blood
(engraftment). The next step will be to slowly reduce the anti rejection drugs to allow
some of the GVHD to show up before he is released and returns to Texas . We are
on day 42 of the 100-day close-watch period. After that time Dr. Forman will decide
when he thinks it is safe for Howard to return to Texas to continue his recovery.
Howard is able to get out and around a little bit now. He was able to spend the
weekend with his son in Moreno Valley this past weekend. Spending time with the
grand kids and doing a little fishing was just what the doctor ordered. Mostly only small
blue gill fish were caught, but I managed to nab a pan-sized catfish that was a fun tug
on the line. Fishing is something we both enjoy! Howard is usually the trophy winner
when it comes to the big fish, but not this time!
We are staying very close to the hospital as Howard is still supposed to stay away from
crowds, anyone with an illness, eating out in restaurants or places where the
low-bacteria diet cannot be monitored. Unfortunately, anything barbecued on an
outside grill is also on the "off-limits" list as well as any sushi! That is a hard one! We
were advised that the best results come from strict compliance with the guidelines until
after the 100 days are up. Then look out Red Lobster, here we come. He will still stay
away from raw fish for some time to come though.
Remembering when to take which of the 38 medications, Howard required daily seems
to be a two-brain task. The complications come when the instructions require some
with food and some must be taken no sooner than one hour after food and no food for
two hours post medication. He does this twice a day, and has appointments that keep
him tied up for hours, it gets a little tricky. Especially when preparing his food in the
bungalow under strict low bacteria conditions. No micro waved fast foods allowed. But,
all is done happily with the results he is having.
The City of Hope grounds are very beautifully landscaped place to have to be when
dealing with a life threatening disease. There are always flowers in bloom somewhere
here as well as fruit trees, bearing their harvest or a newly discovered statue around a
corner. The grounds were designed to create a tranquil and pleasant garden
atmosphere where the beauty of new life and God's creative handy work is clearly
evident. I stay busy with things needing to be done, as they never cease as long as life
continues! However I've learned to always stop and smell the roses on my afternoon
walks. Howard is catching up on some writing that was set aside while he has been
focusing his efforts on successful survival thinking.
July 26, 2005
We have good news. Howard did very well with his consolidation chemotherapy. Dr.
Forman and his team decided to keep him on a low-dose chemo. It finally began the
process of lowering the white cell count down by the third day. He also decided to
move the transplant up a day so the blast cells would not have any chance of returning
before the new donor cells were infused. The peripheral blood stem cell infusion took
place on the 7th of July and lasted only 45 minutes for the entire process. The frozen
stem cells were thawed slightly and immediately infused into his bloodstream through
his VAD (catheter). The usual side effects during this infusion are nausea, vomiting and
cramping. Howard had a small amount of this. The day of infusion and for days
afterward the room was filled with the smell of a sweet garlic odor. This was the same
odor noticed when he did his own (autologous) stem cell transplant three years ago on
July 22, 2003.
Just before the transplant Howard was pre medicated with Benadryl. It is a great
relaxing agent if you go with the flow. It also protects him from any allergic reactions to
the foreign blood product being administered. So, he slept most of the day after the
stem cell was done. After this point, the waiting begins for engraftment and the side
effects to appear.
During the process called engraftment, the donor stem cells that have been infused
make their way to the bone marrow, and begin producing replacement blood cells. This
process lasts for several weeks, and during this time, Howard will be very susceptible
to developing infections, until the engraftment is completed. Preventing any infections
is a high priority during the engraftment and recovery process. So, Howard was placed
on several antibiotics to prevent problems that posed a potential danger to him based
on blood tests and his history.
The complication called graft-verses-host-disease (GVHD) occurs in stem cells from
persons other than the patient’s own cells. In essence Howard's sister's stem cells will
take over his system and will attack all foreign cells including any of Howard's old blood
cells. This is a good thing when it comes to the Leukemia cells that may be still present
in Howard's remaining cells. Since Howard's sister was a perfect HLA match, the
GVHD is expected to be less acute than if it were from an unrelated donor. However,
they do expect some reactions. They are listed as disorders of the skin, liver and the
gastrointestinal tract. Shingles is a common reaction and a painful one as well.
Diarrhea, cramping, skin rash and other symptoms could occur.
Also in the case of a female stem cell donor and a male recipient, the female donor's
cells that do not share the genes on the Y chromosome may see factors that are
produced by genes on the Y chromosome as foreign. This factor makes the risk of
immune reaction higher. Howard has had some lower intestinal problems, which have
caused him a fair amount of discomfort, as well as a rash that has just appeared on his
neck. These are both being treated and under control at the moment. The reactions
can show up anytime in the future, but the first 100 days after the transplant have the
greatest potential for complications.
Howard has been able to eat a regular diet, is in good spirits, and keeping other
patients encouraged about a positive outcome with their own treatments. When he is
allowed out for walks, he is only allowed to travel through the BMT unit and he must be
accompanied by a physical therapist. The walks last up to 20 minutes right now
depending on his level of strength each day. Since he is still in contact isolation he is
required to wear the gown, gloves and mask whenever he leaves the room to protect
others from his particular bacteria and protect him from others’ bacteria. There are
many differing types of bacteria that do show up during hospital stays. It is a bit
restrictive for him, but he still gets to visit patients from their doorway on this floor.
Presently, he cannot go outside or to other areas of the hospital.
During the first week after the stem cell was infused, Howard required a few
transfusions of platelets and blood, but before long he began producing his own cells.
Howard's white blood counts are up to 4,200 and he is looking better every day.
Normal White Blood Counts for a healthy male are 4,000 to 11,000. Our desire is that
the counts do not go above 11,000 as a higher count would reflect too many white
blood cells, most of which will be mutations and that is a sign of Leukemia. He is now
being switched from intravenous medications to the oral versions so he can be more
independent. Once this is complete, they will consider sending him to the Village
bungalows here on property, to reside for observation and outpatient treatments. We
are expecting to make that move by the 28th or 29th of this month, barring any
Next week miscellaneous tests will be done to closely monitor his organ functions as
well as blood composition tests to determine the strength of the anti rejection drugs he
is constantly receiving. They watch his mineral levels and add supplements to replace
those that are deficient due to the numerous drugs. Finally, they will do a bone marrow
aspiration in about a week to determine if any leukemia cells are still present in the
marrow. Staying close to the hospital for the next several months will be mandatory for
weekly check ups and any emergency situations that can and usually do arise during
this stage of the GVHD.
In other news, we were moved to the new Helford Clinical Research Hospital on the
15th of July and what an experience that has been. The hospital is a $200,000,000
project and very high tech. The rooms look like something out of Architectural Digest
Magazine. We were one of the first groups to be officially paraded over to the building
early that morning. The new hospital has six floors and we are on the top one. One side
of the hospital has a view of the mountains and the other has a not so beautiful view.
The lobby/ waiting room on the 6th floor has an awesome panoramic view of the
mountains and the City of Duarte . We were blessed to get the mountainside view, so
my prayers were again answered.
Also, to our surprise, we were given a connecting VIP room. It is similar to a nice hotel
suite and there is only one of it's kind on this floor. I believe the blessing of getting this
room is the realization of a scripture verse that I kept getting confirmations on. The
verse is Matthew 6:26-34. It has been such a blessing and as a result I have been
able to catch up on some much needed sleep. Three and a half months in a hospital
room chair with nurses coming in and out all night long has been a challenge!
Unfortunately, Howard cannot spend time in the suite with me as he is still in contact
isolation. He has many of the same amenities in his own room and I am still only steps
away if a need arises. The assignment to this executive suite was quite a blessing and
honor for me. I am going to get some good nights sleep on the sofa sleeper in the
Each room comes with a nice sized flat screen TV monitor with DVD and VHS players.
When Howard is not enjoying one of his detective shows, we are able to watch the
many movies that have been supplied by family and friends. The hospital beds are all
equipped with built in weight scales now so he no longer is asked to get up and out of
bed to get his weight. It was not a problem during the day normally, but when they
came in during the wee hours of the morning, it was a little tougher to get up for. It is
also a big benefit for anyone who is just out of it after the chemotherapy sessions and
is just too weak or sleeping to get up.
Howard's sister is now vacationing with her husband and grandson in Louisiana . She
is doing well and having a wonderful time meeting her husband's relatives in both
Mississippi and Louisiana . They will all return home to Detroit by the second week
in August. Corliss is very much appreciated and loved for all her contributions to her
brother, so we are happy she is able to enjoy time with her family again.
We give our deepest respects and appreciation to all the Doctors, Nurses, PCAs and
Staff members here that have taken such good care of Howard. We have heard it said
many times over, if you have been to other hospitals and come to the City of Hope ,
you would not want to go anywhere else ever again. The people make this place the
world-renowned facility that it is, and we appreciate each of you for treating life with
such compassion. You will each have a special place in both of our hearts always. So it
is with all the friends we have made here who have also gone through the life
challenging events with us. Friends like Peter Edalat who continually shows his courage
to face whatever he has to get through his battle here. Life will always be appreciated
for the great gift it is and we will forever value our friendships with each of you. We're
one big extended family now.
To summarize things up, so far so good. The doctors are pleased with his results and
remind us this is a day- to-day situation. Howard is his usual inspiring and positive self,
visualizing the AML in total remission and after five years being classified as CURED.
Thank you for your life-giving prayers that have sustained Howard through each and
July 1, 2005
On June 14, Dr. Forman did a bone marrow biopsy checking for any leukemia cells. By
the 17th we had the results that it was clean, and as soon Howard's counts came up
high enough they would move forward with the final chemo and stem cell infusion. After
waiting about a week for the counts to rise on their own, it was decided that Howard
would get the drug that promotes growth of the white cell count in the bone marrow to
help speed things up.
Howard started the pre-chemo testing to be sure all his organs were in good shape for
the upcoming battle of the foreign stem cells (his sister's) taking over his body. If any
organs are not healthy, they will be attacked by the new stem cells, so it is vital
everything is working properly in advance of this phase. By June 27, (Howard's
Birthday) only one test remained. The CT scan. It is an easy test once he filled his belly
with barium all morning. Howard says barium tastes like drinking chalk, even with the
flavoring added. So that is what he got to have for the first half of his birthday. After the
scan he returned to his decorated room and was surprised with cake, calls, cards,
family and friends coming by to sing him Happy Birthday. We even enjoyed a special
moment of singing from our nurse friends on wing five, so the day ended better than it
started for him.
The following day, June 28, Howard had a surprise visit from "The Boss,” Chuck and
Gena Norris. They stopped by to wish Howard a happy birthday and spend some time
Howard and I moved to the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. I quickly undecorated our
room in wing five and engaged the help of security and their mini pick up truck for
moving all our belongings to our new tiny room in BMT. His cell counts were rising
quickly and it was decided to start the treatments right away. Unfortunately, there were
blast cells growing with the other cells, which called for action. So, we rushed over to
the bone marrow transplant building to begin the last round of chemo treatments. The
initial chemo will last for five days and then a different chemo for the final day.
Afterwards there will be two days of anti rejection drugs and a day of rest before the
stem cell infusion.
The target date for the stem cell infusion is the 8th of July if no extra chemo treatments
are required. Dr. Forman says this particular drug therapy should be fairly easy on him.
He wants to knock those "little bad boys out" and then send in the stem cell soldiers to
help fight any that may have been hiding in the shadows. Maximizing the effectiveness
of the drugs on the leukemia while minimizing the negative effects on the organs is a
constant challenge. So far all is going as planned and his white blood counts are
dropping as hoped for. Once the stem cell is infused there will be 100 days of close
monitoring on an inpatient and outpatient basis. More on that later.
The room we are in now is very small, but the Lord has blessed us with a beautiful view
of the rose garden and park area here at the City of Hope . I see God's handiwork
daily in the beauty of all the lovely flowers and arboretum type landscaping outside our
window. There is a bird feeder right outside our window that was a gift from the patient
(Sherry and Ashley Lauren Morton) in the next room. It attracts many different species
of birds and also a pair of squirrels that chase each other playfully up and down the
trees every day. I am reminded that the word of God says He cares for the birds of the
air and loves each of us so much more. He knows our deepest needs. I realize that this
view is a blessing for me, meant to renew my strength after three months of living in
hospital rooms with no view. Howard enjoys the view also, but admits he is not as much
of a nature lover as I am. Everyone tells us this is the most beautiful view in the entire
unit. I can even see the waterfall in the rose garden from here. God is with us.
To the degree that it is possible, this is a bacteria free environment. Visitors are asked
to wear a gown, gloves and mask to protect Howard and the other immune-suppressed
patients. Anyone with an illness of any kind is asked not to enter the area. We are
informed a small cold germ could put his life at risk now. His counts are so low they
only allow two people in his room at a time. The air filtration in the room is not designed
to handle more. We are told that soon they will discourage any visitors and have him in
isolation for about the next two to three weeks. I also wear the same gown, gloves and
masks as other visitors to his room. I hear that yellow in the fashion color this season,
so at least we are all in style!
The caregiver shower is located about a three-minute walk from here in the Village
Office area. There is also a four-washer laundry area there as well. Howard’s meals
have to be only low bacteria, which require preparation under very strict conditions.
Only food ordered from the hospital cafeteria or cooked in the village kitchen or
bungalows here on the site are allowed. Many items on the menu are not available to
Howard at this stage of the treatments. We plan to make up for lost time once this is all
Howard is not only a Master in the field of Martial Arts but now he has proven himself as
a Master of the Moment. He chooses to live moment to moment, taking life's ups and
downs as they are thrown at him. Because of his very upbeat and positive attitude,
Howard has become a bit of a celebrity here. He has the gift of encouragement for
others going through similar experiences here. His friendly and kindhearted nature has
made him many new friends. Several patients that we visited and supported while
Howard was in remission have now come to support and encourage us during this
relapse with the leukemia. We both have acquired a new respect and appreciation for
life and our relationships with family and friends.
We hope you all enjoy our shared Day of Independence with family and friends. Happy
Fourth of July and America , Bless God!
Sharon & Howard
June 7, 2005
Howard was released to the on-campus bungalows, known as Parson's Village, twice
since my last update. During this "time out " he ended up in the emergency room after
only 24 hours. In both cases he developed chills and high fevers, which appeared
within one to three hours after his catheter was flushed by a nurse or home health
nurse. He was readmitted to the hospital each time and a new room assigned. At this
point we have moved seven times. It has kept me busier than I had ever expected!
Tests were run and the results showed Howard had a rare, plant-based bacterium that
had settled into the vascular access device placed in his chest in early April. Once it
was determined that the infection was in the catheter, it was removed and more
antibiotics were added to his daily medications.
He also developed a bronchial type cough about the same time, which seemed to
hang on and drained his energy. The concern was that it might be pneumonia settling
into his lungs. Many tests were run and it was determined that Howard had bronchitis
and chronic sinusitis combined. It took quite a few days on the antibiotics to clear the
blood infection and a combination of breathing treatments, cough medicines,
antihistamines and some steroids to calm the cough. That combination finally did the
job and the cough is gone for the time being.
Once all the antibiotics were doing their job and the fever gone, he was deemed well
enough to replace the Hickman Catheter in his chest in preparation of the upcoming
chemotherapy and blood stem cell transplant. So, Howard went back to surgery for the
new vascular access device. When the new chest catheter was in place, they were
able to remove the peripheral IV that was placed in his arm temporarily. That was a
relief to him as it was more uncomfortable and he was subjected to the constant
sticking of needles in the arm for his blood testing.
Dr. Forman did another bone marrow biopsy on the 23rd of May and discovered that
the Leukemia was not completely gone. With each passing day blood tests revealed
the abnormal cells, known as blast cells, were returning quite rapidly. By May 26 the
blast cells were up to 65%. The news that the first round of treatments had not worked
to stop the cancer cells was hard to hear, but Howard bounced back fast and was
ready to move onto the next step to fight the Leukemia. Three years ago when he went
through the initial treatments and his own stem cell transplant he had to do three rounds
of treatments as well, so he is no stranger to that program.
Howard started on three different chemotherapy drugs May 27. One by orally and two
by transfusions. He had one night of the oral medications followed by five nights of a
combination of the two new chemo drugs that are supposed to have a great track
record with wiping out the cancer cells.
As of June 7, all the blast cells have disappeared and his counts are down to zero,
which means the medications are working. He will be getting platelets again soon and
blood transfusions necessary to keep his counts up enough to protect him. I donate
blood and platelets as often as they will accept them from me as my blood type O -,
the universal donor. His energy level is not very high right now, and his voice seems to
fade to almost a whisper on some days. The drugs usually make a patient nauseated
and have other unpleasant side effects however he has been lucky with only minimal
problems thus far.
Howard has to take his IV pole, which he named "Fred or Freddy" (from Nightmare on
Elm Street ), with him every place he goes. Fred lights up our room at night, beeps
loudly when he wants attention, and slows him down on his trips to the bathroom. That
happens quite often now with all the medications he is on, with some used to eliminate
the extra fluids in his body.
The sinus drainage is still an issue, keeping him awake at night. I try to keep the phone
turned off until he is up and going which is usually after 10:00 a.m. most days. The
doctor comes in early before 8:00 a.m. then after he leaves and the nurses get some
tests done, he/we fall back to sleep during those precious moments of the early
morning. Sleep is an important part of his recovery and there is activity in the room all
day and late into the night when they come to take his vitals, weight, blood tests and
During the last 10 days Howard's sister had her stem cell collected and frozen for later
use. They were able to harvest 9.4 million stem cell, which is quite a lot. They needed
at least five million stem cells to do this right, so Corliss was a great donor. She
experienced a little trouble after the donation as it took a few days in the hospital to get
enough platelets back in her body to get the blood to clot at the shunt site and
completely stop it. Her counts are back to normal now and she is back staying with
Howard Jr. and his family again. She comes to the hospital and stays a few days with
us here from time to time before returning to Howard's son's home again. She will be
returning to her home in Detroit , Michigan on July 14 to be with her husband, Al and
We have no dates for the stem cell transplant at this time, but perhaps mid July. There
is some rejection of her stem cells expected, but since they are perfect matches the
"Graft Verses Host" effects should be minimized. He will be receiving anti rejection
drugs prior to the transplant to help reduce the GVHD effects afterward.
Howard and I are still encouraged by the cards, calls and emails from you all. Thanks
again to Bob & Lillian Wall who have made regular trips here to replace the video
library they have so graciously lent us. It makes the time go by much more quickly. Bob
also keeps us well stocked in his high protein Kick bars and water. Howard has a
nightly snack of the protein bar which helps keep his weight stable.
To all who have kept us in prayer, come to visit, sent cards and made calls of
encouragement and support, we really appreciate your love and concern. You have no
idea how you have touched us both.
God's Blessings to each of you,
Sharon & Howard
Well, the words we had hoped would never be uttered became a reality last Friday,
April 8, when Howard's doctor at the City of Hope , Dr. Stephen Forman, informed us
of the results of Howard's bone marrow biopsy. The AML (Leukemia) had indeed
come out of remission, and he has suggested Howard start on the chemotherapy right
away. Once again Howard has no choice but to accept the challenge that has
presented itself upon him a second time.
The original stem cell transplant, which was from Howard's own cells, was not quite
strong enough to last the test of time. He was showing signs of fatigue and then
became sick with a bronchial virus that quickly developed into pneumonia. We were
able to get the pneumonia under control through doctors and antibiotics in the Dallas
TX area. The doctor in Dallas let us know on Thursday, March 31, that it looked as if
the AML had possibly recurred, and suggested Howard return to his preferred doctor
to get more tests done soon.
By the following Sunday afternoon April 3, we returned back to the City of Hope Cancer
Research Hospital in Duarte , CA , where Howard was treated originally. Once here
the follow-up tests were done and the prognosis was made that the cancer had
returned. The plan of attack is two separate rounds of a stronger dose of chemo, than
the first time. Then he will receive a stem cell transplant from his sister, Corliss, whose
blood type is a perfect match for the procedure. God is good, as Howard has only one
sibling left alive, and usually only one out of four siblings is a match!
This procedure will take awhile to accomplish, as the chemotherapy will take Howard's
immune system down to a very vulnerable stage of protecting itself from all infections.
Afterward, his system will have to rebuild itself back up to a healthier state again. He will
then be given a short time out of the hospital and return to repeat the entire process.
Finally, once the second round has been completed, he will follow up with a stem cell
transplant from his sister.
Howard has just finished the first round of eight sessions of chemo, and his blood
counts are falling, as are the expected results of this therapy. He is headed into that
vulnerable stage for infections now. His spirits are high as he tackles this his second
bout with the AML
Howard would like to let you know that he appreciates each and every one of your
prayers and support during this entire process. His faith in God is strong as is his
confidence in Dr. Forman and the entire team of doctors, nurses and everyone
involved in his healing and comfort here at the City of Hope .
If you would like to contact him you may send an email to this site and include your
information, or you may send a card to the Patient: Howard Jackson, 1500 East
Duarte Rd , Duarte CA 91010-3000 . Please be aware that he is unable to accept
any flowers or edible gifts due to the bacteria related with these items.
April 26, 2005
Howard has finished his first round of eight chemo treatments with great success. His
white blood counts are now up from -0- to -500-. This means he is still vulnerable to
catching virus or cold bugs, but is on his way to recovering with only minimal side
effects this time. Once Dr. Forman decides the blood counts are high enough he will
let him loose for about a week to rest. During that time out he will bring him back to do a
bone marrow test to verify that the Leukemia is in remission and he will be ready to
move forward on the next round of chemotherapy and preparation for his sister's stem
We will be staying close by the hospital during this time in case of any possible
infections that could occur. His sister is here now from Detroit , MI. and is presently
going through the tests required to be his stem cell transplant donor. Corliss is a
blessing as mentioned earlier being his only sibling and a willing perfect match. We are
very thankful for her and the love she has for her brother. At this point she spends
some of her time with Howard Jr. and his family in Moreno Valley and some with
Howard and me in the hospital room.
I (Howard's fiancée, Sharon ) am here at the hospital all the time. It is my second time
around with him for this treatment so I am familiar with the protocols now. We have both
become semi-pros by now, but not really by choice. Or at least we think we are pros by
I have all the cards and letters hanging on the walls facing Howard's bed so he has a
constant reminder of the love and encouragement from all of you. He is very thankful
and appreciative of the prayers, love and support from each and every one of you.
We especially want to thank The Norris, Chuck and his wife Gena for their love, and
encouragement for Howard in all the ways that they have been here for him. Without
their continual support the road ahead would be a much tougher path to walk. We both
thank you for the care and concern that you have shown in so many ways. You have
treated us as your own family. And you have been a real blessing to us.
We would like to also mention our thanks to Bob & Lillian Wall and worldblackbelt.com
for their wonderful friendship and support over the many years. Because
worldblackbelt.com reaches so many martial artists, Howard has enjoyed the support
and encouragement of many. They have given Howard much motivation and have truly
been a blessing from his extended martial arts’ family.I will keep you all updated on
The Champion's 1st Battle
October 30, 2002:
A letter from Howard "I would like to extend sincerest thanks and appreciation to all
those who sent donations to the Howard Jackson Leukemia Fund. I am deeply touched
by your acts of kindness, supporting me through this entire process. I would also like to
acknowledge the doctors, nurses, and staff at The City of Hope in Duarte who
administered outstanding care in treating the Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Together, they
were able to make my time as pleasant as possible while putting my cancer in
At this time I will no longer be accepting personal donations, however, anyone
interested in being a COH supporter can go to http://www.cityofhope.org and learn
more about the incredible job they are doing with cancer research and treatments.
Again, Thank you for your care, prayers, and donations. God Bless.
On February 13, 2002,
Howard was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He is beginning his treatment
now. We are asking all family, friends and fans to please keep him in your prayers.
March 1, 2002:
Howard is doing pretty well. He has gone through his first round of chemotherapy.
Again, the doctors are amazed that he is doing so well, but say it is because his body
is in such good shape. In a couple of weeks he will be moved to The City of Hope
where he will have a harder round of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.
He will be there for 6-8 weeks.
March 9, 2002:
Today Howard was released from Tarzana Hospital for two weeks. His blood count
has reached a peek that the doctors were comfortable with. After his rest at home he
will be continuing his treatment at The City of Hope.
March 27, 2002:
Howard entered The City of Hope.
March 28, 2002:
Howard has started his second round of chemotherapy. He is in good spirits.
April 13, 2002:
At this time Howard's count is down to what they call "zero.” They will be bringing his
count back up to start collecting his stem cells. This is a three to five-day process.
They will then freeze and store them. Howard will then have another round of
chemotherapy and also radiation. The retrieved stem cell will then be administered to
Howard.Howard's spirits are still high. The doctors are still amazed. He has not felt the
sickness or discomfort with the last round of chemotherapy that he did with the first.
The doctors have also let Howard use the treadmill for 30 minutes a day.
May 7, 2002:
Howard has been waiting patiently for his blood count to rise. Today it has come up to
400. We have said many prayers for him and we believe we have been heard. Now that
it is rising he will be able to have the stem cells collected soon.
May 22, 2002:
Howard is out of the City of Hope for a short time, although he is traveling there
everyday for treatment. The doctors have not been able to collect the stem cells they
had hoped for. The doctors will wait to see if his stem cells will multiply naturally. The
stem cells at this time are not as healthy. Howard is still in good spirits and is taking one
day at a time.
June 18, 2002:
Howard has been out of the City of Hope for a couple of weeks. He has been resting
and waiting for the stem cells to develop. Yesterday he entered the hospital again and
they have harvested 1,100,000 stem cells! If it keeps up there will be enough stem
cells in three to five days. Howard is very happy with this news.
June 25, 2002:
GOOD NEWS! Howard has had all of the stem cells harvested that will be needed for
his treatment. Howard will be resting at home until he enters the City of Hope again
on July 12th. Happy Birthday Howard!!
HOWARD WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE FOR THEIR BIRTHDAY CARDS,
BIRTHDAY EMAILS, AND GOOD WISHES. ''THANK YOU! ''
July 12, 2002: Howard has entered the City of Hope . During this time Howard will
have the final chemotherapy treatments along with radiation. This will be hard on
Howard and his stay will be approximately two months. Your prayers are needed. We
want to add at this time that Howard has had a friend Sharon that has stayed by his side
during all of this. We commend her for the giving of her time and love. We would like to
thank her family for sharing her with us.
Thank you Sharon
July 25, 2002:
Howard received his stem cells on July 22. His blood count is still dropping and he is
not feeling as well as he has been. The next couple of weeks will be hard for him, but
he is in good hands at the City of Hope . We would like to mention that Howard was
given a special award at the UFAF Convention in Las Vegas this last weekend,
accepted by his oldest son, Howard Jackson Jr.
P.S. Please don't forget your prayers for Howard.
August 4, 2002:
Howard has had problems with his mouth and throat. It has made it hard for him to talk;
however he has still tried to keep in contact with other people. The good news is that
his blood count is rising. His condition should improve as he gets his strength back.
Howard also, has been moved to a different room for any one that would like to send
him a card.
August 16, 2002:
Today Howard has been released from the City of Hope . He will be resting at home
and must return to the hospital twice a week for treatment. He is feeling stronger every
day. Thank you for all the support you have given Howard during this time.
September 1, 2002:
Howard entered the City of Hope again today. He was running a temperature of 104.
September 4. 2002:
Please pray for Howard. He has a blood infection, but the doctors feel they have it
under control. He is hoping to be home soon.
September 18, 2002:
Howard did come home for a few days but is back in this week having another
chemotherapy treatment. He is hoping to come home on Friday. The blood infection
seems to be under control at this time. Howard is taking one day at a time knowing that
he is near the end of his treatment. He still needs your prayers and support.
September 25, 2002:
Howard is still in the City of Hope . His blood infection has come back and he also
has pneumonia. Something positive, he did have his chemotherapy port removed two
days ago. We will keep you posted. He is still trying to keep a very positive attitude
nearing the end of his treatment.
October 5, 2002:
Howard has been home from the hospital since Monday. He will be having routine visits
at the hospital. It will take a little time for him to get part of his strength back, but he will.
We are encouraging him to eat lots of good food with lots of calories!
October 27, 2002:
Howard is gaining some weight and is working out a little. Over doing it, is not a good
idea right now. For the most part he is feeling better.
November 6, 2002: GOOD NEWS! A bone marrow test taken shows Howard is free of
cancer. His spirits are high and he is working out every other day. He is still taking it
easy and staying away from crowds.
December 9, 2002: Howard is feeling much better. His blood count is starting to come
up and he is getting that old smile back on his face. He will have to have some surgery
in January because of damage to his sinus caused by the radiation. He has gone home
to Detroit for the Christmas holiday to be with family. Howard wishes you all a very
happy holiday and thanks you for your concern and prayers that has given him the
greatest gift of all, life.
January 18, 2003: Howard had surgery on his sinus problem last Thursday morning. He
is doing well and hopefully it will relieve the problem he was having, caused from the
damage of the radiation. Howard hopes to return to work soon. That will be great! We
miss you Howard.
April 14, 2003: Howard has returned to work. He is feeling much better, but not
overdoing yet. He will start working regularly soon.
August 1, 2003: Howard has been back to work for some time now. In his last bone
marrow tests he came through with flying colors. Howard is in complete remission.
Howard received a standing ovation at the UFAF convention in Las Vegas July 19th.
He has also been recognized for all his life long accomplishments. Howard is working
toward setting up seminar schedules to co-inside with his busy schedule.
He would like to gratefully acknowledge his appreciation to all who have sent cards and
messages of encouragement.
Howard has a very positive attitude. He has kept his body physically sound which will
be an asset for his recovery.
Howard loves life and people to the fullest extent possible. Please return his love in
You can visit Howard's web site www.howardjackson.net
Howard's Email: email@example.com