November 02, 2008

Heading Into Transplant

Luca's post-relapse treatment went incredibly well. He received two rounds of TVTC chemotherapy, both of which produced noticeable reductions to the chloroma that had returned to Luca's nose. The potentially powerful side-affects of such a treatment were relatively mild, and Luca fought through them like a champ.

He also received low-dose localized radiation therapy on his nose and scalp, to help destroy any cancer cells in his skin that the chemotherapy didn't reach. The only noticeable side-affect from the radiation was losing all of the hair on one side of his head. This left Luca with an asymmetrical sort of punk-rock haircut that we dubbed "the half-moon cookie".

Scans from last week revealed that the chloromas in Luca's nose and scalp were once again gone. As devastated as we were when Luca so quickly relapsed, we were elated that with the help of everyone at Sloan, and all the prayers of our family and friends, we were able to once again beat it back down.

For the past few weeks we've been working with the amazing bone marrow transplant team to plan for the next step in Luca's recovery. Because there are no tests sensitive enough to guarantee that every single cancer cell in Luca's blood has been destroyed, the basic idea is to completely replace the system in his bone marrow where new blood cells are created with that of someone else's.  

The treatment begins with an intense regiment of high-dose chemotherapy designed to quickly and comprehensively destroy any remaining cancer cells, as well as to remove all of Luca's blood-producing stem cells in his bone marrow. This is not unlike the intense chemotherapy that Luca has already seen, and has all of the same side-affects and risks. Then, on the 10th day of this "conditioning" period, the healthy stem cells from a donor's bone marrow are infused through Luca's IV line, and the long period of grafting and accepting the new cells begins.

We were excited to learn that Luca had a perfect 10 out of 10 match who was willing to donate their marrow, and plans were put in place to move forward. But, as is often the case with the long battle against cancer, we heard late last week that plans had changed. The donor would need an addition couple weeks to undergo more screening tests, and the team feels that this would be a risky delay. So instead, the plan is to get the new stem cells from the cord blood. This is a relatively new procedure in which the stem-cell-rich blood from donated umbilical cords is used for the transplant instead of the bone marrow of an adult donor. There are some unique risks associated with a cord blood transplant, but it is widely used at cancer institutions across the country, and generally has the same success rates (and potential complications) of bone marrow transplant. For now, the plan is to start conditioning therapy late next week, and transplant the stem cells in the middle of November.

It's difficult to see Luca so happy and healthy, and somehow accept that we have to once again take him away from home and put him through another long and grueling battle. But we know that the transplant will give Luca the best chance at winning his war, and that the stength and spirit he's shown in the past will once again see him through.

Thank you all for your continued incredible support.


Hi Luca Baby!

We love you tons & tons!! We are thinking about you and you are in our prayers always.

Hugs & Kisses to you and your Mommy & Daddy
Holly, Andy, Tommy & Matty

Hi Luca:
Nana tells me your playing with your toys and talking up a storm. I now have videos of you on my phone so I can see you wherever I go. I know you will get through all this just as you have before. Can't wait to see you again.

Hey. We love you guys and are thinking and praying for you all every day. Hang in there! Be strong little Luca!!
Marisa, Pete, and Otis

Manal, Greg and Luca-

We've been following Luca's progress and think of you all lots. Both Kev and I are inspired by you all, and we are thinking positive thoughts for a healthy, quick recovery from the transplant.

Lots of love,

Em and Kev

We think of all of you often and check the site to keep up with how your sweet Luca is doing. The photos are wonderful - what a beautiful family you are. Continued prayers are with you and the physicians as you begin this new treatment. Our prayers are with you.

Thinking so much of you guys lately- knowing you are facing such a big hurdle which we know with great confidence he will overcome. Please know you are all in our thoughts and prayers always!!!
John, Kelli, JOhnny, Jake and Jordan

Hi Luca,
Hi little guy! You are in our thoughts daily. We know that you have a big hurdle coming up, but like always, you will tackle it so strongly and win! You are a fighter and our Hero. Hugs & Kisses to you and your Mommy & Daddy!
Love you tons & tons
Holly, Andy & the boys

Greg, Manal and Luca,

We are always thinking of you and praying for you.
God will keep him safe.
Lots of Love!!

Thinking of you guys always. We pray everything go well. Stay strong, God is always with you. Lots of love-
Ranya, Bill, Danny, and George

Thinking of you today little man.
Praying for your continued recovery and wellness.
Andrew, Sally, Christian, & Cameron

Thinking of you today and always... Keep smiling....Lots of love from Brooklyn

Always in our thoughts and prayers little lion. Keep roaring.

This is such great news! Luca is truly a HERO and GOD is watching over him with the best of care; not only at Sloan, but with the two best parents any child would be privileged to have! Manal and Greg, God Bless you both as you continue to help Luca heal. He feels your strength and this gives him the strength and courage to go forward. God will continue to hear our prayers and through these prayers will this transplant be a success!

Love Always,
Nabil, Irene, Rina and Tee

Luca, Manal, Greg, you are in our thoughts and prayers. We Love You. God Bless You.

This is such GREAT news!!!!


Thanks for sharing such hopeful news. I love the pictures too, you all look very happy and Luca makes a great lion. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Stay strong and God bless....

Manal, Greg, and Luca,
Those pictures are adorable! Luca's eyes and his smile are just beautiful! Luca is a fighter, as he has proven time and time again. We know that he'll continue to do well during his upcoming transplant. The strength that Luca has can only come from they strength that both of you, Manal and Greg, have shown him. We love and miss you all very much. Our prayers are with Luca every day.

The Sousous

Thank you so much for taking the time to update all of us. To see you guys and Luca and the love and strength you bring to each other, there is NO DOUBT he will pull through anything. Our prayers and love always-
John, Kelli, Johnny, Jake and Jordan

Luca, your life and experiences have touched so many. Good luck on this next journey that you take. You are always in our thoughts and prayers!

As always, this posting is amazing, Greg & Manal! Luca is blessed with such incredible parents whose love and courage continue to sustain our little man on his journey to recovery. May you sense everyone's prayers that are recited daily as Luca conquers his health challenges. Tons of love, hugs and kisses -- Nana & Papa V.

I know that once again, Luca has God on his his family on his side. He is one of God's children, and I believe God will be with him all the way.

Your all in my thoughts and prayers.

Evie Hawa

Once again we are truly amazed at your grace, composure, eloquent flick of the wrist to depict your lives in a nutshell via the blog, and your immense love and trust that God shall heal Luca. The wisdom of his doctors as well as research across the world has truly given the utmost faith to all of us in Luca's continued and ultimate recovery. Again, we pray always. Your strength and courage Luca is so admirable. You have so much to offer little man and again, we are waiting to meet you! Wishing you a pain free and speedy recovery through this next step.

The Aitchisons

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