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Emily Augenstein is battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia which is a more aggressive form of Leukemia. She was diagnosed in early February of 2012 at UPMC Shadyside. Once diagnosed, Emily received multiple chemotherapy treatments over the course of a few months. Unfortunately, none of the three regimens of chemotherapy got Emily into remission. AML is an aggressive form of Leukemia and requires a Stem Cell Transplant to have a chance at complete remission. At the end of May, Emily had a stem cell transplant from a non-related donor. The transplant went well and Emily’s 30 day biopsy results showed that she had 100% donor cells with no signs of Leukemia. However, at day 56, her weekly blood work showed a small percentage of Leukemia cells. She had relapsed and the stem cell transplant had failed. The doctors at UPMC had no other treatment option left for her and did not give her much time. After intense research, Emily found a clinical trial at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Because of the aggressiveness of her Leukemia, Emily and her husband Jason quickly hopped on a plane to Houston, Texas to enter the clinical trial at MD Anderson. After battling pneumonia for two weeks, Emily was able to start the clinical trial. During the first week of chemotherapy, Emily had blown blood vessels behind her retina and lost most of her vision. Luckily, MD Anderson’s top ophthalmologist was able to restore her eyesight one eye at a time by the end of October. Emily handled the clinical trial well after her vision loss and reached Complete Remission within 2 months. At the same time, a search for a new donor was underway. By the time Emily had reached remission, two more perfect donor matches were found for Emily’s new Bone Marrow Transplant. Emily entered MD Anderson on November 12th to begin her high dose chemotherapy for her second transplant. The transplant was performed on November 20th of 2012 and was successful. Within days of receiving her transplant, Emily was diagnosed with severe (GVHD) Graft Versus Host Disease of the skin. She also had minor GVHD of the gut and eyes. (GVHD is caused when the donor’s immune cells view the recipient’s body as foreign and starts to attack.) When having a Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Transplant, the hospital requires the patient to stay with 30 minutes for at least 100 days. Emily was released from the hospital a few days before Christmas but was to return three to five times a week for the next few months. In early January, Emily started a more aggressive treatment for her GVHD of the skin called Photopheresis. This treatment worked well for Emily’s condition for the next two months until she was removed from it. More importantly, Emily’s 30 day and 60 day biopsies also showed clear with no signs of Leukemia. However, Emily’s 90 day biopsy results showed that her Leukemia had returned and the second transplant failed. The doctor’s at MD Anderson acted quickly on this terrible news and entered Emily into a more aggressive clinical trial in late February. Emily’s 30 day biopsy showed that her Leukemia was once again in remission. Emily was still battling her severe GVHD of the skin but was happy to be in remission. This chemotherapy protocol continued for 5 more months before Emily had signs of relapse once again.
After coming down with a severe sinus cold in late July, Emily slowly started to lose vision in her right eye. After several tests and a spinal tap, the results showed that Emily's Leukemia had spread to her brain and spinal fluid. This was a severe blow because Emily had 6 months of bone marrow biopsies (1 per month) that showed no signs of Leukemia anywhere. On August 22nd, Emily and Jason flew back down to MD Anderson where she was immediately admitted into the ER. By the time they got there, Emily had lost complete vision in her right eye. Once admitted, doctors started radiation to her brain and spinal taps with chemotherapy immediately which will continue for several weeks. However, the doctors are not sure if her vision will be saved but said it may take some time if it does come back. Emily's doctors are expecting her to undergo at least several weeks of treatments while also needing to stay in Houston for up to a few months.
Over the next few weeks, we will be updating this website and Facebook with Emily's progression. In addition, there may be some fundraisers to help raise money for Emily and Jason to help them pay for past and future travel, medical and living expenses. Thank you again for all of you prayers and support.
In addition, stem cell donors and blood donors are always needed. If you are interested in becoming a donor, joining is easy. Simply click on the specific link below.