On Monday, January 3 George finally underwent his bone marrow biopsy. They took him down to intervention radiology for the procedure. George was so happy about that because normally, the procedure is done bedside with just a local anesthesia. He got to have his done while sedated, which means he didn’t feel a thing! The biopsy was done in his right hip area, right above his buttocks.
On Monday, we also met Dr. Behrens, the head of the oncology team that would be treating George. We were impressed with her knowledge and her bedside manner. She explained what leukemia is to us so we had a better understanding. My simplistic understanding was that all kinds of blood cells are made in the bone marrow….white blood cells, red cells, platelets, etc. Dr. Behrens suspected AML (acute myeloid leukemia) which happens when the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells (myeoblasts) and they fill up the marrow so the red blood cells and platelets get crowded out and outnumbered. That’s why George’s lab results were so alarming – high white blood cell count and low red blood cell count and platelets. And why he was finding himself short-winded and out of breath. The red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which carry oxygen, and they were being muscled out by the “baby white blood cells” as one doctor called them.
On Wednesday, January 5 Dr. Behrens received preliminary results from the bone marrow biopsy. Complete results would take about two weeks. She saw that George’s bone marrow was 30% myeoblasts. Anything over 20% is leukemia. So, we had our terrible, awful diagnosis. And it was time to start treatment immediately.