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  Ryan's Diagnosis & Treatment...


Ryan Holt was diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer on Thursday November 6th, 2003 after a week long stay at INOVA Fairfax Hospital (Oncology Wing) where a series of tests, including blood tests, cultures, and surgical biopsies were performed. His specific Lymphoma is classified as a VERY rare type known as Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (KI1 is another way they refer to it). Only 200 kids are diagnosed with it each year in the entire country. Again, it's very, very rare.

During his admission to the hospital, the extensive testing and observation (during which he was also given fluids, nutrients, and antibiotics intraveneously) resulted in Ryan's diagnosis of Stage 3 (borderline stage 4) Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. Fairfax Hospital also worked closely with the NIH (Nat'l Institutes of Health) to ensure the diagnosis was as quick and accurate as possible given the initial difficulties of diagnosing his illness.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that can occur when an error occurs in the way a lymphocyte is produced, resulting in an abnormal cell. These abnormal cells can accumulate by two mechanisms: (a) they can duplicate faster than normal cells, or (b) they can live longer than normal lymphocytes. Like normal lymphocytes, the cancerous lymphocytes can grow in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood, or other organs.

In Ryan's case the cancer presented itself first as swollen lymph nodes (common in a variety of household infections and viruses). In Ryan's case however, the swollen node or "bumpie" as Ryan had called it, had manifested itself into cancerous "nodes" in his lyphmatic system, spreading very, very rapidly to his lungs and eventually to his thyroid. Trace amounts (virtually undetected in testing as early as two years ago) were also found in his bone marrow. Spinal fluid tests however were negative for cancer cells. The absence of cancer cells in his spinal fluid is VERY positive news in a long line of dissapointing news. The prognosis would have been much, much worse had the spinal fluid been infected as well.

Much more information about Lymphoma (the disease, treatments, etc.) can be found at... (In Ryan's case refer to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma)

  The Treatment...

Many people who are treated for NHL (Non-Hodkin Lymphoma) will receive some form of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologic therapy, or a combination of these therapies. Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may sometimes be used. Surgery may also be used under special circumstances.

Ryan is being treated with Chemotherapy. He began his agressive treatment on the afternoon of Saturday 11/8. Chemotherapy (or "chemo" as it is often called) is basically a battery of drugs introduced intravenously. Ryan underwent a surgical procedure on Saturday Nov. 8th to insert a Hickman-Broviac catheter, which Ryan calls his "tubie", which consists of tubes inserted through the chest wall into a vein. Six to twelve inches of tubing remain outside the skin. This catheter is the main delivery system for the chemo drugs that Ryan is being given. The main advantage of this type of catheter is that blood tests can also be drawn and drugs given without having to pierce the skin time and time again. A welcome advantage, especially for children.

Chemotherapy is based on the fact that tumor cells multiply within the body. Many different drugs are used that either kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. These drugs, unfortunately, will also have a similar effect on normal cells and have a host of serious side effects.

Ryan's first night on Chemo was rough as he began experiencing some of the classic side effects including severe nausea. Many more side effects occur including hair loss, digestive disruptions, low blood cell counts (which leave the body's imune system extremely depleted), infection, mouth sours, pain, extreme fatigue, depression, skin irritations, and loss of apetite.

For a more extensive view of treatments and side effects visit this link - *Please will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the document at this link. Acrobat Reader is a free program available at this Adobe link).

Greg & Lori are at his side regularly. Greg usually sleeps at the hospital and Lori, expecting a baby in January, stays at a friend's house (Barb) about every other night since her house is close to the hospital. Family visits them regularly at the hospital and keeps them all company during these difficult times.

Ryan will be discharged around November 20-22nd providing he is able and is responding well to the Chemo. His continuing treatments will be performed on an outpatient basis at INOVA Fairfax Hospital in addition to the medications that Greg & Lori will have to administer at home.

For updated information on Ryan's progress, TOUCH HERE to visit the family LOG area.