Anchor for the Soul

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

After receiving my PET/CT result last November 25 that showed disease progression, I wrote in my journal questions to God. Why is my healing taking so long? I didn’t understand. I was scared. I was in pain. All tumors from my chest down to my abdomen grew. The ones in my right kidney were so big; they were protruding on my right abdomen.


Because I didn’t attain remission, I wasn’t qualified for a stem cell transplant. I needed a different protocol, which would be my third line of treatment for lymphoma. We decided to have my transplant doctor as my main oncologist. He recommended pembrolizumab, an intravenous immunotherapy to be infused outpatient every 3 weeks. I would also take orally ibrutinib, a targeted therapy, and venetoclax, a chemotherapy, everyday. When I attain remission, I would undergo an allogeneic stem cell transplant, which meant I needed a donor.

On December 3, a femoral vein access was created on my right groin, and on December 5, I had my first pembrolizumab infusion. But only a week after, I was hospitalized because I needed blood transfusion. And the weeks that followed, my creatinine climbed up to 2.53 mg/dL (Normal: 0.55-1.02). I had to see a nephrologist and intravenously hydrate myself at home.

On January 8, I had my second infusion. That day, we also found out that my brother is not a match for the allogeneic stem cell transplant.

First and Second Infusions

Two days after my infusion, I started to have chills and fever (Temperature: 39-40 Celsius).

On January 13, I was admitted to the hospital. My procalcitonin was at 97.80 ng/mL (Greater than 2.0: High risk for severe sepsis or septic shock). I was given antibiotics and when my blood pressure started to drop, I was given fluid bolus. Also, I was placed on reverse isolation and my femoral vein catheter was removed. God must really love me. I recovered from sepsis or bacteremia quickly. I only realized how dangerous it could’ve been when I went to the infectious disease specialist for a follow-up. He told me that sepsis could lead to multiple organ failure.

On January 29, I had my third pembrolizumab infusion via a peripheral vein access. On February 10, I went back to my urologist for a ureteral stent replacement, which was long overdue. Days later, we found out that my sister is a match for the allogeneic stem cell transplant. And on February 18, I had my fourth pembrolizumab infusion.

Third and Fourth Infusions

On March 3, I had another PET/CT, and the results were finally favorable. Thank God! In summary, all my tumors shrank:

  • Mediastinum: 3.5 x 2.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Right Lung: 1.0 x 0.7 x 1.0 cm (from 5.2 x 3.4 x 2.3 cm)
  • Left Lung: 0.6 x 0.5 cm (from 2.0 x 2.2 x 2.5 cm)
  • Right Kidney: 4.0 x 4.1 x 4.2 cm and 3.1 x 2.7 x 2.5 cm (from 11.4 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm and 7.8 x 5.3 x 5.0 cm)
  • Left Kidney: 1.1 x 1.4 cm (from 2.9 x 2.8 x 3.5 cm)

I responded well to my current protocol. The result was even beyond my oncologist’s expectations. I asked if I was in remission. He replied, “Almost there.” That is probably my happiest and most hopeful almost to date. God may not have answered why my healing is taking so long, but He has placed a spirit in me that refuses to be broken. This is hope.