Teen girl chronicles her valiant struggle with leukemia

Dec 17 2012 - 12:48pm
acute myelogenous leukemia, AML, Regine Stokke, blogger fatal illness
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Regine Stokke was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) at age 17, which transformed her from a happy teenager in Norway to a terrified girl contemplating her mortality. Shortly after her diagnosis, she began blogging about daily events in her life. She stated that the purpose of the blog was to inform others about “what it's like to live with” a serious illness. She attracted a huge following among individuals of all ages, some leukemia sufferers like herself. Sadly, although Regine waged a courageous battle against the blood cancer, she died 15 months after her diagnosis. After her death, her blogs and other relevant material were compiled in a book that became a huge success in Norway. The book was later translated into English; “Regine’s Book: a teen girl’s last words,” by Regine Stokke, was released on October 23, 2012.

The beautiful book, authored by a beautiful teen, is printed on heavy stock and contains numerous photographs, many taken by Regine. She was a gifted photographer; here photos were exhibited at both the 2009 and the 2010 Nordic Light photography festivals in Kristiansund. During her 15 month struggle with her illness, Regine experienced the excruciating pain of repetitive bone marrow biopsies, the nausea and hair loss from chemotherapy, innumerable transfusions, and episodes of functioning as a near-normal teen in activities such as rock concerts. Regine became an advocate for bone marrow donation, a procedure that has saved the lives of many blood cancer victims—unfortunately, Regine’s bone marrow transplant was not successful.

In summary, “Regine’s Book: a teen girl’s last words,” is a heartwarming and informative chronicle that will touch the hearts of anyone who reads it.
 
Acute myelogenous leukemia is a type of cancer manifested by abnormal cells inside their bone marrow. The cells grow very fast, and replace healthy blood cells. The bone marrow, which helps the body fight infections, eventually stops working correctly. Individuals with AML become more prone to infections and have an increased risk for bleeding as the numbers of healthy blood cells decrease.

Most of the time, a physician cannot ascertain what caused AML in a n individual. However, the following things are thought to lead to some types of leukemia, including AML:

  • Certain chemicals (for example, benzene)
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs, including etoposide and drugs known as alkylating agents
  • Radiation
  • Possible genetic factors

Symptoms

  • Abnormal menstrual periods
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bruising
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath (gets worse with exercise)
  • Skin rash or lesion
  • Swollen gums (rare)
  • Weight loss

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Treatment
Treatment involves chemotherapy, which kills the cancer cells; however, it also kills normal cells. This may cause side effects such as excessive bleeding and an increased risk for infection.

You have an increased risk for AML if you have or had any of the following:

  • A weakened immune system (immunosuppression) due to an organ transplant
  • Blood disorders, including: polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, myelodysplasia (refractory anemia), and exposure to radiation and chemicals
  • Other treatments for AML may include:
    Antibiotics to treat infection
    Bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant
    Red blood cell transfusions to fight anemia
    Transfusions of platelets to control bleeding

    Expectations (prognosis)
    When the signs and symptoms of AML go away, the patient is said to be in remission. Complete remission occurs in many patients. With treatment, younger patients with AML tend to do better than those who develop the disease at an older age. The five-year survival rate is much lower in older adults than younger persons. Experts say this is partly due to the fact that the body of a younger person may better tolerate strong chemotherapy medicines.

    If the cancer does not come back (relapse) within five years of the diagnosis, the patient is considered permanently cured. Most of the time, the cancer returns within two years of diagnosis.

    See also: Gene therapy reported to cure leukemia in young girl

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