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Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, Inc.
Home arrow Our Bravest arrow In Memory arrow Ioanna Miller

Board of Directors:

James Chang
Kevin Ching M.D.
Sharon Lau
Stella Lee Leong

Ioanna Miller

Ioanna Miller

Diagnosed Acute Myeloid Leukemia, 1999
Ethnicity: Korean/ European

Update: Ioanna Miller sadly passed away in the summer of 2001.

In August of 1999, 19-year old Ioanna Miller was rushed back to the U.S. during her summer trip to Europe because she was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia. Searching the United States and internation registries resulted in no matching donors. Her mixed-race ethnicity (half Korean and half European) makes it especially difficult to match her rare type.

August to October were dificult times for Ioanna, her family and close family friends. The first induction of chemotherapy didn't result in remission and hopes of the second induction working was questionable ... Ioanna was also away from her home and friends in Portland Oregon, as she was brought to the Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. from Europe.

Everyone spread the news and many called to help. End of the october brought wonderful news that chemother apy had reduced her cancerous cells to 5% -- then remission!. She was well enough to leave the hospital and return home! But even greater news: a hopeful match was found!

Past updates:


Date: Sat, 27 May 2000 13:25:32 -0700

    Please forgive us for not keeping our friends up to date on Ioanna's battle with AML. You will recall she was diagnosed with leukemia in August 1999, achieved remission at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and went home to Portland in October 1999. She underwent three consolidation treatments at OHSU which kept her in remission while the donor search was underway.

    The good news is, a donor was found through the Japan Marrow Donor program, a 29 year old man. Ioanna has received the transplant (on May 23d) and is now recovering (day 4). She is on ward 8 NE in the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, ably staffed by the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center. What miracles they perform here!

    Ioanna is doing well. No sign of GVHD (its a bit early for that yet). Mucositis has been very mild. Likewise the nausea - she got some with the first dose of chemo (cytoxan) but otherwise it has been very mild. Other than watching the counts go down and knowing she will not be feeling so well in a week, it is sometimes hard for her to understand why all the restrictions on food and mobility.

    She would love to hear from any of you who care to write, send to: Ioanna Miller UWMC Room 8214 1959 NE Pacific St Seattle, WA 98195 .

Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 21:20:00 -0700

Today is day 13 - 13 days since the bone marrow transplant. Most folks at this point are really sick, hard to move, in pain, eating from a tube. Ioanna is still walking two miles a day and eating pizza. Its not all roses - there's been some mucositis and nausea. But she is the star patient on the ward. Lets hope and pray that continues.

Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 16:33:48 -0700

Ioanna sends her thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts - they are working!!!

Today is day 20 - 20 days since the bone marrow transplant. Her counts are coming up, ANC (was 30, needs to be 350-500 to get out) was 120 this morning. She has some mild graft vs host (level one) - in her upper gastro-intestinal tract and on her hands and feet a mild rash. All these are signs that the marrow transplant is engrafting and beginning to produce blood cells! Ioanna is anxious to get out of here. Hopefully within a week she will. Once she is out of the hospital and settled, I will return to Portland and become a periodic visitor.

I have found an apartment to rent which I will stay in for now, and Ioanna will stay in with her caregivers during her out-patient phase in Seattle. The address is below and should be used for any mail you send to her from now on. Its in a good location, 7 blocks south of the Fred Hutchison center out patient clinic, and an equal distance east of downtown Seattle. But a little hilly so she can build herself up by walking. For those of you who have volunteered to be caregivers - get ready! Ioanna has been walking a couple of miles a day in the hospital and is now ready for some serious hikes.

Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 13:21:06 -0700

Another change! This is a real good news - bad news deal.

The bad news is, Ioanna's body rejected the transplant. Her system is so strong that the immune system survived the chemo and radiation and overwhelmed the transplanted marrow.

The good news is that a bunch of her stem cells were harvested a few months ago, and are available for an autologous transplant. This transplant will be much easier on Ioanna - no graft versus host disease to worry about, they can do it quickly minimizing the chance of infection, only a short out patient stay required in Seattle, and no year dealing with immunosuppressive drugs. She will be out of here and able to resume much of her life in a month or so if all goes well. The down side is a higher possibility of relapse on the long term.

Please write her and send emails - she enjoys hearing from all.

Date: Sat, 1 Jul 2000 12:27:08 -0700

You all know that Ioanna's system rejected the unrelated marrow transplant. Her lymphocytes are so strong they withstood the chemo and radiation and still had the strength to overcome the donor stem cells. Tough like her.

After extensive testing and discussion the docs decided to do an autogenous transplant, where you get your own marrow back. Ioanna's stem cells were harvested when she was being treated at OHSU and are in the freezer, awaiting just such an occasion. So two days ago (Thursday 6/29) she got her stem cells back.

In 8-14 days her stem cells should be producing blood cells and her blood cell counts coming up. As soon as they are at acceptable levels, she will become an outpatient, and a short time later be coming home. She is definitely ready for that! The docs let her go outside most days, but shehas the worst case of cabin fever I've ever seen.

As I mentioned in the last update, this procedure has advantages. There is npo extended outpatient stay in Seattle as there is with an unrelated donor transplant since there is no graft versus host disease and the chances of adverse reactions to strong immunosuppressive drugs is much less. Since she won't be on as many medications, she will be able to resume her normal activities as quickly as she wishes and her strength allows.

Keep those thoughts and prayers coming, for a rapid engraftment and a quick recovery and trip home!

Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 12:58:12 -0700

Ioanna's stem cells are engrafting! Her neutrophil counts were up a little yesterday (Friday) and today they are up over a thousand!!! Yea!!!!

Doctors say she will probably be discharged on Monday (7/10), then be an outpatient in Seattle for a week to ten days. She will be staying in an apartment we rented up here, with her mother. Feel free to call her there. Telephone # is 206 447-2057. There is no answering machine on that phone so be patient if busy or no answer. She'll probably be out running around as much or more than her system will stand.

Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 11:17:18 -0700

Update from Saturday's message

Ioanna is getting out of the hospital today!!!! She is going to her grandmother's home here in Seattle rather than to the apartment, and I will be her caregiver since it will only be for a few days. Hopefully she will be returning to Portland this weekend. Good news!!!!

She will have a full week of exams, training, etc. Plus a little sight seeing.

Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 07:35:29 -0700

Ioanna got out of the hospital on July 10th. She stayed wih me at her grandmother's house for a week. She is now with her mother at the First Hill Apartments in Seattle.

The great news is that she gets to come home next week! Monday 7/24 they will let her go. Meanwhile you can call her at (206) 447-4984. Come see her next week. She can do most anything she has the energy for, and the energy level is going up daily.

Date: Fri, 17 November 2000 13:30

Ioanna has been back at home in Portland for two weeks now! Life is almost back to normal - still a doctor visit every few days, and she doesn't have a full load of 20 year old energy yet, but that is coming back fast. She's been to the beach, the County fair, and Saturday market in the last few days. She is resuming her creation of world class stained glass versions of the paintings of the masters (the current one, a stunning Picasso). She is driving and has worked a deal with Granny to get her old Toyota upon Granny getting a new one. (this is the proverbial "only driven by a little old lady to church on Sundays...").

With luck, they removed her Hickman catheter at today's appointment. I don't know for sure because I haven't been able to reach her by phone all day (see how normal this has become?).

Life is good. God is great. Thank you all for your support and prayers.


    Letter from her dad:

    Date: Fri, 17 November 2000 13:30

    Ioanna has relapsed. The leukemia is back. Ioanna was the first to know, just from the way her body was feeling. Since it was detected so early, she's been able to get some treatment that may be effective, some experimental antibody drugs that target the specific type of leukemia cells she has. We won't know how successful that is until we have the results of the bone marrow biopsy she's scheduled for next week - probably know by the end of Thanksgiving week.

    The cure continues to be an unrelated marrow transplant, probably what they call a mini-transplant where the immune system is given a good shock, the stem cells from an unrelated donor are introduced, and they gradually supplant the recipient's immune system with the donor's. Ioanna's doctor is exploring the possibilities for that.

    Right now Ioanna is resting up from her treatment at home, doing some painting and glass work as energy permits.

    Please keep her in your prayers, and drop her an email once in awhile.

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