Six-months pregnant, just 30 years old and diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Kasha Fromeyer is facing a fight for life - for herself and her child.
MIAMI – A storm of such proportion should never be weathered alone. Six-months pregnant, just 30 years old and diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Kasha Fromeyer is facing a fight for life - for herself and her child.
But she is not alone, her sister, Kourtney Culver, and Kasha’s family and friends are beside her, and with her in her unexpected battle with cancer.
“While I was just on the phone, we just got great news,” Kourtney said. “The doctor said he had bad news and good news. Kasha is going to have to have a transplant, but I’m a match! This is amazing!”
Kourtney, Kasha’s younger sister by two years, was ecstatic to have just learned she is a match for donating bone marrow to Kasha, in a life-saving procedure as part of her leukemia treatment. For the thousands diagnosed each year with leukemia and other cancers, bone marrow transplants can offer a cure, but finding a match isn’t always easy. 70 percent of patients do not have a family member match, according to national bone marrow registries.
“They tested my brother and I, we just kind of winged it hoping one of us would be a match, and we got the news today,” Kourtney said. “It was overwhelming. I told her, ‘I’m about to save your life!’ and she said, ‘I know!’”
The family was stressed over finding ways to pay for the testing, but received good news the expense was somehow taken care of through Sooner Care.
“It all worked out how it was supposed to,” she said.
Kasha was diagnosed with leukemia on Feb. 7 and is currently receiving chemotherapy at KU Medical Center. Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts, a type of white blood cell, red blood cells, or platelets. The treatment is extensive and grueling but is a chance and hope for a cure.
“Since she is pregnant they are going to give her a couple of weeks, and they are talking about trying to take the baby then,” Kourtney said. “She’s not doing chemo for those two weeks to get her body stronger.”
Watching as her Kasha undergoes tests and treatment has been difficult for the family, but they have come to understand these are necessary to give Kasha and her unborn child a chance to survive and that the doctors are doing their best.
“My Mom said, ‘You have to let them, they know what they’re doing. Let them help her,’”Kourtney said.
Kasha’s diagnosis came as a surprise with no family health history to indicate otherwise.
“So, this is a big deal for us. When Kasha was 10 she had corrective knee surgery, and they cut a main artery. She had a lung collapse at one point, so everything has happened to her,” Kourtney said. “She had gastric bypass two years ago, and I think they encourage you not to get pregnant, and then she got remarried.”
Kasha and her husband, Michael, were determined to have a baby together but first received approval from her doctor to go ahead with the pregnancy. Kasha has three other children form a previous relationship, 13, 10 and 7 years old now staying with Kourtney and her mother while she undergoes cancer treatments.
“They tried for awhile, and she got pregnant, and she was having a lot of trouble. At five months she kept getting really sick, she was anemic and couldn’t hold anything down, but the doctor kept telling her she was fine,” Kourtney said,
Fed up with finding no answers, Kasha went to another physician Dr. Billings at Mercy in Joplin, Mo, and he ran her blood work.
“He called her back that Monday and said, ‘I need you to come in, I have bad news,’” Kourtney said. “He said, ‘I’m sorry, but you have leukemia.’”
Kasha was sent to the Cancer Center that same day, and they gave her only an hour to leave to get to the University of Kansas Medical Center to see oncology specialists.
“She went home grabbed some clothes, rushed there, and they put a port in that night,” Kourtney said. “They did a bone marrow biopsy the next morning. They started chemo on Wednesday. That was devastating. Her being pregnant, that makes everything so much worse. ”
Chemo was started and a second bone marrow biopsy was performed, but the results weren’t good.
“We didn’t get the results back that we wanted. The doctor was for sure this would put her in remission for at least two weeks to help get the baby healthier, but he gave us the results for that, and he said, ‘This chemo didn’t even touch you. It didn’t do what I thought it would do. So, what I am going to do is not give you any chemo for the next two weeks, and we’re going to pump you full of steroids and fluids and get your body built up.’ Her immune system is real low, and they had to give her platelets,” Kourtney said.
Doctors are dong everything they can to save not only Kasha but also her unborn baby. The doctors told the family what is helping Kasha is not helping the baby.
“He said, ‘I’m not God, so I can’t tell you what will happen,’” Kourtney said. “The baby has had no movement in three days, the heart rate was going from 145, and now it’s down to 115 to 130…it’s in God’s hands. He said, ready or not though, probably in a week and a half they’re going to go ahead and take the baby. He said right after that we’re going to work on the transplant because she can’t do that while she’s pregnant.”
Kasha is surrounded with love by her husband, children, parents Charles and Sheila Zabel, sisters Kourtney and Kayla Russell and brothers Kyle Beebe and AJ Shyers, and her grandparents Marvin and Barbara Johnston.
“We’re a big family. There’s a reason it’s her and not me…she’s tough and she’s doing pretty good,” Kourtney said. “They said they will do another bone marrow biopsy after 28 days and that one is going to determine what her next steps are pretty much.”
Kourtney and her family are asking for the community’s support to give Kasha all the help, love and strength she needs throughout this ordeal. Kasha has spent her life in Miami and living in towns in the surrounding area such as Wyandotte.
“I wanted to have this benefit because they were struggling before all this happened and now neither one of them are working. We have been at their house right now packing everything,” Kourtney said. “It’s just going to be a long road.”
The Fromeyer family will be facing a lengthy emotional, physical and financial ordeal, and extensive hospital stays.
Support for Kasha can be made by attending a Chili Feed Benefit on Mar. 4 at the Miami Elks Lodge, located at 401 S Main Street in Miami from noon to 4 p.m. $5 for chili, drink and dessert, a 50/50 pot and silent auction are scheduled.
The community can also offer support by buying t-shirts, contributing to Go Fund Me and Facebook pages “Prayers for Kasha” or by contacting Kourtney Culver at 918-325-9370.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.