After many tests, it was determined that Jerry not only had a blood clot from his groin area to his ankle, but he also has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in the blast phase, the most severe.
For 28 days, he had weekly chemo infusions at Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse and also needed blood and platelet transfusions depending on his daily labs. He had another bone marrow biopsy that showed the blast count was down but not enough.
Jerry went to the Madison Carbone Cancer Center at UW Madison, who said Jerry “might” be a candidate for an allogeneic transplant if they could get the blast counts down to around 0. Although Jerry’s three children were a 50% match, the doctors were set on finding an even better match.
For round two of chemo, Jerry was hospitalized to get the chemo infusions and be monitored 24/7 for any infections or fevers.
Soon after Jerry came home, they were notified by Madison that they found a donor that was about a 90% match. On July 8, 2021, Jerry received his stem cell transplant.
During his hospital stay, his blood counts were monitored throughout the day. He developed Graft vs Host Disease, was fighting fevers and had been given so many medications that they needed a spreadsheet to keep track of what he was taking.
After leaving the hospital, Jerry continued to go back to Madison every week for lab work, tests and doctor visits, and a bone marrow biopsy every three months. When a stem cell transplant is performed it not only wipes out some of the bad cells but also some of the good cells, so he had to start over with all of his childhood vaccinations.
The Wilmas knew Joe and Rachel Vogel and followed Joe’s journey with cancer, supporting Team Vogel events long before Jerry’s diagnosis. They were able to use the Team Vogel donation for gas, food and lodging for ongoing treatments, including travel to La Crosse and Madison.
“I had heard of many people’s stories and how it helped them. I never dreamed that we would someday be those people, but I think that it gave me hope,” says Cheryl. “I think of how much Joe has helped so many people. I would tell people to please consider donating, there are so many families and individuals who have been helped. You never know when you might be that person.”
Jerry celebrated one year on July 8, 2022. The last bone marrow biopsy shows no evidence of the disease, but with Jerry’s type of leukemia, he will never be considered cancer free – just that the disease is not active right now.
The Wilmas say they are thankful to God and their families and friends for all of the support they have given them. “We feel blessed to share our story to give others HOPE. We realize that life is not guaranteed for anyone. Any day our lives can change, and we have to have faith that God will help us through.”