Deputy Battling Leukemia Studying Options After Cancer’s Return

Michael Seeley is pictured recently at the Cleveland Clinic with his wife, Nicole, at left, and Sashene and Chad Bargar. Seeley recently learned that his leukemia has returned following a bone marrow transplant in November. The Seeleys are currently looking at their options for future treatment. Submitted photo

A Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy who underwent a bone marrow transplant to combat a rare form of leukemia has been readmitted to the Cleveland Clinic after learning his cancer has returned.

Michael Seeley has been confined to a bed for more than a week after tests showed his white blood cell count was extremely low. Seeley received bone marrow from his sister, Jennifer Scolton, in November after he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and doctors were hoping to see progress in his recovery within the first 100 days.

However, about 50 days after Seeley received the bone marrow transplant it became clear the donor cells were not being accepted as originally expected. His white blood cell count is currently lower than before the operation.

“The counts weren’t what we hoped,” said Seeley’s wife, Nicole. “They did another biopsy, which are very painful, and it showed that he still had leukemia.”

Doctors took Seeley, 44, off his medication to study his body’s response. One concern was that Seeley had developed graft-host disease, which occurs when the body’s white blood cells mistake donor cells for enemy cells and attempt to destroy them.

“He hasn’t left the hospital since we got here more than a week ago,” Nicole Seeley said.

Seeley, a longtime sheriff’s deputy, dispatcher and firefighter in Bemus Point, was receiving a routine physical last May when doctors found abnormalities in his blood work. The West Ellicott resident was diagnosed in August with AML, a rare form of blood cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, less than 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with AML. The American Cancer Society said the leukemia occurs when white blood cells don’t mature the way they are supposed to, resulting in “blast cells” building up in the blood and bone marrow.

The Seeleys are currently reviewing their options for further treatment. Nicole Seeley said one option might be moving her husband to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The center is known for its work with leukemia patients.

“We learned that Sloan has done some amazing things with people who have AML,” Nicole Seeley said. “We are hoping to possibly get him there and maybe look at a second opinion and see what treatments might be available.”

“The doctors (at Sloan) would work closely with the doctors here in Cleveland,” she continued.

However, before Seeley can be moved to another hospital — which could then include another bone marrow transplant from his sister — his condition needs to stabilize. Nicole Seeley said her husband currently sleeps “90 percent of the day,” though she noted that he has remained positive throughout treatment.

Nicole Seeley said she, too, refuses to focus on the setback.

“I’ve never been in the mindset that all is doom and gloom,” she said. “When people come to visit and they walk into the room I refer to all the great things that he’s done. He’s too young and he’s done so much for so many people.”

Walid Al-jabiri, Seeley’s longtime friend and outspoken supporter, said he was saddened to hear of the cancer’s return, but is committed to helping the deputy and his family. Al-jabiri, a paramedic with Starflight and an area firefighter, has been updating Seeley’s progress on the “Fight For Seeley” Facebook page.

“For me I couldn’t be anything but supportive to this cause,” Al-jabiri said when told of Seeley’s update. “We can all sit around and be sad but what’s that going to accomplish other than depression occurring?”

See The Sunday Post-Journal to read more.