‘We Feel All The Love’
Deputy Battling Leukemia Looking At Options After Cancer’s Return
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 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.
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?”
In previous interviews with The Post-Journal, Seeley said he was thankful for the support he has received from family, friends and even complete strangers.
“I do have a lot of good support from a lot of good people,” Seeley said in September.
Nicole Seeley said her husband received dozens of letters at their Cleveland residence during initial treatment after their address was posted in the newspaper. One day in particular, she said Seeley came home to find 38 letters from people across the country wishing him well.
“It did him a world of good to read all those letters from people,” Nicole Seeley said. “We feel all the love and support from everyone who has reached out.”
Al-jabiri said he will continue to update Seeley’s progress on social media.
“I’m hoping for the second Hail Mary of fixing,” he said. “When it comes to cancer it’s not the medication, it’s the practice of medicine and the attitude.”
A “Fight For Seeley” fundraiser to help the Seeley family pay for medical and living expenses will be held Sunday, March 4, at the Fluvanna Fire Department. A similar event was held in September in Fluvanna and was a “tremendous success,” Al-jabiri said.
The fundraiser is from noon-4 p.m. and will include food, drinks, 50/50 raffle and Chinese auction. The fire department is located at 3536 Fluvanna Ave. Ext.
“Public support has been absolutely tremendous,” Al-jabiri said. “The community has been absolutely golden (with) lots of prayers. People have been phenomenal.”
Added Nicole Seeley, “We can’t express enough just how great this community has been to him. It’s been a huge help.”
Those who wish to make a monetary donation can do so by going to paypal.com/FightForSeeley.