A second illness: Aplastic Anemia

One day, I will write about something mundane, like budgeting but today is not that day.

Good news: We are out of the hospital and have been for a week! It is so good to have him home and he has settled in as if he hasn’t spent an entire month in the hospital getting blood transfusions every day.

Bad news: He still needs those blood transfusions.

Last week he went through a bone marrow biopsy so the hematologists could find out what the cause of his low blood counts were. And it turns out, he has what is called aplastic anemia. Essentially, his bone marrow is damaged and has stopped producing red blood cells.

I can’t get too into this since our appointment with the hematology specialist isn’t until Wednesday. What we do know is that his immune system keeps attacking the cells. There is no current explanation why this is happening but the theories range from bad blood given when he was admitted to the ER, to a bad reaction to his cancer treatment, to COVID.

Worse news: He can’t have any more cancer treatment until they figure this out.

To be clear, this isn’t a spread of his neuroendocrine cancer. This is a whole separate disease on TOP of the cancer.

When it rains…


High grade, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma with unknown primary origin. According to cancer.net:

A neuroendocrine tumor (NET) begins in the specialized cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system. These cells have traits of both hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells. They are found throughout the body’s organs and help control many of the body’s functions. Hormones are chemical substances that are carried through the bloodstream to have a specific effect on the activity of other organs or cells in the body. All NETs are considered malignant tumors. Most NETs take years to develop and grow slowly. However, some NETs can be fast-growing.


The most common places your will find NETs is in the lungs and the GI tract. In rarer cases, they will develop in the pancreas, i.e. Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin.

There are 3 “grades” for NETs, which is the equivalent of stages for other forms of cancer:

  • low grade – slow growing
  • intermediate grade – in the middle
  • high grade – aggressive growth

And differentiation. Whether the cells look healthy – well differentiated or not – poorly differentiated. This is important because cells that are healthy looking (look like actual cells) can be identified and tracked to the part of the body they originally came from.

Now let’s look back at the diagnosis. High grade, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma with unknown primary origin.

My zebra isn’t common. His cancer is aggressive and we have no clue where in his body it started. It makes this thing hard to fight.

But he hasn’t given up yet and I love him more everyday because of it.