Pella native Tim Bruxvoort spent the holidays undergoing chemotherapy, but he and his family are keeping their spirits high for a cure.
Bruxvoort began feeling tired, weak and dizzy in September, and he knew something wasn’t right. After multiple blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy, he was sent to Mayo Clinic for extensive testing and analysis.
“After a few days of testing in Mayo, that’s when they determined the diagnosis,” says Bruxvoort. “It took them a little bit, because again, it was so rare. That was not their first choice for a diagnosis.”
Bruxvoort was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative overlap syndrome-unclassified, or MDS/MPN-U, in October 2019.
“It’s extremely rare that there would be the MDS/MPN overlap, but then there are a few categories of that,” says Bruxvoort’s daughter, Trish Bruxvoort Colligan. “The unclassified is the rarest of that, so dad has rare, rare, rare cancer overlapping on top of one another.
What makes Bruxvoort’s condition more isolated is his genetic make-up and his tissue type. In combination with his cancer diagnosis, it’s been difficult to find a match for the only cure: a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant.
His two brothers and four children were tested, but none of them were a full match. Cooligan says a donor must meet 10 out of 10 markers of tissue-typing in order for the transplant to work effectively, and his children were only a half-match.
“Every point under 10 equals a 10 percent less effective, less successful procedure,” says Colligan.
Doctors then began their search for a match in the national registry but were unable to find one. Still, no match could be found for Bruxvoort when they extended their search to the world-wide marrow donor registry.
The Bruxvoort family held donor drives at Central College and Wartburg College with Be The Match, which provides swab kits for volunteers to search for transplant donors. Elena Dietz with the Iowa Bone Marrow Donor Program says the donor drives were the largest the organization has seen since 2017, receiving approximately 170 swab kits between the two sites.
The Bruxvoorts have extended their search with an additional registry called Gift of Life. Over 200 swab kits have been collected between Be The Match and Gift of Life since the donor drives in December.
“I am so humbled and grateful for the success of the on-site donors from both Wartburg and Central,” says Bruxvoort. “I’ve realized that there are some really good people out there.”
Bruxvoort has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since his diagnosis, alternating between five days of treatment and three weeks of rest. For now, he will continue treatment until a complete match is found.
“I spent Thanksgiving having chemo, and I’ll spend Christmas having chemo,” says Bruxvoort. “But, I am very, very pleased that the chemotherapy has not adversely affected me in any way. It’s a little bit surprising to the doctors that I feel no ill-effects whatsoever. No hair loss, no nausea, so I can be extremely thankful for that.”
“In the meantime, we will take it a day at a time and do what’s necessary to keep the spirit up,” says Bruxvoort.
To learn more about Bruxvoort’s journey or to become a donor, visit https://timbrux.net/.