High school employee remains hopeful while battling leukemia | SteamboatToday.com

High school employee remains hopeful while battling leukemia

Teresa Ristow

— Longtime Steamboat Springs High School bookkeeper Denise Pearson is remaining hopeful after starting a new round of chemotherapy this week to fight recently diagnosed leukemia.

In fall 2015, Pearson began to feel abnormally tired and was ultimately diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a group of diseases that affect healthy blood cell production in bone marrow.

Though medication Pearson was given initially seemed to be helping, by this spring her progress slowed and doctors learned her condition had progressed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia, which led to the need for a stem cell transplant.

"It's definitely been a roller coaster of emotions," said Jessica Koffee, Pearson's daughter. "She's been through a lot of ups and downs."

After undergoing a stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor last month, Pearson's results were mixed.

Leukemia was no longer found in Pearson's blood, but the stem cells didn't remove all of the disease from her bone marrow.

Recommended Stories For You

The next course of action is an intensive chemotherapy treatment that includes five treatments in one week followed by four weeks of rest. Pearson started the first treatment Monday.

"This will target those leukemia cells that are left and train the new stem cells from the donor to fight against those," Pearson said Tuesday from her apartment in Denver. "The goal is for me to be home by Christmas, and if I still have to continue those treatments, I can do it at Yampa Valley Medical Center."

Pearson said there's a roughly 40 percent chance that the chemo will lead to her being cancer-free.

"Hopefully, this will work, and we'll move forward, and I'll go into remission," she said.

Pearson said she's humbled by the support community members have given her through GoFundMe and CaringBridge webpages offering updates on her progress.

"That was very humbling," she said. "I'm grateful for all of that, and for the comments and people responding in that way."

To date, a GoFundMe page for Pearson has raised more than $7,400 to help Pearson with medical bills and lost wages from being on unpaid medical leave from work.

"I don't know what will happen next," she said. "I'm trying to take it day by day."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow