Monday, March 11, 2013

In Praise of a "Boring Day"

Boring, by most people’s estimation, is not a good thing; by my doctors’ reckoning, these days following the chemotherapy, boring is a very good thing indeed. After having transfusions of red blood and platelets, antibiotics, antivirals, and who knows that else I was swallowing or being infused with, being without fever, pain, or other nauseating side effects is more than just good – it’s tremendous. I took my buddy with me down the hallway a couple of times yesterday to get out of the room and my ringing endorsement of the patented Leukemia Weight Loss® Plan is wavering since I have had an appetite for stuff that isn’t in a fruit cup. As of this morning I’m at 178.4 which is still too sexy for this shirt, but at least it’s not falling any further for now.

So, the plan is to keep watching as my body is rebounding.  For the past several days, I’ve been what is called neutropenic, which means that my white blood cell count is extremely low and unable to combat normal bacteriological warfare. For a couple of days, it translated into a lot of yellow surgical gowns and masks for anyone coming into the room. I still see a lot of surgical masks and if I walk outside of the room for any reason, I need to be masked up. I need to get creative and draw something on the mask when I leave to keep things interesting.  Life is too short to be perpetually serious, even in a situation like this. When I was younger, I tended to be overly sober-minded and got the nickname, “Your seriousness.”  No longer.  I haven’t quite returned to my high school class clown wannabe days, but I’m forever trying to find the one-off to make it just a bit humorous and keep the smiles coming.

In the very near future, I’ll be looking at what the details are for bone marrow transplant. All I know is that should everything run according to plan, it will be 114 days in Seattle from the time we know I have a donor and all is right in the world. That’s all predicated on the results of my bone marrow biopsy today.  If my current biopsy shows that the chemo worked and I have no cancerous cells in my marrow, then I will qualify for the transplant. It’s likely that I’ll get a reprieve and be able to go home for a short time before going to Seattle. If there’s much of a delay before going, I may end up getting another round of chemo to keep the cancer from returning. This would be called a ‘consolidation round.’ More poison crap being put into my veins, but keeping the really bad stuff from returning.
I knew that at some point this week I was going to be getting another biopsy, but I didn’t know it would be today. In preparation for the upcoming fun, I told the offgoing nurse and the oncoming nurse that I was going to insist on some sort of pain relief before we started the procedure – not just a local.  Of all the things I’ve done here, this is the single procedure that is actually painful.  On a scale of 1-9, it’s a solid 6. For those of you with stronger constitutions, here's a good write-up, complete with some pictures. Having a long slow crown installed is less painful than the 10-15 minutes of this procedure. Thankfully, the doc was ahead of me and had some pharmaceutical grade happy place and all was well with the world while allowing me to be far more coherent than my weekly dances with lucidity. Go figure! So, over the next week, we’ll find out just how effective the “red devil” and cytarabine have been in knocking the leukemia down to remission so that I will qualify for a transplant.  I’ll also be kept here under observation to ensure no other infections develop until my own immune system returns on-line.

My daughter arrived this afternoon and wasn’t too scared by my stellar appearance.  That may change over the next few days as I’m sure my follicles will jointly go on general strike, much to my great dismay and morbid curiosity. I’ll join the ranks of many other survivors and don my “cancer sucks” beanie.  The other option is to get a fedora and a bunch of tootsie pops (or whatever sucker Kojak is famous for).

All in all, though, today is another day on the path toward healing. I’m attaching a video montage from the movie, The Way with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. When I saw the movie, it touched me, but the song sticks with me for a lot of reasons.  The music is a bit sped up from what the studio recording is, but the official music video is not simply poignant, it’s a bit avant-garde. Here’s the link to the official video. You can choose for yourself.  Either way, the song, “Thank U” speaks to me today as I move another day down the path toward healing.

Many wonderful people have asked about donating bone marrow.  Briefly, it’s a painless process that involves a cheek swab that checks for ten “HLA” markers and whoever is the lucky match gets to take a drug that boosts leukocyte production and during the donation procedure, the donor goes through something similar to kidney dialysis where these extra leukocytes are stripped out and from them, the stem cells are harvested and given to me.  Here’s the link to the site to get on the registry to see if you could save someone’s life with a very easy and relatively painless procedure. 

Be well, stay strong, much love to you all J