Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17: Initial Successes

There is a long road in front of me, but almost 48 hours in, things look great, the doctor's excited (his word), and I haven't felt this good in weeks.

Feeling Good

I'm not really sure why I feel so good. My hematocrit--a measure of the amount of red blood cells as a percentage of total blood--is 26%. Normal's about 45%. My family doctor told me he gives transfusions if someone gets below 25%, and that's what they do here in the chemo ward as well. My hemoglobin is 8.4. That's the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood, and anything is single digits is pretty bad for a man.

But I feel like I could run a mile. I did walk a mile last night, and I used an exercise machine this morning without running out of breath.

Maybe anemia is like training at elevation. Athletes like to go train in a place like Denver, where the air is thinner. After a few weeks, they adapt to the lower oxygen, and when they get back to lower elevations for competition, they have an advantage.

Maybe I'm getting used to the lower oxygen, thought it comes from a lack of blood rather than thinner air.

Chemotherapy and the Immune System

The medicines are apparently succeeding in knocking out my immune system. The percentages of good immune cells have returned to normal, but they are a percentage of a very small whole. My white blood cell counts were hanging around between 18 and 23 thousand something or others, which is low for a leukemia patient, but just over double what they should be.

Today, though, they're 2.4, about 2/3 of a minimum reading and 1/3 of a more normal reading. They've knocked out about 90% of my immune system.

I guess I'd better take that mask they gave me seriously.

Skin Lesions

The lesions have improved somewhat dramatically, but I can't show you because all they've done is return to where they were in the pictures in the June 27 blog. In fact, they look worse because one of them grew and tore towards the end of June, so there's a big scab in the middle of it now.

So I'll spare you an updated picture.

Nonetheless, they're definitely shrinking, definitely getting softer, definitely getting lighter in color, and thus definitely healing. So's the one inside my upper lip, which I have never remembered to tell the doctors here about.

Women's World Cup Soccer

Today is the championship match for the Women's World Cup, the biggest game there is in women's soccer. It's USA vs. Japan, which should be a great matchup.

The Japanese ladies are little, and they don't have good closers up front. One of the commentators in the Japan-Sweden semifinal match, a former USA player, commented that they just don't have the killer instinct. The Americans, however, may have the best killer instinct in the world. (Hey, I'm only talking about goals in soccer here!).

But, that's what's awesome about soccer. The American weakness is controlling the ball in the middle. The Japanese women are the best ball control specialists in the world, something they used to defeat the much larger Swedish women. They simply controlled the ball, slowly moving it forward until they were controlling it in front of the goal. Once there, you don't need a killer instinct. Balls being batted around in front of a soccer goal have a nasty habit of winding up in the goal, as evidenced by a Japanese goal that came off a Swedish defender and went between the goalkeeper's legs.

Oh, maybe you're not interested in women's soccer.

I was talking about leukemia and chemotherapy, wasn't I.

Here's the tie-in. The doctors gave me permission to go past the big steel doors that mark the confines of my temporary and beneficial prison to sit in the waiting room across from the elevators with my children and watch the game on the overhead TV. Whoo hoo!

In fact, they're even giving me my big shot of red chemo an hour early so as not to interrupt the game.

Are these people great or what?


  1. is it possible to be a spoiled leukemia patient? :) :) :)

    (ok, i didn't think so. but i just thought i'd check.)

    Love ya!

  2. Of course, it's possible. I mean, you're not allowed to say so because, after all, I have leukemia. You can't talk bad about a cancer patient! And best excuse of all is that there's nothing I can do about it anyway. I'm trying to happily suffer as a good child of God, but I'm having trouble finding the suffering.

    The resident this morning assured me it's coming, though, and even the Angel Cheryl in radiology said it's rough near transplant time.

    Bloom where you're planted. Sometimes it's a desert, and sometimes, like now, it's right next to rivers of living water. "I've learned to be hungry, and I've learned to be full," said the apostle, or something awful close to that.