Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28: The Big Day

Yesterday I was mostly in the haze of a neutropenic fever and sleepiness from the Benadryl that they give me when they give me blood. You can get an update on yesterday from my wife's blog.

A few days ago Dr. Strickland said, "Just four or five days now!"

My parents visiting
I said, "Uh ... till what?"

He looked at me like he was surprised I didn't know, and then I realized. "Until the biopsy?"

"Yes," he said, but I was worried I'd ruined what was supposed to be a hopeful moment. I found him in the hall a little later, and I said, "You know, it's very encouraging when your doctor is looking forward to the biopsy."

Until that conversation, it hadn't really dawned on me that the biopsy is the test of whether the chemo worked. It's a big day!

So today's that big day. At 1 pm, Dr. Lammers will come in and cut a small core out of my hip bone and draw some liquid marrow. (I had thought I wouldn't have any liquid marrow, but apparently I might.)

Jerry and Prayer

Jerry's biopsy did not come back clean, and now they've started on a new regimen today. He's got an abscessed tooth that they're treating with antibiotics and pain medication, so he needs to complete his chemo so they can work on that tooth (and several others). It's impossible to do even dental surgery on a patient with no immune system.

His son Jeremy was there this morning. Jeremy's very polite, probably in his 20's, and he's got an intelligent, together look about him. You could see the pained look on his face.

My dad reads to my daughter the same way I do
Jerry's a real talker--his son nods and adds information as needed--and he started with incredible disappointment (boy, can I relate!), but as he talked he seemed less and less bothered, until at the end he even seemed pretty hopeful. Dr. Strickland had told him, "That's why you're here. We specialize in the second round."

Apparently, about 50% of the biopsies are clean after the first round. Someone told Jerry that the 2nd biopsy is clean about 40% of the time.

I said, "What do they do if the second one is dirty, too?"

"They wouldn't tell me," Jerry replied.


Please pray for Jerry that this second round will work for him. When you have to continue the chemo, it means that for another 7-10 days--or perhaps more--no damage to your body will heal. Every small malady is cumulative. No surgery is possible for any problem. It's really rough.

Really, please pray for him. There are a lot of you praying for me. I'm assuming that by now, my biopsy is a foregone conclusion, clean or dirty. Because so much prayer's been offered on my behalf, God's already mapped a path for me.

Jerry doesn't have the same support.

Hair and Biopsies

Jerry told me that one of the nurses who'd been here since '94 told him that she was hoping the best, but that she knew before he went for his biopsy that it wouldn't be clear. She said it was because all his hair hadn't fallen out.

He has a standard male balding pattern, starting from the back of his head, which is obviously new because the skin's so white compared to the rest of his body. The hair on top is very, very thin. I, on the other hand, have lost no hair at all.

Jerry claims the nurses agree that you can tell how the chemo's working by how much hair you lose.

That doesn't make much sense to me, but since I haven't lost a single strand, I'd better hope that doesn't matter. It seems a better indication of effectiveness that the chemotherapy shrank to nothing the two larger tumors on my back, the incipient one on my right clavicle, and the one growing in my upper lip.

Large family means lots of visitors!
It's actually odd that I haven't lost any hair, though. One of my chemotherapies has hair loss as its most common side effect: "Hair loss (in 20%-70% of patients) may be partial or complete hair loss."

Doesn't 20% to 70% seem like an awful wide gap? They couldn't narrow it down better than that?

But I have another one that his this listed as a side effect: "Hair loss on the scalp or elsewhere on the body (called alopecia). Most patients do lose some or all of their hair during their treatment. But your hair will grow back after treatment is completed."

So let's hope the tie between hair loss and a clean biopsy is nonsense.

Hanging out in the family room back when I felt great every day
Actually, none of this really applies to me, anyway. This is a path God's got me walking. I'd hate to be counting on odds and hoping for the best. I would worry myself literally half to death.

Please pray for Jerry. He has a brother with a 6/6 match for a bone marrow transplant, which is the best situation you can hope for. It would be awful if he didn't make it to the transplant!

Food, Fevers, and Weight Loss

Note on the food I mentioned day before yesterday. Yesterday the meals came exactly as ordered. But I didn't even look at the dinner tray. I just asked my wife to grab any juice on it and send it away. I guess they agree with "starve a fever, feed a cold" here because no one tried to force me to eat, which was wonderful.

When I walked this morning, my pants were falling down. I told one of the nurses, "Neutropenic fevers make for a great diet plan." She said, "Oh, yeah. Chemo is great for the figure."

Please pray for Jerry!

1 comment:

  1. Love you Shammah:) sounds like you're feeling a little better. Thanks for all the updates. Hugs!