Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12: Booting Up

So I've got this new MacBook Air, courtesy of several friends and relatives (thank you!). The thing that stands out on it is watching it reboot.

The first time I had to reboot it, I treated it like a Windows PC. I set it down, did something else, and came back to it. I was only busy with the other thing for a minute or so, but the MacBook was sitting at the login screen. "No way," I thought, so I logged in and rebooted it again. Only this time I watched and time it.

17 seconds.

Yeah, 17 seconds from when I clicked restart until it was back at the login screen.

It turns out that was particularly fast. Usually, it takes closer to 20 seconds.

Shutting down takes 7.


Anyway, the point of all that is that it got me to thinking that chemotherapy for leukemia is like a reboot on a Windows computer. If you run a Windows computer too long, you start accumulating errors in the registry and in the RAM, and things start going haywire.

So my white blood cell system went haywire, making it so that my red blood cells—necessary for transporting oxygen throughout my body—couldn't do their job. In fact, they were dying off until I only had about half of them left.

So the doctors scheduled a reboot.

They have these medicines that completely wipe out the white blood cells, not only in the blood stream but all the way down in the bone marrow where the "blasts" are made that become the white (and red) blood cells.

Once everything is wiped out--an incredible accomplishment involving multiple medicines all designed to hit their peak at the same time--then the doctors just quit and wait for the "hematopoietic stem cells" that are left to proliferate and "reboot" my entire blood system. (Hematopoietic stem cells are stem cells that can only become blood cells, but they can become any kind of blood cell.)

The chosen measure for when that's accomplished is neutrophils, the white blood cell responsible for fighting bacterial infections. Hitting a count of 500 is the equivalent of finally reaching the login screen on a Windows reboot.

Your blood should have about 4500 neutrophils per cubic millimeter (that's 1/1000 of a milliliter). Less than 2500 and you have a problem.

I have 150 today. As I said, I get to go home at 500 and finish building an immune system on my own.

So currently, here's my stats:

White blood cells: 1600/cu. mm., headed towards 7500
Red blood cells: 31% of blood volume, headed towards 45%
Hemoglobin (molecule in red blood cell that carries oxygen): 10.3, headed towards 15 or 16
Platelets (stop bleeding): 144, should be over 300, but 150 is considered acceptable

The doctor just came in. There's always an advance doctor that comes in before the whole team. He said hoping to be out by Monday (3 days) is reasonable, and Dr. Reddy may even let me out earlier.

Whoo hoo!

Tomorrow makes 30 days in here. An entire month, and I've never passed the dreaded double doors:

These are the doors I can't pass

The hall from my room. Double doors are in the hall to right. I turn left to do laps in the morning.

Making Good Use of Time?

I've become much more of a people person in here. I spent a couple hours getting this MacBook set up yesterday (transferring files from my previous computer), and I didn't just feel compelled to press through until I was done. In fact, I got to feeling weird about sitting there alone, and I went to visit Jerry. Happened twice.

That's a good thing. People are more important than computers. If you're not dodging your duties, they're more important than work, too, which should be obvious, but becomes less and less obvious with each passing year in America.

The team of doctors just came in. One of the young doctors said, "You ought to hold a pool for what day you're going to hit 500."

Great idea, but I think it's too late for that. At this point the choices are probably limited to Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday; not enough choices for a good pool.

I also got a visit from a volunteer "chapel representative." In other words, I got a visit from a Christian trying to minister in the hospital (commendable). It was a lady, and she turned out to be a real delight. She asked if we could pray together before she left. I have got to do that more with people.

Thank You!

Thank you for all your prayers for Jerry and for me. Jerry's like a different person since the announcement about the clean biopsy. He walked 20 laps yesterday, which is over 3/4 of a mile. I think it was only three days ago that he was getting help to walk two.

He's had a Bible sitting on his bed, too, since the chaplain suggested he read through Psalms to help him maintain trust and a positive attitude.


  1. Hi Shammah, I think you might find this to be interesting.

    Look up "New England Journal of Medicine, Amazing therapy destroys leukemia"

  2. Thanks, Bob. Like you, others pointed out that article to me. It's amazing how differently various news services covered it. I liked MSNBC's coverage best. It seemed like it had the best info.

    Hopefully that will go somewhere. I don't have a "chronic" leukemia, so it's hard to tell if it applies to us acute leukemia folks. Even if it does, it will probably be too late for me. That's okay, though, as I already have a treatment.

    Chronic leukemias are generally considered incurable, though they can be treated. Acute leukemias are more aggressive and dangerous, but they are curable.

    If this will really cure chronic leukemia, it's a huge breakthrough.