Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29 Update

I got my call today. I'm officially turned over to the transplant team.

I go in Thursday and Friday to run through all the tests. The new nurse practitioner in charge of my case, who is Nurse Works even though I live by grace :-P, tells me that the tests will be "rigorous." I know that I get a new echocardiogram, a new EKG, a new marrow biopsy, and some sort of test I've never heard of that checks my bones. I don't know what else there is, but I imagine there's more.

Nurse Works (who was very, very nice and professional like all Vanderbilt staff, and I don't mean any offense when I make weak puns about her name) says that it will take less than two weeks to get from the tests to transplant. They get approval from the insurance and order the cord blood, and then they zap me with radiation and chemicals.

It's a funny thought to think that they'll spend two days making sure I'm healthy enough to survive their attempts to kill me!

As one doctor once put it, chemotherapy is an attempt to poison a cancer patient and hope it kill the cancer before it kills the patient.

Hey, we're all going to get old and die anyway. We might as well rack up the experiences while we can!

The Scriptures say, "Teach us to number our days so we may present to you a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:12). Usually we think of that as meaning that we ought to remember how short our lives are, and I'm certain that's how Psalm 90:12 is meant. However, it seems to me that it's taken a pretty long time for these last 50 years to pass.

In the scheme of things, my 50 to ? years on this earth are really but the blink of an eye. But from my viewpoint, it seems like it's been 50 years and that I've been able to get a lot done in 50 years. If I manage to stick around 20 years or more, I can picture getting even more done. I'm a smart cookie compared to the naive, terrified, yet overconfident nut that I was in 1981.

That's all to say that I think I'm okay with going through a little chemotherapy, radiation, and Graft-versus-Host disease, though I really hope it's as easy as possible. I'm okay with being limited in my activities for a while. I'm chubby, slow, and my hips tend to hurt anyway. Due to my hips, I need about 5 times as much warmup as my sons to play sports, and after I'm warmed up, I'm twice as slow as they are. If a stem cell transplant slows me down for a few years, I suspect I'll figure out how to make it through the rest of my life just like I'm doing now.

I met a guy in California last year who has some sort of nerve problem in his upper spine. He's in pain all the time, though it's a little better because they've snipped three nerves. I can't speak for him. I've had nerve pain, as has my wife (for about two years!!), and I can't imagine living with that kind of pain.

I don't have answers for all of life. And maybe this experience will be so rough that I'll just hate it. I think, though, that God has planned out my future, and I'm fixing to go through something that is to prepare me for the rest of my life.

Sounds kind of exciting; I'm very curious how this is all going to go :-D.

One last thing because I'm trying to at least make it possible for y'all to step into my shoes and feel what this is like.

The last several days have been difficult as far as having energy. My guess is that when I get back to the hospital on Monday my red blood cell counts are going to be up significantly. The tiredness, I think, is because my body's building things. I have enough experience at a 32% hematocrit (about 2/3 of normal red blood cell level) to know that I can feel more energetic even at these blood levels.

So in response, I didn't "exercise" yesterday, in hope of letting my body recuperate or build up. I did walk down the hill to get some coffee. I walked back at a more leisurely pace, though. Judging by reactions from the hospital staff, I think even that would have been serious exercise by leukemia standards. I've worked at staying a little ahead of the game, though.

If I've learned anything going this route, I've learned that work pays off.

I ran throughout my 40's, and I wasn't very good at it. Even with carefully researched training that produced significant improvements, I was pretty slow even compared to runners older than me. I also tend to eat so much that I can gain weight even when I'm running 30 miles a week. I've had to work at controlling my eating for the last 20 years even when I've been exercising a lot.

I seem genetically constructed to respond poorly to exercise.

Nonetheless, all that exercise has paid off dramatically during the leukemia treatments.

It's the same with walking with God. I was "born again" at age 21, and I think I expected to wind up a saint, remembered by all for my godliness. I read a book for new Christians that suggested reading 10 chapters out of the Bible every day. I read 20.

Well, most days I read 20. It really only averaged about 10. I read through the Bible twice the first year I was a Christian and the New Testament two additional times. The second year I read even more. It didn't take much time before I knew the Bible better than anyone I met. Disagreeing with me was a terrible thing to do.

Knowing the Bible doesn't turn you into a saint, though. I had a terrible temper and a lot of struggles being pure of mind. I learned over the years that I'm more the kind of person that needs a lot of help than gives a lot of help.

But the effort has paid off. We don't know, of course, how I'll do through the rest of this leukemia treatment, but I've cruised through the first part filled with the grace of God and joy, both learning from others and giving joy to others.

I didn't have to be good at exercise, whether physically or spiritually, to benefit. I just had to exercise.

There's a lot of distractions in this house at the moment. I just opened a vinegar bottle for my wife, and I had to use pliers to do it. My kids are watching Monk. Janelle's making food for the Ingathering while she's doing so, and Hannah's cooking dinner.

So I don't really remember the point of all that I just wrote. Hopefully it will be a complete thought by itself, and it's more than just me rambling :-p.

I do remember that the point of this blog is that I'm excited about what's coming up and ready to experience the next half of my life however God gives it to me.

Who wants life to be normal?

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