Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7: Consolidation Round and Updates

Today is day 2 of the "consolidation round." That's like an immunization booster shot. The first chemotherapy round worked. I'm in remission, but this is to make sure I stay in remission.

Leukemia's pesky. Only one leukemic cell has to survive, hidden out somewhere in your body, in order to create a relapse. In my case, that one cell could even be hiding out in my skin somewhere!

I thought this time we'd be doing a lighter version of the same medications they used the first time around. Not so. I have one new medication and one repeat medication. The repeat medication is a larger dose, not smaller. I think the Ara-C (the repeat med) is usually used on ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia). My leukemia, though undifferentiated, is more related to AML (Acute Myeloid Lukemia) than ALL, but they're attacking it from both sides.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it's the other med that's for ALL.

The potential side effects aren't much different, though. They did add a new one: dry eyes. They told me to get some eye drops from a pharmacy and use them every day. Apparently, they can get so dry that it leads to irritation that won't go away until my blood counts get back up and my body can heal itself.

Speaking of ...

Blood Counts

Remember that I'm hoping to run (but mostly walk) a half marathon on November 12. It would be nice to train for that with as many red blood cells and as much hemoglobin as possible. Muscles like to be provided with oxygen while they work. In fact, every cell in the body needs oxygen to carry on the processes of life.

But ... Bang! On day one, hemoglobin, which was just under normal at 13.4, dropped to 12.1. That's 10% down. Red blood cells 4.16 to 3.84, and hematocrit (which measures very, very similar to the red blood cells) dropped from 39% to 36%.

I know from experience that I can't really run at 2.75 on the red blood cells, and by the time I get under that, my hematocrit will be at 25%, and they'll be giving me a transfusion.

They also got 10% of my white blood cells the first day, which is a lot because the chemo won't really kick in until next week. The funny thing, though, is that my neutrophils, which are part of the white blood cells, leaped up from 3000 to 5000. They now represent over 80% of my white blood cells.


But it doesn't bother the doctors and nurses. Weird is actually normal when they stick chemo in you. "Don't worry; it will all pan out."


I mentioned this on Facebook, but Jerry was in the waiting room when I went in to get briefed on my chemo. He was waiting for a biopsy. He was with Rayetta, his wife, and Dump, his brother, and I invited them out to dinner. They're going home today, so it was the only chance.

It turned out that my chemo lasted till around 6:30 pm, and I was very hungry by then, so Caleb and I ate in the hospital. (Caleb's my driver this week.)

So Jerry and I made arrangements for dessert.

I found a 24-hour cafe called Cafe Coco. It's a little pizzeria with a downtown coffee shop feel (which I like). I'm sure the building used to be a house, so there's winding halls inside; they have a lot of outside seating, too.

I had wings. They were hot. I'm sure they were probably good, too, but mostly they were hot.

We brought the kids, and Dump and I chatted about his upcoming heart surgery. It's called a "heart ablation." It's pretty strange. They're going to stop his heart, then burn a nerve (to kill it), and then restart his heart.

Dump, back when Jerry and I were hospitalized
Scary, huh?

He's got a flutter. I think it's called an Atrial Flutter. His heart will jump to over 100 beats per minute and stay there. Only it's not really beating 100 times per minute. Instead, just half his heart is fluttering, and the heart rate monitor picks up the flutter.

That Atrial Flutter comes and goes with him. He's had something like three spells, and there's some medication they can use to bring it down. It appears from the Wikipedia article I linked that it can get worse, though, so they want to do something about it.

That something is what I described, and Dump's having second thoughts about it.

He described a conversation with the doctor in which the doctor was assuring him he could restart Dump's heart, and Dump was saying, "There's only one person who can guarantee he can restart my heart, and you are not him!"

He finally forced the doctor to admit he could not give a 100% guarantee that he could restart the heart. Dump said okay, and the doctor added, "But I can restart your heart."

So Dump's doing research. He's going to go looking online for the most highly recommended cardiologist. He's also found several people who've had a heart ablation. While some had their flutter cured, one lady said she's had three nerves burned that way in three operations, and she still has the flutter.

I told Dump, "Well, at least they restarted her heart every time!"

He acknowledged that was a good thing.

Please feel free to pray for him. I prayed for him right there in the crowded coffee shop. There's two lives at stake here, his and Jerry's. He is Jerry's bone marrow donor.

Um, um, um ...

I think that's it. Wait, one more thing ...

My Book

Don't forget I have book.  It's 20% off at if you use SEPTEMBER305 as the check out code. That's only good until Friday (Sept. 9).

It's a history book, but it's an interesting one. Actually, if history's done right, all history books should be interesting. After all, what is history? Isn't it the stories and facts that we think are worth remembering? Thus, history is the stories and facts that we find most important, most relevant, or most fascinating.

With all of time to work with, the result should be that there is nothing more interesting to read than a history book!

Hopefully, I've accomplished that for Christians because a book about the Council of Nicea is all those things: relevant, important, and interesting. It's a story thatis often embarrassing because church leaders got sucked up into politics for the first time ever, and for the first time every had armies at their disposal.

They also had something to fight about, and they did. As the Roman historian Ammianus put it:

The highways were covered with troops of bishops galloping from every side to the assemblies, which they call synods; and while they labored to reduce the whole sect to their own particular opinions, the public establishment of the posts was almost ruined by their hasty and repeated journeys.

On top of the intrigue, the Council of Nicea is a hot potato today. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, claiming to be a scholarly book for sales purposes but really just borrowing the discredited scholarship of Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Passover Plot, has "informed" much of the historically ignorant public that Christianity as we know it was basically invented at the Council of Nicea.

Catholics and Orthodox say the Council of Nicea and other "ecumenical councils" carry divine authority. Protestants repeat and venerate the creed that came from Nicea, but many blame the council for ruining the church and turning it into an institution rather than a participatory community. Others, as said, accuse the council of reinventing the Bible by throwing out dozens of books and persecuting their authors.

Perhaps—at least I hope it's true, and I've been told so before—the best benefit of anything I write is not my conclusions but the methods used to arrive at them. How do you know who's telling you the truth? That's what I've devoted a lot of my adult life to answering, and I like to think that I'm not only pretty good at it, but that I'm pretty good at helping you get a "feel" for what you can and can't trust ... not only from people addressing the subject of my book, but from the media in general.

Research is a skill. In this internet age, it's a simple enough skill to be worth mastering. Most people are very interested in a good BD, which is a, uh, bull feces detector.

In the Beginning Was the Logos is an excellent BD for the Council of Nicea, and it is training for other subjects, too.

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