Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 11: A Little Difficulty

So today I had troubles.

No, it wasn't pain, and it wasn't worry about leukemia. It seems crazy to me that I can have grace for leukemia, and even the pains of chemotherapy, but then be irritable and depressed about much more minor inconveniences.

So, first I got up with a mild hangover from either the 10cc of spinal fluid they removed yesterday or the 1.5cc of methotrexate, a chemotherapy, that they put in my spinal fluid. I slept in till something like 8:30 because my body felt like it weighed 300 pounds and 100 of it was my head. No real headache, just some of heaviness and mental fog.

Then I ate quickly because I knew I needed to teach a Bible class with my kids. The Bible class itself is a blast, at least for me. We wander almost every rabbit trail that comes up. We started in Genesis one, which took us three classes, and we did Genesis 6 through 9 today, four chapters in one day. Of course, that's because we took care of talking about the nephilim, who are mentioned in Gen. 6:1-4, along with Zechariah Sitchin—a Sumerian historian and author of a number of books addressing a very interesting and obviously incorrect theory he has about the source of the Mesopotamian gods—and Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Hebrew history.

Like I said, we get to talk about whatever we want.

Anyway, I ate quickly and went to swish with the special bacteria-killing mouthwash that the dentist prescribed. That was the first thing to irritate me.

There's probably no good reason. The dentists at Vanderbilt have developed this special DNA test with which they can test the exact kinds of bacteria in your mouth. With this information, they can prescribe you antibiotics to attack any potentially dangerous bacteria, the ones that are no problem right now but which may stage an uprising should your immune system shut down. Of course, we have a plan to shut my immune system down for at least two weeks, probably a bit more, and then suppress it for at least three months, but more likely a year.

So this DNA test must have turned up some bacteria that they don't think will play along with our immune system plan. This mouthwash is part of the plan to kill them. They also prescribed me an antibiotic, and they asked me to buy a "water pic" and use the mouthwash in it as well.

Along the way, though, the pitch they made for doing the DNA test and the way they told me about needing the water pic all bugged me. I felt like the DNA test pitch was overdone, and I felt a little insulted by the way they told me I needed the water pic. (As in "hey, the hygienist said I do a good job flossing my teeth, so what do you mean telling me I ought to use a water pic?")

I'm positive that there's no basis for feeling insulted and conned, but the feeling has gotten lodged in there anyway.

So I did the mouthwash--but not the water pic because it has to charge for 24 hours before first use--and then the Bible class.

As soon as Bible class was over, the phone calls started coming.

The first one was the nurse telling me that they found blasts in my spinal fluid. This almost certainly means they didn't get all the leukemia. Some managed to hide out there.

That's no problem. That's part of the leukemia that I have so much grace for.

Then she told me that they have to postpone the transplant to treat the spinal fluid. It won't be long, but it's a postponement.

Now for all intents and purposes, that's good. It actually gives me an opportunity to go spend time with some people that I really want to spend time with. It fits into my brother's planned visit better than the original plan. In fact, in every way, the delay is "all good."

In every way except one, that is. My brain refuses to cooperate with the modern era's need to multitask. I just want to do the next thing, get it over with, and then move on the the thing after that. I don't want to postpone the transplant. I just want to do everything I need to do, jam it in there, and get it over with.

Minor, but I was already irritated about the dentist and the mouthwash and water pic.

But the calls kept coming. I'll bet I got at least seven from Vanderbilt over the next few minutes, scheduling more minor things. I was also getting texts and phone calls about scheduling this weekend, both about hotels in the area for my brother and about whether another visit this weekend would still work.

All this scheduling put my mind back on a prostate biopsy.

Yeah, you may have read already that I had a PSA, a blood test for prostate cancer, which gave a reading of 13.3, when less than 4 is normal. In fact, last year my count was 4.0, and in a year it's jumped to 13.3. The urology doctor told me yesterday that this is an unusual jump. (I hear the word unusual a lot concerning my case.)

We went back and forth over whether to do the biopsy yesterday. He says my chances of having cancer based on that PSA test is 30%. He says my chances of having a rapid-growing, dangerous cancer are 5 or 10%. If I do have such a cancer, he can give me a hormone which may put it in remission, which will make the chances of treating it a year from now much better. If I turn down the biopsy, we have a 5% chance or so of finding out next year that I have an untreatable prostate cancer that will kill me.

When it rains, it pours, huh?

Of course, I have a 70% chance of not having prostate cancer at all.

Of course, the biggest factor in all of this is that a prostate biopsy is not exactly a noble experience. In fact, it all starts tonight, the night before the procedure, when I have to have an enema.

Let me see, enema or die of cancer? That is a really, really difficult choice. It might be difficult to explain to God on the last day, though. "Listen, Father, I'm really sorry for not taking care of that cancer, but they were going to give me an enema!!! I volunteered to be martyred and to suffer through cancer if that's what you want, but an enema?"

Sorry for talking about such things, but today this is a major issue in my life!

So I'm going to do that, and I'm going to let them do the biopsy in the morning. Then on Thursday, they'll put more methotrexate in my spinal fluid.

There will be more methotrexate and lumbar punctures next week, but they won't decide how much and when until the transplant committee meets on Wednesday. (The transplant committee handles more cases that just mine. They talk together about all of us. Makes me feel like we're all one, big happy family ... okay, not everyone's happy in that family.)

Of course, the delay means I'll be more back on course with Jerry. His transplant was delayed a week because the dentist took a week off and canceled all his appointments! (Be easy on the dentist, he probably had some unexpected event come up. For vacation, he wouldn't have scheduled those appointments in the first place.)

The end of all this is that by lunchtime I was pretty depressed. I didn't act depressed; I'm not allowed to do that, but I felt depressed.

For me, there's two routes past depression. I can just smile and have a good attitude, which I'm pretty good at, or I can "cast all my cares on him because he cares for me" (Philippians 4:6).

What I've learned over the years is that even if you're patient or cheerful or good-natured, there's always an end to human goodness. You can always be pushed past your patience, cheerfulness, or good attitude. It may take a lot, but there's somewhere you'll snap.

God's attributes, however, are infinite.

The purpose of the New Testament is not to teach us to be more patient or cheerful. The "New Testament" is not a book, and we're mistaken when we refer to the 27 writings in the last quarter of our Bibles as the New Testament. The New Testament is a covenant between God and men, and it's not meant to teach us to be patient; it's meant to give us the patience of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God.

Christ Jesus ... has been made our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

"Casting all your cares upon him" means looking around for Jesus Christ, the truth of God, wherever he may be found. That may mean running to a corner for prayer, or it may mean a lot of other things. To me, it means it's time to quit thinking about my cares and start hunting for what Jesus is saying and doing.

I know that's weird to unbelievers, but it's quite real and powerfully effective to me.

I heard a scientist say once that he can't prove God, but that his experience is that theories that have God in them work.

I like that saying.

A Little Summation for Those That Just Want News

I have a 30% chance of having prostate cancer. They'll do a biopsy tomorrow and we'll have a much better idea. Even if I do have prostate cancer, it won't be treated until the leukemia is all done.

I still have leukemic cells in my spinal fluid. They're going to treat those with a chemotherapy, methotrexate, for the next couple weeks, which will delay my transplant a bit.

This is one more reason to go with the fully ablative transplant, which means a little more chemo and a lot more radiation. We were already leaning that way. The decision will be made at that meeting tomorrow, which begins at 3:30 pm. I'll get a call afterwards.

That's it. Everything else is the same for now. The expected day of transplant is more likely to be around Nov. 4 now, with the "conditioning regimen," the chemo and radiation, starting around Oct. 28.

No comments:

Post a Comment