Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3: Surprises and Faith

I wandered back into Vanderbilt this morning for what I thought was a routine blood test. See how much everything is up, then wait around for all the tests on Thursday. Not so.

I can look at my blood counts as soon as the doctors can. They come up on a web site called My Health at Vanderbilt. I have my own account, and I can see the results of most of my tests except the major ones. I have to request a copy from my medical records for those. I got a copy of the the original pathology report that led to my diagnosis, which was very cool.

Today, though, just for a second, it was breathtaking. The first thing that comes up on the test is my white blood cell count. The part of the page with the counts looks like this:

Sorry for any blurriness. I can't even check it. Like a couple other web sites lately, Blogger has updated its look, so there's things that don't work. (Delicious and Facebook were the others.) I can't preview my post!

Picture I took walking one afternoon last week
Anyway, the point is, that 3.0 leaped right out at me. It was 6.8 last week. It's not supposed to be going down. It didn't need to go up, either, because 6.8 is smack dab in the middle of normal. 3.0 is not!!

The next thing I checked was neutrophils. That's a portion of the white blood cells, the ones that fight bacteria. My neutrophils were nearly 5,000, which is really good, but they couldn't be 5,000 today because that 3.0 means that I only had a 3,000 count of all my white blood cells put together. Since the neutrophils are a portion of that, they could be no higher than 3,000, and they could only be at 3,000 if I had no others.

So I checked. That "NT AUTOMATED ABS" near the bottom is the preliminary finding of the neutrophil level. That 0.94 means it's at 940, which is not real good.

Leukemia patients don't like to see their white blood cell counts be where they don't expect them to be.

Next I checked all the other counts. Platelets up. Red blood cells up.

Picture I took while walking one morning last week
Conclusion? This is weird.

When the nurse practitioner, Meg, walked in, she looked at me, checked the expression on my face and immediately asked, "Did you see your counts already?"


She took a moment to figure out what to say, so I jumped in. "White blood cells down, and everything else up. I thought, 'That's weird.'"

Her turn to say "Yeah."

Then she told me that she checked with the Dr. Strickland about the counts, and it seemed impossible to both of them that I could have relapsed so soon after a chemo treatment. They just had to figure that maybe my neutrophil counts were still ramped up from the Neulasta shot last week and they're still setttling.

So we're leaving everything on schedule. One particular set of counts, called "differentials," hadn't come back yet. She said she'd call me if they had to change anything. "Change" would mean do the bone marrow biopsy on Thursday to make sure everything's okay but cancel all the other tests.


So now the differentials have come back, but that's a set of counts I can't read.

The Adventure

To me, this is an adventure. So some off kilter blood cell counts is just something more to watch God work through.

Next to the apartment complex office
I got some perspective on that this morning. I overheard a man telling what was probably his son that all his counts were down except his platelets. I got to talking to him, and they're treating him for a stage 4 cancer that has moved into his bone marrow. I don't know what the cancer is. Either way, the treatments aren't working, so they're still fishing around for an  answer. The current treatments increase his platelets, but not anything else. Then, after a couple days, the treatment wears off, and his platelets crash, too.

His white blood cell count was 1.3, less than half of what mine are today. His son was asking about why the dad wasn't being told to wear a mask. I explained neutrophils to them, which they'd never heard of. Chances are his neutrophil count must be a pretty high percentage of those 1300 worth of white blood cells.

He got called off before I could get much further talking with him. When he left, I bowed my head and prayed for him.

Speaking of Needs, Can You Help With ...

Jerry, who's been my partner through all this treatment. He's got Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and our treatments are similar. We've been on virtually the same time frame. He started his first chemo two days before mine, and his second chemo was one week after mine. They had to make two attempts to put him in remission the first time around, so he fell behind.

He's got enough dental problems that they don't want him to go through transplant with the teeth he has left. Too much chance of infection or abscess.

His insurance must think that's an okay treatment because they're paying for the room and the anesthesiologist, but for some reason they're refusing to pay for the extractions. So he's facing a $3600 bill while he's not working and on disability, barely getting by. I happen to know a friend of his is helping out with some needs he has, but I'd like to help him with this. They'll actually do the extraction as soon as he pays 30% down, which is $1080.

The doctor and the nurse practitioner are looking for financial help to pull that off for him as well. There are charities that help with things like that if we can find them. I'm hoping to contribute to that as well.

If you're willing to help me help, you can use this donate button. It's not tax-deductible because it's just going to my Paypal account, and I'm giving it to him. He's not a charitable organization, so it's not tax-deductible. On the other hand, I never collect any money at that PayPal account, so it can't get mixed up with any other funds. If it's in that PayPal account, I'm giving it to Jerry.

If you don't already trust me, you better not give anything. You have to put in the amount when you click the button. I haven't put any predetermined amount in there.

A Story (He Said, Changing the Subject with No Transition)

We went back to Rose Creek Village this weekend. It was great. This weekend was a festival we call the Ingathering, which corresponds to the Jewish Feast of Booths, though we really didn't mean for that to be so. Originally, it was a just a time to camp out together. It is still that, but like the Jewish festival, it's also a reminder of where we came from and the principles that make us who we are.

(Primarily there is one principle at the center of Rose Creek Village. Jesus said that it is the unity of his disciples that would testify to the world that he was really sent from God and that it is a notable, mutual love that would prove to those outside that we are his disciples.)

Some of the tents at the Ingathering
Anyway, a lot of friends join us for the Ingathering nowadays, and it's a really pleasant time, especially because we've been gone so much the last three months.

So Saturday night one of our dear friends, named Donna, came over and hugged my wife and me, saying, "I have to get a hug because I don't know how much longer you'll be around."

Now of course what she meant was, "I don't know when you're going back to Nashville, and I don't know how much I'll get to see you when you do." Still, because of how it sounded, I couldn't resist answering with, "Yeah, we could drop dead even before winter's out."

Donna's a really neat lady. She's only polite when it's appropriate to be. When politeness is just a nicety, she opts for being real. So she looked at me and said, "You jerk. You know that's not what I meant. What a jerk!"

She was laughing, though.

(As an extremely interesting aside, Donna knows something about death. She was choked to death once and put in a morgue. When she sat up on the slab after being there about 45 minutes, she scared the living daylights out of the morgue nurse. That sort of experience puts some zeal for life and trust for God in a person.)

Children dancing as we sing; it's a festival!
Any other Ingathering stories really belong on my other blog.

And I'll let you know what the doctor has to say about my differentials as soon as I know.

1 comment:

  1. I went to your other blog, via the link, hoping for ingathering stories. but i landed at the last post about communist agendas. :( maybe if you have time, you can post some stories. ingathering stories for the win! :)