Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16: Update with a Sermon on the Side

I really need to do an update, but nothing seems very newsy. I'm sitting around my apartment waiting for my blood counts to come back up.

My kids are coming back out to Nashville today, maybe even any minute. I'm very excited about that. Even my two older boys, both working full time, are due out tomorrow.

Janelle watching soccer back in Selmer
My heart attack last week did throw off the timeline for my treatment. I have to have a December 14 appointment so that the cardiologist can verify that there was no damage from the heart attack. They need the four-week gap apparently, so I have a four-week gap in treatment.

I do have two spinal taps to do, one this Monday and one the next. They want to make sure there's nothing leukemic hiding out anywhere when they do the transplant, so they'll dump methotextrate into my spinal fluid again. That's a lot better than the Cytarabine, which gave me those unbearable muscle cramps and nerve pain.

I talked to my friend Jerry this morning for nearly an hour. He's back in Virginia, but he's coming to Nashville Monday for his bone marrow transplant. He has a couple things to do on Tuesday, but he's scheduled to start the chemo on Wednesday. That will be his day one, and he will get bone marrow and stem cells both from his brother on day 7. I think Jerry gets to avoid radiation because his leukemia never got out of his blood.

I didn't know that the hospital would do both the bone marrow and the stem cells, but apparently they want to give Jerry a good supply. Normally, it's one or the other. Here's a quick explanation for those who don't remember.

Our bone marrow has stem cells that can become any kind of blood cell, which is how the bone marrow produces the blood cells. When a bone marrow transplant is necessary, the doctors have two ways of getting it. They can punch about a hundred tiny holes into your hip bone and suck it out, or they can give you a hormone pill that forces the stem cells into your blood stream. If they do the latter, there's a machine that filters the blood to get the stem cells.

Manu at one of our favorite activites here at the apartments
Normally, they do one or another. Apparently, they're going to do both with Jerry's brother.

That's a good thing, really. Perhaps the greatest danger in a marrow transplant is the time it takes for the new marrow to engraft and begin making blood. During that time, the patient has no immune system, and the risk of infection or pneumonia is great. With such a close DNA match with his brother and getting a large dose of marrow and stem cells, perhaps the marrow will begin kicking out new blood cells very quickly.

The one issue that Jerry's having is that blood tests indicate some kind of problem with his liver. That is a always a danger from chemotherapy. His nurse is telling him not to worry about it, and they still have him scheduled to begin the transplant process Wednesday, but I'm praying anyway. I'm not messing around; I'm just praying God will heal his liver, and all his liver enzymes will go back to normal. Thanks for all of you who are praying with me.

Leilani got to visit a civil war reenactment. I don't know why there's a camel!
Hmm. This is longer than I anticipated.

This blog probably makes me sound like I'm pretty upbeat most of the time, and I am. That's not always easy, though. Sometimes there's long gaps where Christian fellowship is limited to my wife, whatever discussions I can have with nurses or other patients, and interactions across the internet. A lot of Sundays I'm in the hospital, or I have no immune system and shouldn't be out in public, so I stay at home with my family, which is great, but it's not everything I need as a Christian.

So Monday I got hold of a guy who holds a Friday night "cell group" meeting near the apartments here. I've only been to one, and every other Friday I've been unable to sit up, in the hospital, or without an immune system. He sends out these little devotional texts every morning, though, and I've been keeping up with him through those.

We got together at MacDonald's and had coffee. My immune system's still week, so I wiped the table with an antibiotic wipe, wiped my coffee cup down as well, washed my hands, and didn't touch anything. Once, when I forgot and put my hand on the seat, I immediately washed it with antibiotic ointment. Worse, a friend of the guy I was meeting came up, and I shook his hand, being polite. As soon as he left, I washed my hands again. It feels weird doing that, but it's necessary.

Anyway, we got to sit and swap stories for a couple hours. It was great, and it lifted my spirits a lot.

Christianity was never meant to be an isolated "just me and Jesus" religion. I've heard people say that, and they usually include "and my Bible." Unfortunately, if they actually read that Bible, they'll find that it teaches that people who isolate themselves are likely to wind up with hard hearts, deceived by sin, not enlightened by their Bible reading (Hebrews 3:13).

We need each other, and it's supposed to be that way.

Whether you're a Christian or not, if you read this blog, you probably know that I am. The following video is less than four minutes long, and it sums up a lot of what I would want to say to modern Christians, only I can't say it quite as well as Francis Chan does:


  1. Hi Shammah. I enjoy all the blogs you write and get ALOT out of them. Thanks for writing them and please keep them coming. I will be praying for Jerry. I want his transplant to be 100% perfect with no problemos! Love you all. Counting down the days till your successful one. Also praying for"no headaches" at all.
    God bless you!