Thursday, December 15, 2011

Heart News

Yesterday's visit to the cardiologist was pretty exciting. However, don't miss the "I'm Blessed" post from earlier this morning if you haven't seen it. This is just news. That one talks about looking at life through God's eyes. I'm still excited about this road I'm on, and I still believe it's God's path for me.

Once again, thank you for your prayers.

The cardiologist came in yesterday and told me, "We may never know exactly what happened to you a month ago."

He's not even willing to call it a heart attack anymore!

He knew from a phone call I made that I'd really prefer not to be taking the heart medicines he's prescribed, and he was initially very cool about the possibility of letting me drop them. He was open, but clearly felt we needed this "heart cath," which I will have tomorrow, before we even think about letting me off my meds.

The "heart cath" is some sort of scan with dye in my arteries so they can check for blockage. He told me the stress test last month showed no blockage, but it's only 90% reliable. I'm getting ready for a stem cell transplant with full intensity chemo and a lot of radiation. Dr. Jagasia, the transplant doctor, wants the cardiologist to be 100% certain, or as close to it as possible.

As he told me all this, the cardiologist said we'd have to consider the idea of putting in a stent, which seems to be a very tiny operation in his eyes. Probably we'd avoid it, he said, but we have to leave the idea open.

Then, while his nurse explained what I needed to know about the heart cath, he went and read my echocardiogram.

The doctor had already perked up a bit when I told him I'd been jogging a little and could run a half mile. That's a tiny distance for the average person, but he raised his eyebrows at that and seemed more positive.

When he came back from reading the echocardiogram, he was positively jubilant. He said, "Let's get that heart cath, and then you can probably just be done with us."

Apparently, my heart completely recuperated from the chemo and fever. One of the things the echocardiogram tells the doctor is how well my heart empties itself of blood on each pump. Normal is 50 to 70%. Last month, after the heart, uh, episode, they measured mine at 46%. The transplant nurse, Nurse Works (I still love her name), had told me they didn't like that number. Previously, she said, I'd been over 50.

Yesterday it was back up to 60%.

I think the doc liked everything about the cardiogram. I'm not kidding; he was positively cheerful after he looked at it.

So tomorrow, I get light sedation, and they'll stick a tube into an artery, probably the femoral artery near the groin, and inject me with dye. The test takes 15 minutes, I think he said, but I have to lay around for two to six hours afterward while they make sure that artery isn't bleeding. There's a big difference between a vein, which oozes blood as it returns from the muscles and organs, and an artery, which gets a straight pump from the heart.

Then I can't drive all weekend, and I can't lift more than ten pounds for seven to ten days.

Do you ever wonder about statements like that? Seven to Ten days? What do I do on day eight and day nine? Apparently, I stick to the ten pound limit because I have no way of knowing if seven days is good enough. So really, it's ten days.

When she told me about the ten pounds, I said, "What about pushups? No pushups?"

I was really just hassling her. She said no, of course.

Sad, though. I'm weak enough as it is. It took days to get back to being able to do a dozen decent pushups.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And thank you again for the prayers!

Speaking of which, I really need that marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture to be negative (leukemia-free) on Monday. I have to repeat the first round of chemo and get the leukemia in remission again if, God forbid, the biopsy is positive. Basically, it would be almost a repeat of what I've already done! It's real unlikely that would happen, but prayers are most welcome.

Thank you again!

Also, for those of you who don't know, here's a public thank you to Michael of Ireland, who emails me almost daily. He had BPDCN (see tab above) and was in the hospital for 191 days straight during his chemo treatments and stem cell transplant. He reads this blog and gives me advice, having rather extensive experience on this route. He's married with two young children. Thanks, Michael!

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