Thursday, December 8, 2011

There's not much to report on me. I'm at the hospital for my weekly checkup. My white blood cell counts are up, and my neutrophil (bacteria-fighting cells) counts are all the way in the normal range, though at the very bottom.

I figured I'd report on Jerry, who is doing awesome! (Thank you for all your prayers.)

This is a very "newsy" post today, so I figured I'd put you in a leisure mood first. Brian Regan is doing commercials now!

Okay, done with that.

Today is day 8 for him, which means he's on the eighth day after his transplant. He looks great, and he even went to WalMart yesterday (something I have no intention of doing when I'm in his shoes). He insisted that he dodges groups of people, that he moves far away if he hears someone cough or sneeze, and that he doesn't touch anything or even open any doors. And he wears a hospital mask, of course.

The chemo has not yet completely wiped out his blood counts, despite the fact that he's 8 days past transplant. They're getting low, around 2.0 for a white blood cell count, but they're not zero. So I can't say he has no immune system, but his immune system is low and decreasing, not increasing. Also, he's on immunosuppressive drugs, several of them, to make sure that the stem cells he received don't have to fight his old immune system in order to rebuild his bone marrow and create a new immune system.

That's all to say that if he contacts germs, he's going to get sick.

I would just avoid WalMart.

But for Jerry, so far so good. Like I said, he looks great. It's very encouraging for me.

I saw Dr. Jagasia, the head of the stem cell transplant department, at the hospital while he was seeing Jerry and I was visiting Jerry. He told me that I probably wouldn't need another spinal tap. When I told him that seeing Jerry was encouraging me, he said, "Well, you're not getting the same kind of transplant."

Now, when I started that last paragraph, I thought he meant that I was getting cord blood, while Jerry got marrow from his brother. However, though only a few seconds have passed for you since the last paragraph, several hours have passed for me. I started this blog at the hospital, thinking I would write it during my waiting periods. I had early appointments, though, starting at 7:00, so all my waiting periods were shorter than normal. I had to quit writing, and I'm now back home with more information than I had when I started the blog.

Among other things, we visited Jerry while we were at the hospital. He only found out yesterday that his chemo was reduced intensity. It was still intense chemotherapy, but it was not "fully myeloablative." In other words, it's not meant to completely wipe out his bone marrow. His brother's stem cells will have to take care of finishing off what's left.

So what Dr. Jagasia meant yesterday or the day before was that my chemo will be more intense than his. I'll be getting radiation as well. I hate it when the doctor basically says, "Don't get your hopes up."

That's all assuming they agree my heart's up to handling it when they check me next Wednesday.

My trip to the hospital this morning also means that I am no longer without any news.

But first, an intermission if you want one. Brian Regan colored his hair for this appearance on David Letterman, but it didn't stop him from being funny. Don't give up on the first minute. It gets better steadily as it goes along.

Perhaps you've now noticed that I think Brian Regan is funny. Back to other news.

Today I gave a couple small pieces of skin to Vanderbilt's pathology department. I got ringworm on my arm last week, probably from going to the apartment's weight room. We put some antifungal cream on it, to go with the antifungal pill I was already taking, and it disappeared. But I also have some spots on my legs that don't look the same as the ringworm that was on my arm. There's fifteen or so. The tiny ones are round, but the bigger ones, up to a half inch wide and almost an inch long, are more oval and not very even on the edges. They also don't look like ringworm. They just look like dried skin, a little scaly and a little darker than the surrounding skin. They don't itch or hurt. I'd never know they were there if I couldn't see them.

Dr. Strickland told me it looks a little like eczema, but it's really hard to determine the cause of a rash. I have my transplant preparation tests next week, though, so we can't leave it undetermined. So we had his nurse take a couple biopsies to send to the pathology lab.

Rash is a somewhat common side effect of the Cytarabine chemotherapy I had at the end of October. He also told me to change my body wash, in case it's an allergic reaction.

Speaking of Cytarabine, I looked up "high dose" Cytarabine in Google, and I found numerous studies where people had received 2000 or 3000 mg/m2 twice a day for four days. They called this "high dose." I couldn't find any descriptions of Cytarabine being administered at higher doses.

I got 6000 mg/m2 twice a day for six days.

No wonder my blood counts recovered so slowly!

They're trying to prevent relapse, something I appreciate. Dr. Strickland assured me a couple weeks ago that I'm not the only person who's received that high a dose.

Well, back to Rose Creek Village for the weekend. There's a wedding on Sunday we're looking forward to being at. Then I visit with the transplant doctor and nurse practitioner on Tuesday, then all the heart tests on Wednesday. It may be Wednesday before I blog again.

Have a great weekend and a merry Christmas!

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