Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chemo Fingerprints and Tapering Again

Rather than start with something serious, let's have a little fun at my expense.

I'm bald again.

Why? Well, this has a lot to do with it:

Need a clearer view?

I decided that I had little enough hair that I could just trim it myself with the beard trimmer. It looks okay with a modern-style crew cut, so that's what I was going to do.

I forgot, however, to check the charge on my beard trimmer before I began, and it was completely dead by the time I was done with one side of my head.


My trimmer doesn't run plugged in. Plugging it in is just for recharging.

We were one our way to Freed Hardeman University to finish enrolling Caleb,  and I really didn't want to show up there as a punk rocker. On the spur of the moment, all I could think of to do was to use the razor that doesn't require batteries. My good ol', three-blade, disposable razor.

It took a little while, but I got it. My disposable razor doesn't have a setting for "3-day beard" or anything like that, so bald seemed to be the only choice.

Everyone seems to agree that I look ten years younger bald, so I like that, but I'm not staying bald. Here's a picture in better light. I'm not mad; I'm just squinting at the sun and trying to hurry because I'm not supposed to be out in the sun ... especially with all that forehead exposed!

Resolving Last Week's "Seizure of Persons"

I was trying to think of a Christian way to deal with the events of last week. My arrest was not a big deal. I brought that on myself. My son's arrest, however, was ridiculous and leaving the issue alone so that it could happen to the next person did not seem like an option to me.

A couple days ago, I was struck by what should have been obvious. Just go talk to the sheriff, and see if he'll do something about the situation!

So yesterday I dropped in to make an appointment. He was in, and he saw me immediately.

I added this picture just to
have something pretty to contrast
all the pictures of me.
We went back and forth a little bit, but in the end, I think I have to acknowledge that there is no way for the sheriff's office to double check the warrants that are issued to them. He offered to show me the stack of warrants that they have outstanding.

They do have to be double checked, though, and some attempt needs to be made to contact those, like my son, that obviously don't need to be picked up in the middle of the night. Protection against unreasonable warrants is a right that the constitution says "shall not be violated."

The place that needs to happen, however, is in the county clerk's office, where the warrants are issued. As it turned out, the sheriff had already talked to my lawyer, and both of them had already talked to the county clerk's office. They are already putting a system in place so that appeals, which happen at the circuit court in the middle of town, are registered with the justice center, which is on the bypass on the edge of town.

I think they were embarrassed that no system was already in place, and they're rectifying that as fast as possible.

Does no one appeal decisions in this county? Is this really the first time this has ever come up? Maybe there's just not much reason to appeal a general sessions court ruling, and it happens very rarely.

I also talked to him about the condition of the jail cell, and the sheriff told me it's already their policy to clean the cells between prisoners. He promised to leave his office and go straight in to check on the condition of the cell I was in and ask about what happened last week.

So overall I was pretty happy with that. Our lawyer is involved in the discussions with the county clerk's office, so I'm confident he'll make sure the system they set in place will never again put him in the position of having one of his clients arrested while the case is on appeal.

Chemo Fingerprints

One thing I forgot to tell you was the great difficulty they had fingerprinting me last week. Fingerprinting has come a long way since I was fingerprinted every time I moved in the military in the 80's. No ink is involved now. There's a scanner, and it puts a picture up on a computer monitor.

The computer kept rejecting my fingerprints. Finally, the guy doing the fingerprinting asked to see my hands. Then he showed me the crevices running the length of my fingers, including right across my fingerprints. After he showed me those, he turned the monitor my way so that I could see that not only did I have these crevices running the length of my fingers, but I had tinier ones crossing my fingertips as well. We couldn't see them, but the scanner was picking them up. It looked like someone had made a checkerboard with tiny squares all over my fingertips. Behind that checkerboard, we could see the whorls, loops, and arches that are supposed to make up my fingerprint. It was like they were covered in a mesh net on the screen.

Can you see the lines on my fingers and the web design on my index finger? The computer could see them, too; better than it could see my fingerprints.
Here's a closer view. There's a lot more lines too small to see that the computer picked up.

So we took 7 or 8 prints of each finger, and then he picked the best one. The computer itself only approved one or two.

The Taper

After the rough month of July, I was scared on Monday when we dropped back to 7.5 mg of steroids instead of 10.

Worse, on Tuesday I was very sick. I was exhausted, had diarrhea, and I was constantly nauseous. I slept a good 7 hours over three naps during the day besides what I had slept the night before, and I went to bed at 9 pm.

Wednesday, I woke up feeling as well as I've felt since I left the hospital. I got up, took one of my cars to the repair shop at 7 a.m., then walked a mile to a different repair shop to pick up our other car. It was after that I went to see the sheriff.

I guess I really was sick on Tuesday, not just reacting to the steroid taper.

We'll see. We're not tapering any further until the doctors see me again, and that won't be until September 13.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Night in Jail: Update

I need to add a couple more details to my arrest the other night at some other people's suggestion.

I managed to wind up going out the door of our house bleeding from the lip. The deputy asked about the blood, and I told him I'd probably bit my lip because I was so angry. I didn't then and don't now remember how I got the cut. However, it turns out I couldn't have bit my lip. I tried to reach the cut with my teeth the next day, and I can't. It's too far down from my lower lip.

My wife noticed it the next morning because I still had a little blood caked in my goatee. I didn't dare clean up the cut in the filthy sink they offered me, and there wasn't any soap anyway. I didn't even want to touch the push-button spigot.

Okay, those details being added, here's what I hope will happen. I expect to write a letter to the editor, or get my story published in the local papers. My goal is that:
  • McNairy County puts procedures in place to double check warrants before they are issued.
  • That citizens are guaranteed at least a phone call, if not a visit, during the day when court and lawyer's offices are open, before a warrant is issue in the middle of the night.
  • That jail cells are cleaned between prisoners.
I've always been frustrated by the use of laws to prevent government workers from being allowed to do any thinking on their own. Any thinking person would have recognized that a potential death sentence--which is what locking me in a jail cell filthier than most gas station bathrooms was--is inappropriate punishment for putting a few drops of milk on a deputy who was unlawfully seizing my son from my house in the middle of the night.

I say "any thinking person" because as soon as a person allowed by the law to think came in, I was released.

If the deputies were allowed to think rather than being obligated to serve an obviously incorrect warrant, none of this would have happened, even with the poor record keeping of our small county. I don't even mind the poor record keeping. I'd rather live in a small, friendly county than in a big, computer-efficient county (where even less thinking by underlings is allowed).

However, if your record keeping is going to be poor, you have to give leeway to your officers to be lenient when leniency is obviously the wisest choice. Remember, there was no crime! This was a clerical error on the part of McNairy County for which they were unreasonably breaking into our house and seizing my son after 11:00 at night!

We speak of "unlawful" search and seizure, but the Constitution of the United States uses the word "unreasonable." The fourth amendment says this:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This seizure may have been "lawful," but it was not reasonable.

Think about this. The founding fathers wanted us to be "secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects." I don't think they meant, "As long as some judge somewhere says 'Go ahead and seize them or their property' then that will constitute lawful, reasonable seizure. However, if the judge fails to sign his name, that is unlawful."

No, the founding fathers, in trying to protect us from the government, weren't concerned about whether the government stopped for 25 seconds and signed a paper. They were concerned that the government would break into people's houses, with or without a warrant, for no good reason--"unreasonably."

All of this could have been avoided with a phone call during business hours.

As an important side note, my daughter is visiting friends and my brother out in California. I count it very fortunate that my wife was staying overnight in Nashville, so she could bring Janelle to the airport at 4:00 a.m.

One more note: The police drove my son and I, handcuffed and without seat belts, about five miles on two highways at 90 mph and a little over without turning on their police lights or siren. My son and I both read that off the speedometer; that's not a guess. Isn't that reckless endangerment or something? It's certainly a severe traffic violation.

I was told by a friend they passed on the way to my house that they flew by her, and she was driving 70 when they passed. Again, no lights or siren. Another friend gave them directions to my house and was so shaken up by the deputy's attitude that he has written up a description of the encounter. This was before they made it to my house. I just found out about that today.

Okay, I have that all written down. I'm done complaining now. Time to go back to gladness, getting well, and getting this to the people that matter!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Different Sort of Hospital Room

I suppose that while I'm experiencing things I've barely heard of (like leukemia) or never heard of (like Graft-vs-Host Disease), I might as well just run the gamut of life adventures.

I was arrested for assaulting a police office last night. That's not the sort of thing I thought I would ever experience in my life.

Let me tell you the story.

I was released to long term care back in May, and I returned to my home here in Selmer. My son, who turned 18 in March and had spent much of the last year staying with friends here at Rose Creek Village, was arrested for shoplifting just a week after we got back.

Shoplifting is a crime, so I don't want to downplay it. In fact, my son told me later that he was more worried about our reaction (my wife and my) than about spending a night in jail. However, it was not a major shoplifting scene. It was all personal items like shampoo and razors. The manager of WalMart told me that it was one of the most unusual shoplifting scenes she'd experienced. The merchandise wasn't the typical shoplifting booty, and my son was polite, quiet, and cooperative.

We posted bail the following morning, got a court date for him, and went in expecting him to get a slap on the wrist. We were confident he had learned his lesson, and this was a first time offense for a kid only two months over 18.

Nope. He got 10 days in jail, a fine, and almost a year of probation.

That seemed pretty stiff to me, but I don't know anything about court sentences. I've never been arrested.

It seemed pretty stiff to a local attorney, too. He's probably the best attorney in town, and he's an acquaintance. A friend of mine called him, and the attorney was floored. He went to the court to make sure we weren't leaving something out of the story.

When he saw we weren't, he was furious. He called the sentence immoral, and he filed an appeal on our behalf, thus putting the jail sentence, fine, and probation costs on hold.

Our appeal is set for August 24, and we thought everything was fine.

Last week, the probation office called and told Caleb he needed to come right in and pay his fine. My son told him the case was being appealed. The officer looked in the computer, verified the appeal, and apologized. "All taken care of," he said.

Over the course of last week. we have been enrolling him in a college. He's getting both an academic and a soccer scholarship. My wife and I have been giving thanks to God for how smoothly the admissions process is going. We thought when I came back in May that it was far too late to help him get in college and get enough scholarships to be able to afford it. But now, everything is happening in two weeks without our even trying. This was somewhat dropped on us.

So yesterday, even though the admissions process can't be finished until Friday, he went with the university soccer team for a physical. All the players have to pass a physical to be able to play.

When he got back, in the late evening, a deputy called saying he needed my son to sign some papers. Caleb told them he was home, and they showed up just after 11:00 at night.

The papers turned out to be a warrant for his arrest for "Failure To Appear." Apparently, no one updated the sheriff department's computer with the appeal, so they just issued a warrant. No one double checked it.

When my son told me they were arresting them, I went to the deputies and told them this was a mistake. The conversation went something like this.

Me: "This is a clerical error. His case is on appeal, and he wasn't supposed to show up for jail."

Deputy: "We just carry out warrants, sir. We have no choice. It says arrest him; we have to arrest him."

Me: "This is ridiculous. It's been six weeks since he was supposed to appear. You guys called him on the phone last week and tonight. Couldn't you have called him on the phone during the day when we could have checked computers, called our lawyer, or something, rather than showing up in the middle of the night to arrest him?"

Deputy: "We have nothing to do with that. We can serve warrants 24 hours a day."

Me: "I agree that you can."

Deputy: "Yes we can."

Me: "But just because you can doesn't mean it isn't stupid."

I wish I would have thought of the word "immoral" rather than stupid.

The argument went on like that with me getting more heated, and the deputy saying there's nothing I can do about it, so both deputies turned around and walked toward our front door with my son between them.

Caleb had just made himself a bowl of cereal, and it was on the kitchen counter, which is about 10 feet from the front door. In fury, I swept the bowl of cereal off the counter towards our microwave, coffee machine, and other gadgets. Realizing it was going to make a terrible mess, at the last second I steered the bowl towards the refrigerator instead.

I got the refrigerator, which is only about 5 feet from the front door, and a little milk splashed on the deputy I'd been arguing with. He claims the bowl hit him, too, but I don't know how that's possible unless it bounced off the refrigerator. (This paragraph has been edited because my son told me the deputy only had a few drops of milk on his arm. I guess I didn't notice until he had wiped off his sleeve at the jail, and his sleeve was all wet from cleaning it.)

You could see his fury rise. It took about three or four seconds for him to announce he was arresting me for assaulting a police officer. Then he pulled out his taser, pointed it at me and ordered me to get on the floor.

Having been in the military and having been detained by military police due to security system errors a couple times, I thought "on the floor" meant get on my knees with my hands away from my body.

Nope. It meant lay on my face on the carpet, and he started screaming at me to get flat on the floor like I was Al Capone or something. (Remember, I weigh 140 pounds in sopping wet clothes right now.)

They handcuffed me, and while they were at it, they handcuffed my son, too. Once I was handcuffed, the deputy screamed at me to stand up, which was sort of difficult to do with my hands cuffed behind me. My legs aren't very strong right now. So he screamed some more. You'd have thought I was Jason Bourne.

It was a pretty wild scene. The officer was yelling, and we also have a single mother with brain cancer living with us. She was there, and she was screaming, "Stop! Don't taze him! He's got leukemia; you could kill him!"

We also happened to have a young lady staying with us for one night who'd been kicked out her house because of conflicts between her parents. If she thought she had problems at her house, we really gave her something to look at!

The assault weapon ... No! Not the knife! The bowl!
I don't think the spoon was in it, either.
The bowl's plastic, thin, and weighs about three ounces maximum.

Both I and the deputy had calmed down by the time we got to the jail. He told me that since I was being "cool" about things now, he'd do whatever he could to make the consequences as small as possible when I go to court and that I might be able to get the charges dismissed.

Added by edit: Actually, the both of us had calmed down before we ever walked out the door of my house. I asked if I could put shoes on before we left, and they initially said no. But I was immediately apologetic once I realized I'd splashed the officer, so there had been no resistance or anything from me. It took a few seconds, then they let someone go get shoes for me. They even told her to get flip flops for me because I could keep them in the cell.

I thought I had made it clear in this blog that I don't object to my arrest, but apparently I didn't, so I'm doing that now. I deserved to be arrested. Although things were unnecessarily loud and crazy, and I made the joke about "as though I were Jason Bourne" in the text above, they had every right to arrest me after I lost my temper. 

It's my son's arrest, which I consider unreasonable seizure and a violation of the fourth amendment, that I object to because a simple phone call or even carrying out the warrant during the daytime at any time over the six week period would have prevented the arrest.

We'll see; all things in the Lord's hand. (It would have been nice if I'd acted like I believed that last night!)

The single mom I mentioned called all my friends while I was being arrested (for assaulting a police officer! Me!), and so two of them showed up with my box of pills, some Clorox wipes, and hospital masks.

They wouldn't let me have the wipes. ("You're in JAIL," they said.) I had grabbed a mask as soon as I saw them, before I went to my cell, so I did have that. They told me they would let me take my pills in the morning. They even gave me my own cell just because of my suppressed immune system.

The cell was filthy! There was an apple and a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel sitting out on the sink. There was no soap. There was trash on the floor, including three empty toilet paper rolls. I figured that meant the cell hadn't been cleaned in the time it took male inmates to use up three rolls of toilet paper (and most of the roll that was left, which was kept in a hole in the cinder block wall). There was also about 25 large wads of toilet paper that had been thrown against the ceiling wet, then dried there.

But they did give me an inch-thick mat and a wool blanket—hopefully both of which had been cleaned, but I hate to count on it— to sleep on the cement floor with. No pillow.

The toilet paper was dangerously low even for one bowel movement, so I prayed that I wouldn't have a multiple-trip-to-the-bathroom night, which are not that uncommon for me during this recovery. Not only that, but there was no soap in the cell, and the sink was so filthy I'm pretty sure I would have been unwilling to use it anyway.

A deputy who obviously was concerned about me because of the leukemia treatment had told me that my cell adjoined the call center, so if I knocked on the window they could help me if I needed something. I did, and someone else came who was the one who told me I couldn't have wipes and simply didn't answer when I asked for a roll of toilet paper.

When I woke up in the morning, I asked the lady who brought my breakfast and the man who took the tray after if I could have a roll of toilet paper. They both said yes, but they didn't bring me one.

Finally, about 8:30 this morning, I was released on my own recognizance without bail, which is what I was told would happen by a lady last night because of my "major medical condition." Once I got in the lobby, I found the public bathroom had just been cleaned. It still had the "wet floor" sign up. I had my wipes, too, so I cleaned again before I used it.

And they had toilet paper, too! (Though not my helpful, soft, anti-hemorrhoidal wipes.)

So that's how I went from father, businessman, entrepreneur, church leader, and Christian teacher to violent criminal.

I still think, however, that showing up six weeks after my son didn't show up to jail—because he wasn't required to—with an arrest warrant after 11 p.m. at night, knowing that he was available with a simple phone call during business hours, is immoral, uncalled for, and the actions of a police state, not a free republic. I'm going to give it another day to calm down, and then I'm going to the city paper and the county paper with the story to see if they'll print it.

I wanted to sue the county last night, but I don't think that's turning the other cheek. I don't mind telling the story, though, so that maybe someone will do something about such ridiculous behavior as what happened last night.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chemo Lines Revisited

I'm doing remarkably better now that I'm back on the steroids. I do need to repeat my note of self-justification that the amount of steroids that I am on is no more than what your body is making every day.

I am still fascinated by the "chemo line" effect. I wrote a couple months ago about the chemo lines on my fingernails. Those have grown out, but now I'm dealing with the chemo lines on my toenails, as seen below:

See that big line down the middle of my big toenail. All my toenails have lines like that. Some have grown to the end, and the closer to the end the chemo line gets, the more the nail separates at the line. You can probably see how one edge of my left big toe is separating already.

I didn't take the clearest photo. I just couldn't get the right lighting. Anyway, the chemo line on the toenail of the second toe has reached the end and half of it is loose, so I cut most of that half off.

It's not really a problem on my toes like it was on my fingers. The nails get real jagged and catch on every bit of fabric there is, especially socks, but I can just tape my toes up. Then there's no problem. I couldn't do that with my fingers because I have to wash my hands all day, use my fingers to do things, etc. Toes are mostly useless except for being stubbed and for a place for bees to survive and sting when you step on them barefoot.

Notice how crowded those right toes are? I have just one bunion. I'm going to give free bunion advice to anyone who wants it. First, mine's not bad (nor is it related to chemo, but to kicking a football in jr. high school), so if you have a severe bunion, my solution may not work. Here's what a bunion looks like:

See how big the knuckle of the big toe is? That's what's meant by a bunion. Calcium builds up in the knuckle, driving the big toe towards the other toes. It crowds your toes, and it can cause pain both inside the damaged knuckle and on the side of the knuckle from rubbing on shoes.

I never had the shoe problem, but the knuckle used to ache pretty much every evening unless I was off my feet all day.

The solution? I got some MSM/Glucosamine cream from Nature's Sunshine. (You can buy it all over the internet.) I used it topically on the knuckle once or twice a day, and within a week my toe joint didn't ache at all. That continued for a few months, then I quit for a couple weeks just to make sure the cream was the source of the improvement. It was. The pain came back in a few days.

Over the next two years I tried that experiment several times, quitting for a couple weeks, and the pain always came back in 3 or 4 days.

After about four years, I hit a point where I either forgot to restock or just got lazy and quit using it, and the pain has never come back. I haven't used the cream in six years, and my bunion hasn't hurt me the entire time.

If you have a painful bunion, I hope that works for you, too.

Oh, my daughter has a bunion. It works for her as well. She uses the MSM/Glucosamine cream for a while, then quits a while until the bunion starts aching again. Then I'll get her another tube. We probably only buy one tube every two years for her.

Weird post, I know, but I am just fascinated by the chemo lines. They are caused, by the way, by chemo killing the fingernail and toenail cells, then the nails going back to growing once the chemo wears off.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) and Steroids

On July 31, I was supposed to drop completely off the steroids I was taking. I had been tapering all month. I contacted Vanderbilt, told them how things have been, and they told me to go back up to 10mg per day, which is where I was at in mid-June.

In two days, I felt like I'd been born again. Mood jumped, appetite increased, and all the intestinal warfare stopped.

And warfare is the right word. Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD) is my new immune system attacking my body, in this case my gut, because it doesn't recognize it as a friend. Going back up to 10mg Prednisone got my immune system off my gut.

So today we asked about when we might be able to taper off the steroids safely. (I saw "we" because my wife, who is my caretaker, goes through all this with me and handles my medications.) I learned some things about steroids I didn't know, or at least about Prednisone, this specific steroid. I also learned some things about stem cells and about transplants being rejected.


Your body (but not mine), produces about 7 milligrams of steroids on its own everyday. The nurse tells me that because I've received so much steroids over the last year, my adrenal glands have "gone to sleep" figuring they're not needed. The taper, going off the steroids bit by bit, is to get my body to wake up and start producing its own steroids. Until then, when we may have to settle in at 7.5 mg and give my body what it's not producing. The 10 mg that I'm getting now I will only get for two weeks, then we'll stay at 7.5 for a while until we're ready to test my body again.

Transplants and Stem Cells

When a person receives a kidney, liver, or heart transplant, he or she must stay on immunosuppressive medicines all their life. Their immune system, if given full reign, will attack the new organ as foreign, and that will be as true 30 years from the transplant as it is on the day of the transplant.

Stem cells are not so.

Stem cells are more "plastic." They can be trained. So today my immune system (which is the real foreigner here), will begin attacking my gut and skin if it is given full reign. But because I have the stem cells that produced the blood system (and thus the immune system), the stem cells are learning. While the immune system is on a leash, the cells are learning whom they can live with and whom they can't live with.

Eventually, sometimes its three, four, or five years down the road, bone marrow transplant recipients can let their immune systems off the leash, it will have learned to recognize the patient's original DNA as not harmful.

Until then, the doctors let the immune system loose a little at a time, chain it back up when it snarls and bites, then let it off again later; testing ... testing ... until they get the patient off all immunosuppressives.

I'm on very minor amounts, and the stem cells I got were really stem cells. People with adult donors get "hematopoietic" stem cells, which are cells that can become any blood cell. I got cells from an infant's umbilical cord (no, not an aborted infant; donated by a wonderful set of parents after a live, healthy birth). They're completely naive, untrained stem cells, ready to make blood and learn how to take on the world.

People like me who get cord blood are in more danger the first 30 days after transplant because engrafting goes slowly, so we're completely without an immune system longer than those with an adult donor (or who are self-donors). But after 90 days, our new immune system usually gives us less problems than those who have adult donors. Wow, that would be nice. I made it past the "sorry, you're much more likely to die during these 30 days than those with adult donors" so I'm happy to try to reap the benefit of those little thriving baby cells.

This is just like being a parent. Getting those children to behave can sometimes be a real challenge.

Have a great day. Conquer every obstacle. Roar a lot when the going gets difficult. Trust God, and there's nothing you can't overcome.