Saturday, March 19, 2011

March's MDA recap

WBC: 12.6 K/UL (4.0-11.0)

RBC: 3.65 M/UL (4.0-5.50)

HEMOGLOBIN: 13.0 G/DL (12.0-16.0)

PLATELETS: 333 K/UL (140-440)

ANC: 9.52 K/UL (1.70-7.30)

LDH: 547 IU/L (313-618)



I had my monthly visit to MDA and all seems to be well. I was scheduled for blood work, a bone density scan, chest x-ray, complete pulmonary function test, bone marrow aspiration/biopsy, and 3 specialists. As you can see from my blood work, my white blood cell and absolute neutrophil counts are still high due to steroids. My liver is behaving and I am grateful. We are once again friends and I will do everything within my power to keep it this way.

The day was full of pleasant surprises, the first of which being the result of my PFT. My lungs are still showing restrictions which is to be expected given the volatile nature of GvHD. 3 months ago, my lung function was at 66%. This week, I'm at 75%. The pulmonary specialist prescribed a rescue inhaler in addition to the inhaled steroids I already take. When I questioned her on the reasoning, she told me it was only a precaution and that I may never use it. She wants me to have it on hand just in case. Since allergy season is in full swing and I'm already having issues, I should be thankful to have it.

My endocrinologist and I were both pleasantly surprised by the results of my bone density scan. I've gained 9.2% in my spine, and over 5.5% in both hips. I've made gains in all of the areas that were tested. Dr. J. confessed that he was expecting a 3% increase at the very most and was prepared to see a 1% increase. He advised me to keep doing what ever it was that I'd been doing. When I told him about the marathon sessions on the treadmill 5 days a week, he laughed and told me to add in weight training. He was serious, and so I will.

These increases bring me out of the osteopenic danger zone and into the very lowest level of normal. Dr. J. told me that I would never be able to recapture the measurements taken before my very first round of chemotherapy, but that I could come close. He likened any increases to making deposits into the bank. I may have to rely on these one day to keep me from shattering a bone.

I saw my transplant doctor almost immediately after having the bone marrow biopsy, so no preliminary results were available. Full results won't be in for another month. We're hoping for no molecular residual evidence of disease. Since this was my 30 month biopsy, I shouldn't have another for a year. Never say never, though.

Dr. K. is concerned with my weight gain. I picked up a kilo since last I saw her. I have been hitting the treadmill and even went so far as to replace my regular lunch with a high protein, low calorie shake 3 weeks ago. Chris started drinking them a week ago and has already lost 2 pounds. She's undecided as to whether the weight can be attributed entirely to steroids or GvHD of the dermis. My skin is still supple, so she's hoping it's the steroids. To test the theory, she's skipping any more tapers in favor of stopping the methylprednisolone altogether. I have my fingers crossed that I can lose a little weight before I see Dr. K. next month.

If it turns out to be GvHD of the dermis, I'll have to go back on high-dose steroids. Boo.

As a special treat, I got to meet a twitter friend in real life. I met Jody through my friend, Lisa. Not only is she an amazing person, but she's also a cancer survivor. When she heard that I'd be at MDA, she offered to drive in for a meeting. We got to visit for 2 hours, but it didn't seem like nearly enough time. She is just an amazing, caring, gracious soul and I'm so happy Chris and I got to meet her in person.

Chris and I celebrated this weekend by putting in a vegetable garden. This is our first attempt at growing anything edible and we're hopeful. We planted bibb lettuce, mesclun mix, carrots, 2 types of bell peppers, and 3 types of tomatoes. Since my friend, Lisa, asked for pictures, here they are:

Very few people know that I have an obsession with products flogged through infomercials. I am fascinated by them. Lest you think my house is filled with these same items, rest assured, my curiosity remains mostly unfulfilled. When I saw the Topsy Turvy in all of its as-seen-on-TV cheesy glory at the big box DIY store, I had to give it a shot. There are 2 varieties of tomatoes planted in the traditional garden, and a Creole tomato specimen in the upside-down planter. I'll pretend it's a science experiment.

We started 2 trays of herbs from seeds a few weeks ago. They seem to be doing well and may be ready to transplant into bigger pots in about 2 weeks. In case you're curious, we planted: chives, cilantro, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sweet basil, parsley, and Thai basil. There's also a tray of snapdragons that we started last week. The sprouts are so tiny, I didn't want to torture you with them.

Chris also set up an irrigation system that I helped put into the garden. This should help shelter the plants from my forgetfulness. We planted containers last weekend, but forgot to take pictures. I'll post them some time next week.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Please Help

I can't say anything about the situation in Japan that hasn't already been said. Our burdens are small in comparison to the depths of agony and magnitude of suffering taking place.

We have a chance to ease the grief of the Japanese people and help them rebuild from this unprecedented disaster.

Please consider making a donation to the Red Cross at the following link.

American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami


Monday, March 7, 2011

This and That

Forgive the tardiness of this latest post. My laptop has decided to have a mid-life crisis and insists that it's an overpriced paper-weight, rather than a computer. I'm fairly certain the problem has much to do with the operating system. I'll fool with it some time this week when I feel like banging my head against a wall. I've inherited Chris's laptop, which is rather nice considering how much faster it is than my little work horse.

Very little has changed since I last updated. My weight is still up. I've now gained 24 pounds. When I was on steroids in 2008-2009, I gained 24 pounds. I was only on the blasted pills for 4 months then, so I should be grateful that I haven't gained more this time around. I'm exercising and have modified my diet once again. Last week, I was down 2 pounds. I'm almost convinced that it's time to join a program.

I do have one happy event to report. Last Thursday, I was able to climb 2 flights of stairs without passing out at the top. I've been gearing myself up for this little adventure for weeks. The only thing holding me back was that I knew that I couldn't use the handrail to help me along. There's a valid reason. The stairs in question lead to my 2 classes in PFT Hall. The handrails are regularly cleaned throughout the day by the janitorial staff using the same mop and water that was just used to mop the floor. We've all seen the murky water and gray mop heads go straight from the one task to the next. There's not enough hand sanitizer in the world to tempt me to touch those things on purpose.

I was early for class and there weren't a lot of people around, so I took the chance. Half way up the stairs, I remembered the backpack full of binders and books strapped to me. I managed the extra weight just fine. It's funny for me to think that I can spend 100 minutes on the treadmill without a problem, but actually bearing my own weight 6 inches at a time gives me pause. I'll keep trying. It's the only way to succeed.