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.


stinkerbelle said...

Great news on the MDA/health front including the steroid taper! Whoo Hoo! You look fabulous and this is the first picture I've seen of Chris since his surgery. He's lost lots of weight and looks great!

My cousin swears on the topsy turvy tomato thingy. He's grown all kinds of tomatoes with them and they've been wonderful. Just do what you're supposed to do and you'll have some great rewards! I'm gonna do one too, I need to get started soon, but it's still chilly up here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the report, the garden photos and esp the pix with Jody! I didn't know those were going to be included so that was a BIG treat. I can't wait for it to be me standing next to you and Chris someday soon-- but NOT at MD Anderson! :)

Your bones have officially passed mine in terms of health. Drat, maybe that means I need to fall in love with my treadmill... now if we were talking while on it maybe I would sign up for that.


Kcecelia said...

A wonderful update. If this were a novel or a short story, the ability of you and Chris to add all of the beauty and hope to the world that a garden represents would carry great meaning. So to me, who kind of lives by metaphors, it does that anyway. I admire, more than I can express, how you fight. Good on you for your increased bone density. My bone density is now, and has always been, beyond fine, because I have never had to face what you have faced. I need a treadmill for other reasons. I'll begin again now, thinking of you. I join Lisa in thinking how much nicer it would be if we could all do it together. My love to you. Be well and better. xox.

Ronni Gordon said...

That is a huge number of appointments and tests! Glad it went so well. Gotta love those platelets. (I'm jealous.) Question: GVHD of the dermis? Is that skin or something else? How does that relate to weight gain. As you know, I'm wondering about my weight gain. Also glad you got to meet your Twitter friend. As you know, it was great meeting blog friend PJ. Would love to somehow meet you someday soon. I'm very low on extra money, but maybe PJ and I could take a road trip out to see you...unless you have plans to go to the East Coast for any reason.

Ann said...

Ronni, Chris & I keep trying to plan a trip to the east coast. Something always happens to divert us--emergency home repairs, etc. I have so many friends & people to see in your neck of the woods. I would love to be able to meet you & PJ in person.

GvHD of the dermis involves the layer between the skin & muscle/fat. It thickens & your tissue becomes less pliant. Dr. K. has been watching for it ever since my waist started getting thick last year. She's still not convinced that I have it, though. I'll have to have photopheresis if I do have GvHD of the dermis.

PJ said...

I'd love to have you guys come for a visit. I owe you a call.

Nancy said...

I always have so much trouble posting comments... I'm sure it's operator error... hope this doesn't post twice.

I just have to say that I love the pics that you post. You and Chris look great!!! It is so heartwarming seeing you meet other survivors! Maybe someday you and I can meet in person. In the meantime, your blog, my blog and WWF will have to do.

Ann, your numbers look fantastic. Your platelet counts are obviously making several of us jealous. But, I can't tell you how happy I am that you are doing better.

Your herb garden and topsy turvy look marvelous! I LOVE tomatoes! I'm always tempted to try the topsy turvy and love the infomercials... but, I'm afraid I'd shock my family if I did something that might resemble "gardening!" I love that Chris devised an irrigation system... such an engineer...

I need to follow your great example. I haven't been exercising this year. I got the flu, even though I had the flu shot, and have had a lot of trouble getting back my health. I've been on antibiotics for more than half of 2011 so far. Finally, feeling better but still not 100%. I need to get on my treadmill and follow your lead. Been gaining weight and haven't felt motivated to do anything about it. Plus, my bone density is poor (way worse than yours) so it's even more important that I work out.

You are inspiring! Keep it up girl. love ya!