Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 13, Seton Hospital

Hi, everyone. Anna's typing this quick note for me to let you know that I'm doing a lot better since the last post. My eyes are much less swollen and the pain is gone--there's just some minor irritation. My facial hair picked yesterday to start falling out (what's up with that?), and there's a lot of new skin on my head after all the peeling. I just finished a banana soy dream smoothie with protein and I'm sitting in the recliner by the window. Anna's across the room on the cot she's been sleeping on and Dillon is comfortably asleep on the floor at her feet.

My blood pressure's been running low today and Dr. Tucker thinks I may be a bit dehydrated and ordered more IV fluids in addition to my antibiotic. I just got my neupogen shot to boost my white blood count, and once that kicks in, it shouldn't be too long til we get to go home.

I'm sorry I haven't responded to any emails during my time here--there's no Internet access in the room (I gave Diane the file for my last post and she sent it from my computer at home. Anna's sending this one using her Air card gifted from Sharon Rush.) Thanks to everyone who's called, visited, brought food, and/or sent good wishes our way. The food people brought sure beats the orange "gel type treat" (fake jello) and your positive thoughts have been even more nourishing.

More soon. Anna sends her hugs and gratefulness to all.

Love, John

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From Seton Hospital, 17-26 June

Notes from Seton Hospital, 17-26  June

Days from beginning of hospital stay, starting from 0: 9
Days from onset of diarrhea: 12
Days from beginning of treatment with Phlagil (sp?): 8 (2 to go)
Days from beginning of systemic chemo: 13

Dream fragment: There is a beautiful, placid lake with clear, still water. I think I’m in a boat moving swiftly across it, but somehow also watching from some undefined vantage point. A voice—mine?—calls out in fear: “Is there some way out of this?” Suddenly the water is shallow, much too shallw, as if it has drained away. There are only stones as far as the eye can see, brownish, reddish, round, smooth to the casual touch but not to feet stumbling suddenly across them. “Not that way! Not that way!” I hear myself crying from somewhere out of the picture—am I crying out to myself? But no other way is visible. There are only the cruel stones with little rivulets of clear water appearing occasionally, inviting but too narrow for even someone running barefoot.

That dream came sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, in some interval between being awakened for  medicines or blood draws or vital signs or urgent trips  to the bathroom behind my IV pole.

Tuesday was a terrible day. Radation recall reaction was at full throttle. My scalp felt like alligator hide. My eyelids were swollen huge, with cracks in the middle that felt like crevasses; my eyes were running, excreting AraC and inflammatory fluids that pooled and hardened on my cheeks and in my eyelashes so that I woke with my eyes stuck shut. My ear canals were swollen and painful; I had mouth-sores from the chemo. My whole head was on fire. I felt like the terrible ruined creature who appears near the end of Madame Bovary, the blind beggar with the devastated face and running eyes, the specter of Emma’s doom, the terrible punishment for sexual knowledge meted out since Oedipus and Tiresias, the bogeyman of the blind: this is what’s in store for you if you don’t behave. That’s why they put Helen Keller on trial for plagiarism at the Perkins School in 1892: we can cast you out into utter darkness, young lady, and don’t you forget it. Dilauded helped some but not enough.

Anna’s dream fragment: Tinkerbelle, Disney version, is flying around my head, sprinkling fairy dust; I will be healed!

She calls me early Wednesday morning from Warsaw, Indiana, happy, telling me about the Tinkerbelle dream, and I am laughing with her, delighted at the lightness of the dream and the lightness in her voice, and she’s right: I do feel better! My head still hurts, my eyes are still stuck shut, my ears are still swollen, but I can hear that my voice is stronger and I can feel that I’m going to be OK. I think her dream and mine must have happened about the same time. Tinkerbelle is winning—clap your hands!

Must have been Tinkerbelle to the rescue on Sunday morning, but Tinkerbelle fiery, Tinkerbelle in mother-mockingbird mode, diving to ward off looming monsters with a rush of wings and stabbing beak. I woke up feeling weaker, tired, suddenly scared. I’m dying here, I thought, this can’t be right. I’m not getting better. And then, sitting on the toilet, feeling sorry for myself, I got it that I had to do something, I had to take action. I went back into the room and got back into bed and bust into tears, and told Anna that I had to do something. I had to start by eating some protein—I’d been on the “BRAT” diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) for, I don’t know, three days, three meals a day. No wonder I was getting weaker—it wasn’t just my hemoglobin count dropping and dropping, though that was a factor, too (in fact I got a transfusion later in the day). We had a war council—me and Anna and Gina, a friend from BodyChoir who had ended up spending Saturday night on the cot with Dillon while Anna slept in the recliner where I’m writing now and I slept in the bed. They both said in their different ways that they had been waiting for me to come to this, waiting for me to get angry, waiting for me to exercise some control. I needed to start by figuring out what I could eat, foods that would build my strength without upsetting my stomach or giving sustenance to the nasty bacterium in my gut, Claustridium difficile (C. diff),that put me here last Saturday just a couple of hours after chemo had ended and I had taken the pump off for the last time (this round, anyway).  Gina offered to go to Whole Foods and get me a protein shake, and I took her up on it; she came back with a concoction of soy milk, soy protein powder, and crushed bananas, plus a few vanilla soy yougurts, some oatmeal, soy milk, and blackstrap molasses. I called Elke, another BodyChoir friend who had offered her help’ she’s a nurse who works with complementary medicines and nutrition, and told her I had a lot to learn and would be grateful for any help she could give me; I’ll hook up with her after I get out of this place, probably later this week. Gina’s knowledgeable too, and Anna and I talked with her about things that would be good for my diet, things that would sustain me. Anna left for BodyChoir; Gina stayed another 20 or 30 minutes, urging me to allow myself the anger I had shown earlier, to go deeper into it, to feel it and use it. It was an incredibly helpful conversation.

There is no way out of this. The stones are rough, and I am going to have to run across them, stumbling and falling and bleeding and cursing and crying, Flaubertian demon at my back, Tinkerbelle circling—Anna, my fairy love, warrior princess, with me every step of the way whether she’s in Indiana or sleeping in the chair right beside me. And bands of angels, hundreds of friends, feeding our spirits, feeding our bodies, carrying us home. God damn it. This is going to incredibly hard. And it is going to be OK.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Chemo in Austin, Day 1

I started chemotherapy here in Austin this morning. So far, so good—no nausea or other side-effects. Hurray!

I also spoke to Mary Alma, Dr. Giles’ PA, who had finally received the results of last Friday’s lumbar puncture: rare degenerated cells” in the spinal fluid. These are almost certainly debris, if that’s the right word, from the tumors in my brain—in other words, dead tumor cells that have been killed by the radiation treatments and are now draining away. Hurray for that, too!

The chemo consists of two drugs, Idarubicin and Cyterabine (also known as Ara-C). The Idarubicin in the concentrated form  in which it comes from the Cancer Center’s pharmacy to the Infusion Room looks like red Kool-Aid, according to the nurse; but she said that when it’s mixed with a regular saline solution it becomes more orange. Idarubicin is related to Dawnarubicin, one of the drugs I received at St. David’s last year when I first went into the hospital. (I also received Ara-C then, and “high-dose Ara-C” was the drug I had for consolidation chemo after leaving the hospital last year.)

The Idarubicin is infused quickly—it only takes about 15 minutes. The nurse, Lisa, “pushed” it via syringe into an IV saline drip (she said it was the longest 15 minutes of her life—she had to push the syringe slowly and steadily the whole time). Before the Idarubicin there were two other short IVs: Solumedrol, a steroid to prevent some of Idarubicin’s nasteier side effects (chest pains and other things I’ve repressed already), and Kytril, an anti-nausea drug. When the Idarubicin was finished, Lisa connected an IV bag of Ara-C to a small, portable pump like the ones that I used last year for the evening doses of consolidation chemo (also Ara-C). Then she connected the IV bag to the PICC (pronounced “pick”) line in my left arm (which was inserted yesterday afternoon by a radiologist at Austin Radiological Associates, downstairs from the Cancer Center), and then she  put the pump and the IV bag into a fanny pack and cinched the fanny pack around my waist. Then we left, sometime after 11:00 AM . “we” were me and Sharron Rush, who had met me and Anna for breakfast at Trudy’s, driven me to the Cancer Center, and stayed with me the whole time, which was much longer than I’d anticipated—foolishly, when I heard that the Idarubicin would take only 15 minutes to infuse, I ignored all the previous experiences  demonstrating conclusively that nothing takes only 15 minutes! We drove to People’s Pharmacy on N. Lamar to pick up two prescriptions—one for Kytril to be taken orally, and one for eye-drops to address the fact that chemo evidently dries up the tear ducts or something. None of the People’s Pharmacy locations in Austin (I think there are four) had any Kytril, and there was some sort of mistake in the way the name of the eye-drops was written. So the People’s pharmacist found another pharmacy nearby that had 6 Kytril tablets (the prescription called for 8) and said he would call Tucker’s office to correct the problem with the name of the eyedrops. Then Sharron drove over to the 38th Street Pharmacy on (you guessed it!) 38th Street, just a little bit east of the Cancer Center; I’d never even known it was there. We dropped off the prescription and went to Banzai for lunch. There I got a lovely hug from Rino Pizzi, who happened to come in for lunch not long after we’d arrived. After lunch, Sharron drove back to the 38th Street Pharmacy and collected the Kytril that they had in stock (hope nobody else needed any today!), and drove me home. Thanks, Sharron—I know it was a much bigger chunk of your day than you’d anticipated, too, and I appreciate it very much.

Anyway, it’s almost 9:00 in the evening now, and the pump has been whirring away all day. Lisa, or another chemo nurse, will connect a new IV bag tomorrow morning and send me away for another 24 hours. Thursday I’ll get my last dose of Idarubicin; the pumping Ara-C will continue till noon on Saturday. I don’t mind the fanny pack right now, but I bet I’ll be good and sick of it by then!

We had a great weekend. Two of my best frindes from college, Phil Cherner and Ken Portnoy, came from Denver and Northern Virginia, respectively, and I had  a wonderful time visiting with them, telling silly stories about our Anna Arbor days, catching up on family stories—the stuff old friends do who haven’t been together for a long time. They arrived late Friday night, and I managed to stay up for a little while talking and eating some of the pastries Ken had brought from an Armenian café near his home. On Saturday all four of us (five, of course, counting Dillon!) went to Las Manitas for breakfast , then drove over to Zilker Park and looked at Barton Springs for a while. Then we went back to the house, and Anna went off to do various things (like going to the gym). Phil went for a run—he ran down to the Capitol and back, but the heat and humidity zapped him and he was pretty tired when he got back. Ken and I just exercised our talking muscles… After Phil had recovered from his run, the three of us went up the street to Julio’s for a late lunch, and Liz and Alan came by the house not long after we’d gotten home. Later in the evening, we drove down to Artz’ Rib House (that “z” is not a typo!) for some good barbecue and what turned out to be really bad music. The only line I remember from the performer was “I can’t follow my own train of thought, so why the hell should I expect you to?” which is of course a very good question; we did not stay for an answer.  Sunday morning Anna and I went to BodyChoir (I only danced one song, but I left feeling wonderful—so many people had come over to me and massaged my feet and hands and head, and just made me feel loved and supported), while Phil went for another run (earlier in the day this time) and Ken read around in a volume of Faulkner short stories he’d found on the shelf. Then we met at Manuel’s for a great brunch (as you see, I’m not having much trouble with appetite now, either!). We went back to the house, and after a while Ken and Phil headed for airport. It really was fantastic to have them here, and the fact  that they stayed at the house made it even better—we did a lot of moving from place to place, I realize from writing all this, but at least for me it felt smooth and easy (of course I didn’t have to do any driving; I’m just the navigator), and there was a natural flow between sitting around and talking to driving somewhere so we could sit and talk and eat at the same time. Thanks so much for coming, guys—that makes me feel loved and supported, too. There was a great moment on Saturday afternoon: somehow we got to talking about audio books, and then Phil pulled out his Ipod and dialed in an old Firesign Theatre bit, one of the ones we used to listen to in college and laugh and laugh and laugh. He or Ken handed me the earphones and I put them on—I caught just a split second of organ music and was laughing before I even heard any dialog at all. Then I handed the headphones to Ken and in a moment he was laughing, a deep happy belly laugh, and Phil and I were laughing because he was laughing, and it was just magic. I’m laughing again, of course, just thinking about it.

There’s more, of course, but I’m going to post this as it is and go to bed. Maybe the gentle whir-click of the chemo pump will smooth the path to sleep.

Love to all. It’s the only thing that really matters in the end.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

End of radiation treatments today!

Where to begin… I had my last radiation treatment this morning! And they gave us the mask to take home as a souvenir of sorts… Anna says it’s very cool; we’ll have to have a “face-painting” party to decorate it properly, then hang it on the wall. It’s an ancient tradition, and in some strange way I relish having the mask. One of my personae, I guess, except that the ancient Greek personae were masks that amplified (and stylized) the actors’ facial expressions and their voices, so that they could be seen and heard from the upper reaches of the amphitheatres, and this mask held my mouth shut tight so that I couldn’t utter more than muffled grants while I was wearing it. (Fortunately, I never had to wear it for more than a couple of minutes—the treatment itself lasted only a minute or so, two 20-second bursts separated by a similar interval while the x-ray machine was repositioned to irradiate the “other side” of my brain.) Anyway, the radiation treatments are done with. It will be several weeks before there’s another MRI to survey the results: apparently it takes a while for the full effect of the radiation to become manifest, and the chemotherapy that will begin next week in Austin may also cause an inflammation that should be allowed to subside before the next image, so as not to cloud the picture unnecessarily.

I had another lumbar puncture yesterday (results not back yet), performed by Sue, the artist, who did it again quickly and without pain. And not just without physical pain: she also smoothed the bureaucractic path this time, so that we got finished hours earlier than we might have done otherwise.

I’d been scheduled for a massage at 12:30 yesterday. It was wonderful; he found and released trigger points all over my back and down my right leg. I could have stayed all day, but I only had a 30-minute slot, and there was that spinal tap waiting… From the Place of Wellness (a separate building for massage, acupuncture, yoga classes, Nia, meditation, etc.) we went to the Transfusion Center on the second floor (Elevator A, for those of you who are keeping score), where we found out that it didn’t matter that we were 15 minutes late—they were running at least 45 minutes behind at that point. At 2:30 they still hadn’t called me; Anna was out in the hall where her cell phone worked, and I was sitting, trying not to listen to the soap opera that was playing on the TV (at least it wasn’t Fox News; I should remember to be grateful for small things…). And suddenly Sue appeared. She had found a room up on the 8th floor where she could do the procedure, had checked with the powers that be and gotten the green light. Anna came back in at that point and all four of us—me, Anna, Sue, and Dillon, who had just merged with the waiting room carpet and really didn’t want to go anywhere—hustled off to the elevator (I think the new room was between Elevators A and B). I took my Ativan, Sue administered the numbing cream, and I lay hown on the bed to let things take effect. Sue came back an hour later, I assumed the position, and she was done in about 10 minutes. Not even a twinge of pain. She rubbed my back a little to ease the tension—I had been holding myself tight against the pain that hadn’t come—then helped me lie down on my back. She could have left then, but instead she stayed a while longer, printed out some of the data from the first lumbar puncture—was that only three weeks ago? It feels like centuries—and explained some of the terms to Anna. I’m so grateful to her for her kindness and her virtuosity. And she treats everyone with the same thoughtfulness and generosity. While I was lying there I heard her talking to someone out in the hall—the wife of another patient, I think. There was some confusion about when the man should have his lumbar puncture; they had driven in from somewhere, but the man wasn’t feeling well. Sue said simply that it didn’t matter—whenever he was ready for it, she would do it, no matter what the schedule said. Her name is Sue Kaled.

We’ve had some visitors, too, which has been wonderful and restorative. Judith Sokolow and her husband, George Lasalle, came on Friday and stayed till Saturday afternoon. They’re old friends—in fact Judth and Anna were housemates at Sarah Lawrence in their college days, and I met Judith the same night I met Anna, at Bill Nemir’s Christmas party on December 17, 1982, in his old apartment on Tom Green, a block and a half from where Anna and I live now. It was a great visit, like being with family. We had dinner at an Italian place called Prego, which Judth had told me about at the Cartons’ house in mid-May, before we left for Houston. I had remembered the recommendation, but hadn’t remembered that they knew the place because one of the owners had been a good friend of Judith’s daughter, when she and her husband lived in Houston with their new baby. (The new baby is now 14 and has three siblings; the family is about to move from Paris, where they’ve been for the past several years, to Moscow.)

On Saturday morning we went to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and saw a fantastic exhibit. We were acting on a tip from Dana Fries-Hansen, director of the Austin Museum of Art, that we should take advantage of the reciprocity agreements between AMOA and HMFA to attend the opening of “The Architecture of the Quilt: The Quilters of Gees Bend.” Gees Bend (not sure I’m spelling it right) is a tiny town deep in rural Alabama, apparently not too far from Selma though probably in a different world. The women of Gees Bend have been quilting together for a hundred years or more, and have developed a style that’s uniquely theirs. Anna said the quilts reminded her of Navajo or Mexican blankts—highly geometrical patterns and rich, subtle colors. The quilts are made mostly from found or salvaged materials—corduroys, denims, camouflage—that the women could get their hands on. Some of them supported themselves as seamstresses—making fatigue jackets for the Army, pillow coverings for Sears, Robuch, etc. (the work for Sears resulted in an entire room of quilts in Avocado Green and Harvest Gold—yes, the stuff that was in my apartment in college, and probably yours too).

I was sitting on a bench in the middle of one of the rooms, listening to a video about the quilters. The acoustics in the room weren’t very good—lots of echoes—and I was straining to hear what they were saying. I was annoyed by noisy voices coming from the next room, frowning, wishing they would just shut up—and then Anna said, with wonder in her voice, “They’re here! The quilters are here!” and in they came, complete with curator and docents who were getting a tour so that they’d be able to explain the show to patrons later. Apparently there were two busloads of them—beautiful African-American women with strong, pleasant voices. They were sitting near their work, and they were happy to talk about it. We talked for a long time to a quilter named Essie B. Petway, who explained that while many of them are named Petway they aren’t all related to each other—Petway had been the slaveowner’s name, and had been taken by many of the slaves when they were freed. I asked her to tell me about the quilt she had made. She said it showed the structure of a lawyer’s office, using gras and blacks. What she didn’t say, as Anna told me later, was the the office was the office of the Freedom Project. She hadn’t quite been able to get the exact clors she’d wanted, but the quilt was OK just the same, she said. She told, also, of driving to work with a younger friend who apparently never looked at the landscape they were moving through. Essie said to her, “Girl, don’t you never look at God’s creation?” and showed her the changing colors in the sky. She said she wanted to make a quilt out of that. Her friend, when she finally noticed, told Essie that she should be a painter, but Essie said she could never mix paints like that—she could do better with fabrics, even though the colors were never quite right.

The curator invited several of the women to speak about their work. One of them was 88 years old, with a high, strong voice; I couldn’t really hear what she said. Another woman talked about quilting for a minute and then broke into prayer; suddenly there was a call-and-response, voices from all over the room. It was splendid, just splendid; what an honor to have been able to be there.

Shortly after we got back to the hotel, Peg Syverson drove in from Austin, and all of us went out for Thai food at a place called Nitnoy’s (no idea if that’s the correct spelling, but if you’re in Houston and in the mood for Thai food, find it—it’s in Rice Village). Then George  and Judith left to drive back to Austin, and Peg and I talked up a storm, munching on grapes that she had brought from Austin, having a great time, though both of us worried about the implications of the news that Sheldon Ekland-Olson, the Provost, will be “leaving his post” at the end of the summer. I’ve known Sheldon and worked with him for a long time We met in 1988 while riding adjacent exercise bikes at Crenshaw’s Gym; he was about to start a three-year stint in the UT System Chancellor’s Office. He returned to campus as Associate Dean of Liberal Arts during a very tense time in the English Department (the Rhetoric Division didn’t exist yet). He challenged me to think hard, programmatically and systematically, about what was then the Computer Research Lab (now the Computer Writing and Research Lab); he pushed me to develop a plan for growth and development, and to put dollar amounts to what I envisioned. He paid attention to those numbers, too, and called me to account for them. And he provided support, so that we were able to grow gradually from one classroom equipped with aging, donated IBM PCs to five classrooms; the CWRL has been going for 20 years now, as I realized to my amazement while talking with Peg, and it’s been ten years since then-Provost Mark Yudof gave me the challenge of launching the Institute for Technology and Learning. Later, Sheldon helped us reorganize as the Accessibility Institute, taking advantage of the unique work we were doing with groups on and off campus and allowing us to focus all our energies on accessibility issues.

Bill Nemir spent a couple of hours with us late yesterday afternoon and early evening. He’d been in Houston on business, and came by the hotel for a drink before going to the airport to fly back to Austin. It was a great conversation, a great visit. And tonight Ted Smith treated us to a wonderful dinner at Ousie’s Table, a terrific place that we used to go to with Anna’s parents, and where Ted remembered having had a fantastic meal 20 years ago (when the restaurant was in a different location). The food was great, and the conversation was, too. We have to make sure to keep these beautiful, intimate occasions going when all this medical foofaraw is over—spending time with people you care about is the point!

Tomorrow we se Dr. Giles. We’ll get the results from yesterday’s lumbar puncture. But we’ll also explore the continuing difference of opinion between him and Dr. Anderssen (the transplant doctor) about when to schedule the bone marrow transplant. My understanding is that Dr. Giles favors a very aggressive timeline, while Dr. Anderssen advocates a more conservative approach—he wants to meet with us again “the first day of fall,” as he put it last week, so that there’s time to establish that I really am in remission before proceeding with the transplant. I have to be in remission in order for the transplant to succeed. But a complicating factor is that apparently the bone marrow transplant won’t really affect the central nervous system or the brain, where the leukemia recurred—they really are two separate systems, although they’re close enough so that some leukemic cells may have “leaked” back over into the bone marrow, though there’s no evidence yet that that’s happened. So I’m not sure I understand what will count as evidence that I’m in a “second remission,” i.e., that the leukemia in my spinal fluid and my brain has gone into remission; and I’m not sure how that’s related to whether my bone marrow is considered to be in remission—as far as I know, there’s been no detectable leukemia in the bone marrow since the induction round last July. So we have a lot of questions to ask, and we’ll have some hard decisions to make. But we don’t have to make those decisions tomorrow, and don’t intend to. We need to learn a lot and talk to a lot of people, and then participate with the doctors in making the best decision we can.

When we leave Dr. Giles’ office tomorrow, assuming that no further lumbar punctures are needed, we’ll get in the car and drive to Austin. I can’t wait to get home. We’re both looking forward (an understatement!) to seeing you—please call or come by!—and we’re looking forward, too, to the arrival of two of my best friends from college, Ken Portnoy and Phil Cherner. (They were both at our wedding, so some of the people reading this have met them at least once!)

One more thing, and I’ll call it a night. Anna went over to Central Market yesterday for the first time, and the staff there gave her the cards from all the people who contributed to the John Slatin Family Fund that Sharron Rush so wonderfully set up in our name. We’ve been saving that for later, for the time when we’ll really be living here—whenever that turns out to be. But we had no idea how many people had contributed, and were (and are) absolutely stunned by how generous you’ve been. I’m so sorry we haven’t acknowledged your gifts individually (and a lot sooner). We’ve not been very good about things like that, or returning phone calls, or responding to emails. Somehow the world shrinks, and time gets amazingly short—no matter how many or how few things are scheduled, everything at M.D. Anderson takes all day, and phone calls don’t get made and emails don’t get sent. So please know that we love you and that we’re very grateful, and that we’re  very, very grateful.

More soon.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Good news: Peter's a match

We got some very good news yesterday: my brother Peter is a match, meaning that he can be a donor of stem cells for the bone marrow transplant when it happens. (I held off announcing it here because he was in Stockholm on business, and I wanted to be able to tell him myself. He said “Yes!” triumphantly when I reached him this afternoon. I keep saying thank you, thank you, thank you.) The doctors all say this is fantastic, wonderful news, the best possible result, and certainly Anna and I feel the same way. I hadn’t dared to let myself hope, but Anna said she was certain of it all along.

This afternoon I had a lumbar puncture and intrathecal chemo—fifth in the series—performed by Sue, the Advanced Professional Nurse whose artistry I described in my last post. She did it again—the whole thing was over in 15 minutes, preceded by an hour of waiting for the anti-anxiety drugs to take effect and followed by an hour of waiting to be sure the chemo percolated through the spinal fluid. If the sample Sue drew today is as “perfectly clear” of leukemia cells as the two prvious samples, this will have been my mast lumbar puncture for a while. For that, too, I’m deeply grateful.

This morning I had my radiation treatment (9 down, 3 to go!) and we met with Dr. Dabaja, the radiologist. She’s a lovely woman, kind and caring an hard-working and extremely smart and competititive; she even thanked me for helping her overcome a fear of dogs that has been with her since a childhood experience when she and a group of young friends were chased through the streets by a pack of feral dogs. I asked her when she would want to do another MRI, to view the results of her raids on the tumors in my brain. She’ll want to wait till at least three weeks after the treatment ends (which would be June 28), but Dr. Giles wants to wait till three weeks after the systemic chome ends, to be sure that any possible inflammation caused by the chemo itself doesn’t cloud the picture and compromise the possibility of doig the transplant on an aggressive schedule. So that puts it somewhere in mid-July. Dana, the technician who’s actually been doing the treatments, announced this morning that today was her last day on this particular service; next week she moves to another service that works on breast cancer. She gave us great hugs. I’ll miss her.

So… we’ll be staying in Houston this weekend, coming home to Austin next Thursday. Judith and George are with us now (in fact they accompanied me to the lumbar puncture this afternoon, giving Anna a well-earned break from taking me to clinic after clinic along with all the other things she’s doing to make this as pleasant an experience as it can be—but she wouldn’t leave until she’[d made me promise that I would insist on having Sue do the lumbar puncture!). Peg is coming tomorrow, and I think Bill is going to drop by on Monday[[ he’s been in Houston on business, and will have a little time before he goes back.

We’ve continued to receive cards, emails, calls, and flowers. We feel so loved, so supported. It feels truly wonderful.

On a somehow-related note: the other night we hooked up a pair of speakers to my laptop, and I plugged in the 80 GB portable drive I’d bought to carry music back and forth. Windows detected the drive right away, and it also found the first playlist in the My Music folder—Anna’s Funky Playlist, which I’d burned for her a year or two ago in preparation for some party. The CD I burned from that play list had never worked, but now the music came up loud and funky and completely unexpected. Anna and Diane broke out dancing, and I sat on the couch doing DJ duty.

More soon. We’ll need some help when we’re back in Austin, especially the week of the 12th (when I’ll be doing heavy chemo twice a day) and the following week, when my counts will be dropping—Anna has to go out of town that week to complete some work that a client paid for in advance. I think she’ll post details to the “Leukemia Diaries” list, so look for it there.

Thanks again to all of you for all your love and support and prayers and good wishes. Thanks especially to those of you who went last Thursday to contribute a tissue sample to the Bone Marrow Registry that Vicki Almstrum organized, which will be followed by other drives in other places around the country. I’m fortunate indeed to have found a match in my own brother, but others may not be so lucky, and the cells you contributed last week may yet save a life. Much love from all of us to all of you.