Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day 70: Good numbers for me and Frank

Anna talked to Frank’s mom, Rose, this morning. Frank seems to be feeling a bit better—he’s got a bit of pain this morning (so they’ve given him some meds), but he’s up and walking around the hospital floor while the plan evolves. We’re hoping his computer will be fixed and ready to go either later today or sometime tomorrow—at last report the new motherboard hadn’t come in to the repair shop yet, but once it arrives things should go quickly.

The response to Anna’s call for prayers and/or contributions has been just amazing, and so beautiful to see. Thank you, thank you, thank you for opening your hearts and checkbooks to Frank. We may not be able to cure him, but we can sure help him heal.

It’s Monday, Day 69 post-transplant for me; tomorrow I’ll be ten weeks old! When we were here back in May or June, I met a woman in the Rotary House lobby—she had stopped to admire Dillon—who was on Day 71. She sounded strong and vigorous, her voice was clear, and she said it had been “a breeze” so far. Then she added, “Just keep up the faith, and keep exercising.” And she was off again, resuming her brisk walk around the hotel. I marveled, wondering if I could possibly hope for an experience like that. It was hard to imagine that I’d ever get to Day 71. But now I’m just two days short of that, and here I am—so far, so good!

My counts are great today: Hemoglobin 13.1 (up from 12.8 on Friday), overall white count 5.4 (up from 4.something), neutrophils 3.0 (up from somewhere below 2.0 if I remember right), and platelets115 (up from 86 on Friday, which was down from 94 previously, etc.). Electrolytes are good, too—even the magnesium, at 1.7, held its own over the weekend, which means that the gradual transition from IV to oral magnesium is working. And that, in turn, means we’re still on track for returning to Austin November 20—just three weeks from today!!

And another thing: preliminary results from the latest lumbar puncture (Friday) saw “no malignant cells identified,” and no untoward little fungal things, either. So the spinal fluid looks good! Later this week we’ll hear the results of the most recent chimerism test—that’s the one that determines whether the red cells circulating through my body are carrying Peter’s DNA or mine. (This is different from the Bone Marrow Aspiration that was done Day 30: that one looked at the cells in the bone marrow to ask the same question, and came back 100% Peter; and an earlier chimerism test had apparently shown very good results as well, though no one had told us about it… So this one will hopefully show good things, too.) There may be some residual DNA of mine floating around in the bloodstream; one of the things I learned  along the way last week was that red cells live for 120 days, so if there were brand-new red cells born the day of  my transplant, they’ve got 50 days left before they go out of circulation. (Where do they go?)
I did a little roaming in the blogosphere over the weekend. I finally went to Technorati, a blog-tracking site, to look for other leukemia blogs. The most interesting one I found is called Leukemia Survivor, by a man named Robert K. Brown, now in his mid-30s. The writing is good, lively, often cinematic. But that’s not all that made me feel compelled to keep reading. Like me, he had AML. Like my friend Frank, he was stricken at the age of 20 or so, while in college. He had many of the same symptoms that Frank has had. Like both me and Frank, he had a bone marrow transplant. And, like both of us, he’s still alive—in fact, his blog was written long after the fact—a dozen years post-transplant. That gives me hope, both for myself and for Frank. I feel a different sort of personal connection with this guy, too, though it’s entirely coincidental. Early in his blog, he does some scene-setting—there’s a description of a landscape coming more and more sharply into focus, and as it zooms in it describes a university campus. After a few lines it seems to me I recognize the place—and, improbably, I do: it’s the University of Lancaster, in northern England, where I taught on faculty exchange in 1981-82, living on campus for the year in a flat at the top of Bowland College; Robert was an exchange student there ten years later, on a junior year abroad from Carlton College in Minnesota.

Speaking of hope for Frank—it’s Day 70 now, Tuesday—there’s good news today!! Anna told me when she came to pick me up at Physical Therapy after my workout. She had spoken to Rose, and they had just learned the results of Frank’s latest test: the percentage of leukemic blast cells in his blood has dropped from 35% on Friday to just 1% today! Just 1%! It’s an incredible drop, even perhaps miraculous—not just because it happened so quickly, but because it happened without further medication; there’s been no more chemo since he reached Alexandria on Friday afternoon. There were tears in my eyes and a sob in my throat when Anna said this; I don’t know why I tried to hold them back. I ask you now to focus your good thoughts and prayers and wonderful energy on Frank again, so that he can sustain this improvement and climb back toward health. Thanks.


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