Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good Numbers Help Wrap Up a Busy Summer

After a month on the maintenance dose of velcade/steroids the IGGs continue to go down. This week's results show the IGGs at 1231, down from 1338 a month ago. Maintenance isn't just maintaining, its actually driving the numbers down. I also had my first bone density test about 2 weeks ago, to determine whether I was at risk for bone fractures. The results today show my bone density to be essentially normal. My lower back is the worst of the areas tested, but its all fairly good. My orthopedic surgeon was quite surprised by the good results and believes my bone density has improved greatly since last summer when my back collapsed. I guess this test has deprived me of my claim to be fragile, when my daughters try to retaliate for the good natured tickling I like to inflict on them. Everything seems to be on track for the prostatectomy, which is scheduled for September 12th.

This week we had our "Good Bye Eileen" party, to say farewell to Susan's cousin, Eileen Stinson. Eileen treated us all to dinner at one of Denver's fine restaurants. The evening was not only filled with good food, but much laughter. We'll miss Eileen very much as she is truly the 5th member of our family. She arrived at a time when we were mired in the upsets of this disease. Her refreshing stories, big pots of sauce and meatballs, weekly chocolate chip cookies, invitations individually to each of us and together as well added to our continued belief that the worst of times can also be the best of times. Susan's Italian family, including Eileen, as well as Susan's brother Gary, regularly teaches us the meaning of generosity. Eileen's final gift to us was a plaster pig wearing a French beret. The pig is 24 inches high and has a small blackboard for notes. It now sits proudly on the end of our kitchen counter. Eileen's story of trying to get through airport security with "the pig" is hysterical. She was delayed for some time because the security guards believed the pig could be used as a weapon if allowed to be brought on the plane. So, of course, the blackboard attached to the pig now reads, "I am not a weapon."

My brother Tom spent a week with us in early August. This was his 3rd visit this summer and the more we see him, the more we want him to visit. His visit also prompted the visit of a few of his friends who were part of the reunion in early June and who live in Denver. Its nice to keep that connection. Not to be outdone by his younger brother, brother Mike will be here in October.

The days continue to bring ups and downs, but the seesaw nature of this disease seems to be evened out by the knowledge that we have come through 17 months of this struggle. I constantly compare my current situation to where I was a year ago and am so grateful for my improved health and spirits.

Love, Dan

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Veteran of the Chemo Wars

Hello Everyone,
Today is Monday, which means I got my infusion of chemo and steroids--and because it's the first week of the month, I also got Zometa--bone hardening drugs. As I spent the morning in the infusion center (a large room with about 10 recliners for people to sit comfortably and "get infused"), 3 people circulated through the room. Each person displaying a look of deep concern, or worse yet, panic. I usually sit quietly and read and don't get engaged in conversation but for some reason these people wanted to talk. Each one was early in the process and understandbly scared. I felt like the veteran as I gave advice on such mundane topics as the mouthwash to use to reduce mouth sores following transplant, the ways to try to reduce fatigue, the anti nausea drugs that worked best, etc. As I walked out I realized, "I am a survivor." My step lightened.

Not much news on the numbers front. The white and red counts are stable and gradually and steadily rising over the last month or so. That is a good sign. I won't have any myeloma numbers for a couple of more weeks. I am very much looking forward to having next week off from the chemo as I find that, even though I only receive one dose a week now (compared to 2 for the past 7 months) it is still a roller coaster as I get boosted from the steroids early in the week, only to crash by the end of the week. Throw in a sleepless Monday night and the week feels like a trip to Six Flags. But Sundays are good.

Prostate surgery is scheduled for September 12th. My brother Tom tells me it will be a piece of cake given what I've already been through. His was an open surgery, i.e., an 8 inch incision below the navel. Mine will be laproscopic and thus less invasive. Although I'm not looking forward to another visit to the hospital, I am grateful my myeloma treatment has gone well enough that my doctors feel comfortable with proceeding.

Only a couple of more weeks and Julia goes back to school. Life won't be the same around here. She is such a great kid and we've really had a good time this summer. We often find ourselves watching reruns of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" late at night when I can't sleep. I laugh hysterically and then tell her how stupid it is. She just laughs at me and the show. Catherine sent me an email today with a lengthy piece explaining the new laws governing pension funds--said she thought it interesting. While I did find it interesting all I could think was, "Catherine, you are such a nerd!" She would agree. Susan continues with her busy life, walking her 8 miles day, keeping us all fed, engulfing us with her love and warmth, and generallykeeping the house running (and clean).

I'll check in after I have some news on the myeloma numbers in a few weeks. Until then, please know we love you all very much and that my continued improving health is due to all of your love and support.

Love Dan