Monday, December 21, 2009

Stepping Back From The Brink

I've often said that facing the ups, downs, and uncertainties of this disease is like being faced with trying a losing case. When forced to try a case in court that Iwould prefer to have settled, the number one rule I followed was "never let 'em see you sweat," and you never know what might happen. Since coming home from Arkansas with my dysfunctional bone marrow, transfusions and growth shots (neupogyn) every 2 to 3 days, my blood counts in the toilet, and my cancer levels on the rise, I've had to remind myself of that rule numerous times. So today was, in some ways, as sweet as a favorable jury verdict:

After one cycle of revlimid (3 weeks), the IGGs have dropped from 4600 to 2700. This is tremendous. I also find this response most curious. The super BEAM plus chemo I received prior to transplant in Arkansas consisted of 9 drugs: Carmustine (BCNU), etoposide, Cytarabine, melphalan, thalidomide, velcade, dexamethasone, rapamycin (immunosuppressant) and one more drug, which escapes me; all given at maximum dosage over a 5 day period. The result was a drop in IGGs to 2500, which lasted a week or two at most and then they started climbing again, and a drop in white count to 00, which took me months to bring back. The Super BEAM plus was administered after I had already been given 5 days of 7 drugs, also in high dose, followed by 14 days of low dose chemo with only 3 drugs. So I invite all you more biologically/pharmacologically inclined readers to explain to me how a relatively low dose of revlimid, coupled with a moderate to heavy dose of prednisone can achieve results comparable to those 15 toxins I received in Arkansas.

So what does this all mean vis-a-vis future treatment? Assuming some continued response, which Rifkin seems to expect, my cancer levels are expected to go down to a level that will increase the likelihood of some success with the transplant from one of my brothers. I told Rifkin today I wanted to drive this myeloma into the basement with this revlimid therapy, before the transplant, in order to reduce the amount of disease the new cells would have to eradicate. The complicating factor is my white count. It dropped to 1900 (1.9) and my neutrophils (the really good white cells) are at 1000. I'm officially neutropenic (abnormally low white cell count). Rifkin wants to continue the revlimid therapy at the current dosage (15mg) in light of the good response, but warned me to stay away from crowds, wash hands, stay away from sick people, etc. etc. I think that's why I get sent to the hospital whenever something like pneumonia shows up. Counts will be checked in a week.

Other blood work looks good and the creatinine (indicates kidney function) is back to 1.3 (high end of normal).

Still no word on which brother's stem cells will be used, but momentum seems to be building for that cage fight. Trash talking between the bros has already started.

Best to all of you.



Phil Brabbs said...

I really enjoyed the post. I am glad to see some hope....and positive results with the Rev.

Big Frank Dickinson said...

OH YEAH! This is super good news! Very happy for you Dan!

Ingrid said...

This post reads like a Christmas present. Sounds really good.
I loved to read also the creatinin value, great.
Now I can wish you also a Merry Christmas and send you like always a big hug to you and Susan,

Nick said...

What WONDERFUL news, Dan!!!! I'm so happy to read this!!!!!!!!

Keep on, keepin' on. I was staring angrily at my bottle of Revlimid because it took me three weeks to recover from the winter cold...but frankly, considering what they've done for a friend, I'll give those little pills a reprieve.

Happy holidays to you, Susan and your family!!!



Brett said...

What outstanding news! Nice work, counselor. Have a merry Christmas, Dan.

Mike said...

Brother Tom's idea of "taking it out back" is to have some poem contest. GEEEEEEZZZZZZ!! I guess that's what happens to guys when they hang around too long on the west coast. Show me where the cage is and I'll wait for him there.

Big Frank Dickinson said...

The Big Guy want to take it to the cage.
I guess that's a way to suit his rage.
But Big Frank think it's words that fit;
Spell it out quick Come On don't hit!
Dan could use some stem cells now;
He needs top qualtiy cells and how.
So put down the dukes: that' so yesterday
Stand up and talk let the cells hold sway!