October, 2010 Archives

A Transplant Tutorial

Comments Off on A Transplant Tutorial
October 12th, 2010

Since lots of you have asked about the stem cell process or the bone marrow process and have had some confusion about the day, here’s your pal Dr. Rodney to explain it all in a primer. Stem cell or bone marrow, they’re used interchangeably these days. At no point is any of my brother’s marrow […]

Since lots of you have asked about the stem cell process or the bone marrow process and have had some confusion about the day, here’s your pal Dr. Rodney to explain it all in a primer. Stem cell or bone marrow, they’re used interchangeably these days. At no point is any of my brother’s marrow extracted from his bones.

Here is what’s happening as I approach my new birthday on Friday. My body is being wracked with lots of different chemicals in order to pound my forces into submission. Use any war analogy you wish. The most important thing they’re going for is the stuff that produces my blood, my bone marrow. Other transplants are different, obviously. If you’re in for a kidney transplant they handle things differently. The same is true for a full cranial transplant.

My marrow and blood is healthy right now; it’s in remission. But there’s a chance the leukemia could come back. That’s what this is all about. We want to dramatically reduce the chance anything will come back. That’s why they call it The Cure.

Okay, so what actually happens? While they’ve been bombarding me they’ve been doing the opposite to my brother Scott. They are giving him injections of neupogen which increases his production of white blood cells. Each day this week he has to take the thousand-dollar-a-day syringe and give himself a shot. No one looks forward to neupogen and in some people it makes your bones feel like they’re exploding from within. Hopefully he won’t pull the plug on this project due to pain, there are some fabulous pain medications that work. Sorry Scott, I don’t think this qualifies you for medical marijuana just yet, although let’s see what the City of Ferndale voted last night.

This Friday he will report to duty on the 10th floor, just a few steps away from my room. They’ll start an IV going in one of his arms, thread the tube through a machine and pump the blood back into his other arm. But that machine in the middle will be extracting his stem cells which are the worker bees who want to create good, solid, warm blood.

It will take about four hours for this to unfold and when it’s complete he’s free to go home. They then take that bag and bring it to me, hot and steamy, and just hang it up on my IV pole and slurp, slurp, slurp like a baby vampire I go.

Since we carry the exact same 10 out of 10 genetic markers that they look for, our genes are a perfect match. But that doesn’t mean his cells won’t reject me. Yeah, that’s weird; in this procedure the new body of cells can reject the older, established cells there. It’s called Graft Vs. Host Disease and you supposedly want a little bit of brotherly squabbling, but not a full out Hatfields vs. McCoys.

This potential battle will be omnipresent for months or even up to a year. In the meantime, post stem cell transfer, I’ll need to be very germophobic and avoid crowds and even some crazy things like not cook my own food or go outside without a mask. That’s the future. Right now I just need to concentrate on dealing with my body as it prepares for my brother’s precious gift of life.

I hope that clears things up.

QUICK UPDATE:

I spoke with my brother after posting this blog and already the neupogen is hammering him. He’s a part-time fire fighter and isn’t sure if he’ll be able to go out on some runs. He wants to though, pain and all. That kind of defines a true hero doesn’t it?

10th Floor

Comments Off on 10th Floor
October 10th, 2010

I thought the guy down the hall was making fun of me. On one of the ubiquitous dry erase boards posted on the 10th floor of the Karmanos Cancer Center, there was a guy’s name, Ray, spelled with a giant outlandish R. “Wait, that’s my R,” I thought to myself, “somene’s already messing with me; […]

I thought the guy down the hall was making fun of me. On one of the ubiquitous dry erase boards posted on the 10th floor of the Karmanos Cancer Center, there was a guy’s name, Ray, spelled with a giant outlandish R.

“Wait, that’s my R,” I thought to myself, “somene’s already messing with me; this is cool.” Tracking him down on one of the many laps we’re all supposed to walk, (your boy Rodney’s aiming for two miles a day; in your face office dwellers!), I found out he signs his name with the same insane R. Better yet, he does the same with his last name which also begins with an R. I can’t share it with you since I think I’m already in trouble with HIPA.https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcsignature.jpg

Other than the signature and the cool view of MotorCity Casino’s lights at night combined with the Ambassador Bridge, there’s not a lot of surprising stuff going on here. And that’s fine by me. Wait, there’s that frosted glass in my door that when you flip a light switch it changes to clear; that’s pretty surprising. But for the most part I am doing what I’ve done during previous hospital stays: read, imbibe chemo, do laps, get bored, mess with the nurses, eat, sleep when I can, mess with the nurses some more, repeat cycle.

I keep feeling like there’s something more I should be doing. I guess the beautiful fall weekend we’ve had doesn’t hurt as much knowing that the leaves will be handled by someone else, (girls, if you take the time to read Daddy’s blog you’ll know who I’m talking about).

But my job and pastime these days is health. That pretzel I’m about to eat, does it contribute overall to my well-being? The diet Shasta located all-too-conveniently in the mini fridge inches from my laptop, wouldn’t water be better for me? And why can’t I take a good righteous dump these days? Is my family right and I’m anal retentive in the real way?

Little by little my fears of another blood clot slip away. The waning cold that’s been waning for a few weeks now also seems to be, hmmm how do I put this, waning. The side benefit to being cooped up all night and day here is the knowledge that a medical professional is only steps away. I’ve never been a hypochondriac but this stupid cancer has caused me to pay more attention to the clues skulking around my body. And just as I surveyed the brilliance of that last sentence, they called a Code Blue over the loudspeaker and my throat and sphincter both clenched. “It’s another part of the hospital. It’s another disease. It’s another nother other,” I assure myself.

Focus on the fun. Remind yourself of the positive. Yeah, you had a deadly disease but you still have an iPad. Sure these bags are pumping poisons into your system but didn’t you enjoy all those cheeseburgers and pizzas the last month and a half? Sure, there may be someone coding on another floor, but you can’t control that.

And as if on cue from the great standup comedian in the sky, my wonderful nurse Melissa walked in to explain how my shots would be handled. “We poke you in the evening then put you to bed,” she said.

“You don’t know what that sounds like to me,” I reply.

“Yes I do; you may need a cigarette afterward.”

Messing with the nurses means they can mess right back.


Born Again?

Comments Off on Born Again?
October 3rd, 2010

Down in Detroit at my new home away from home, the Karmanos Cancer Center, people have wonderful words for their services. The person who walks me or pushes me from one appointment to the next is called my navigator. The woman who plays the role of nurse, contact person and barrier buster is my coordinator. […]

Down in Detroit at my new home away from home, the Karmanos Cancer Center, people have wonderful words for their services. The person who walks me or pushes me from one appointment to the next is called my navigator. The woman who plays the role of nurse, contact person and barrier buster is my coordinator. But my favorite word is rebirth. My coordinator Stacey used that word yesterday to describe the simply miraculous process that begins on Friday, October 8th.

By getting my brother’s stem cells I will be like a new-born, she told me. It brought tears to my eyes when she reiterated that they’re not playing around. This is all about a cure, not just remission. She made her case even stronger when she reminded me I’d need my newborn baby shots all over again by the time I’m one.

Honestly.

My diphtheria, tetanus, measles and all the other shots I got back in the Stone Age are no longer valid, (Yes, I’ll get them again and no I’m not worried about suddenly turning into a stump or whatever the anti-inoculation crowd fears these days.).

The epic coincidence that I was originally born right there, in the same medical complex 47 years ago, has left my metaphoric jaw dragging on the proverbial pavement.

Back then, as the family fable goes, Mom and Dad swung in for a milkshake on the way to the hospital. I was their third kid and I think maybe pop was being a bit cavalier. I blame my insane appetite for coffee milkshakes on this prenatal pitstop.

To be honest I kind of like the thought of being a newborn. It allows me to reconfigure my life based on a very real biologic restructuring. If I have to attend elementary school again, I know I’ll breeze right through. In college maybe I’ll study to become a Wall Street banker instead of an unemployed journalist. I can’t wait for my lucrative bonus package just for being potty trained.

Babies don’t have to face the worries like I encountered recently while talking with the diabolic Humana or Aetna insurance cartels. They simply won’t insure me or my family and told me so curtly over the phone. (If you know any Tea Bag members, ask them if they really think health care is fine the way it stands.)

But most importantly, this process helps me put old patterns to bed and gives me the chance to rally around the rebirth and adopt new processes. This, of course, will probably turn out to be total bullshit. But at least now, on this side of the procedure, I can pretend I’ll change dramatically.

I’d like to change the way I demonize previous bosses who even slightly — in my estimation — done me wrong. Ibid for previous girlfriends. I’d love to stop seeing every other driver on the road as trying to screw me over for my lane. I hope that as a baby, just learning about computers again, I won’t have the pathologic fear about emptying my trash because I could’ve inadvertently put something important in there. Maybe I’ll finally choose Canon over Nikon.

And if I’m lucky I can bring my daily fear level down from Red to maybe Blue. My fears aren’t the overt Taliban-raping-my-dogs kind of fears. I tend to fear the inane stuff, like uttering the wrong thing in a social situation or making a boss mad for something silly I said, (Note: see beginning of previous paragraph).

But for the real authority on what I should do differently I asked, pivoting my ripped up desk chair, “Taylor pretend I’m being reborn. What should I do differently this time around?”

“Take risks Daddy,” my daughter said. Oh cool, I’m going to become an adventurer, maybe jump out of airplanes or get over my scubaphobia and search for sunken ships. I tried for more clarification but she was back to texting something as she walked out the door to driver’s training.   

There’s more in that statement, I know. And when I’m a little baby goo-gooing around the place we’ll get to the soul of it, I’m sure.

I hope when I’m a baby again I just eat, poop and love. To live in oneness with the universe would be fabulous. I know other stuff will crowd on in and I stand absolutely no chance of remaining so enlightened though. Heck even the Dalai Lama has a Twitter account.

Hopefully I’ll learn the most important lesson and not take myself as seriously as I do. But I realize that even planning for a near future where I don’t take myself too seriously is already, in itself, taking myself too seriously.

And just like that, the mind games also experience their own rebirth.