Monday, August 20, 2012

"With Six You Get..."

(Photo credit: Turner Classic Movies)

I had the annual follow up appointment on Friday, August 10 at MCV. When the pre-transplant coordinator saw me sitting in the waiting area, she asked, "Why are you here?" I told her I was there for the annual oil change and tire rotation.

The appointment is the final round of check-ins and exams for now. Six months from now is blood work and check up with regular oncologist and that is it. No scan, bone marrow biopsy or pulmonary function test until a year from now.

Between now and then, I will be going through a regimen of childhood vaccinations. During my appointment, I received 6 vaccinations for Tdap ( Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis), Haemophilus Influenzae Type b, Hepatitis B, Meningococal and Polio.

When I asked why the protocol had changed regarding vaccinations for autologous patients,  I received the following answer (and I paraphrase): The stem cell transplant protocol has only been utilized for 30 years. Therefore, as new data is collected, protocols change. In the past, survival rates for the procedure were lower than they are now. As a result, patients were rarely (if ever) at risk for contracting any of the ailments that childhood vaccinations are intended to prevent. Since polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, etc. still exist in the world due to several reasons, those with immune systems that were severely compromised need to be protected from them. As I said to the doctor, "It would stink to die from cancer, but even more to die from meningitis after you were cured of cancer."

So, there are more vaccinations to receive down the road, but it's OK by me.

RE: The Carolina boys, Bo and Hunter; they are doing well. Bo had his most recent round of testing last week and he remains cancer free. Hunter has his coming up, but in Facebook pictures that his mother posts, he looks great!

I have to share this comment from Bo. His mother sent it to me last week. "Bo said to the lady at registration, 'Sometimes I’m glad I got cancer because I got to meet some really awesome people because of it'.  Made me proud and sad at the same time." 

Well done, Mr. Baker.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's A Wrap

(Photo credit: "Stripes" / Columbia Pictures / 1981)

This round of testing is all done. Visit with the doctor is also done. One thing remaining is the annual oil change and tire rotation at MCV (the official designation is an annual checkup, but how boring is that?).

One thing the folks at MCV did tell me in advance of my appointment is that they have changed their protocol and I will now have to get all of my immunization shots again (i.e. mumps, polio, etc.). Not what I envision when they talk about "second childhood," but anything for an excuse to misbehave some more. I suspect I understand the reasoning behind the change in protocol, but will confirm after I meet with them next Friday.

RE: Bone marrow biopsy this time. I actually got to experience the process twice. The first attempt was unsuccessful due to the fact that the point of access had to be shifted. Reason is that if the same point is accessed, then the sample accessed may not be "old timber" bone marrow, but rather "new growth" bone marrow that regrew after the last sample was retrieved. It is important to collect a sample that has a history of containing cancer vs. a newer growth sample that was never affected. In changing the access point, there was more discomfort as there was more tissue to move through. The kind person performing the procedure made the call to discontinue the procedure and reschedule me to have the procedure done via an X-ray guided process. When I asked why she didn't try the other side, she responded, "I had already put you through enough discomfort, I didn't want to add any more discomfort to your day." Honestly, it wasn't awful. Just some weird discomfort in a weird location.

Second attempt went fine and the doctor performing the biopsy did a great job. I got to meet some more people in the "business." The bone marrow sample he collected was at least 1.5" long and he let me look at it. I consider myself lucky in that I can say I am in a select group of people who have actually seen their bone marrow. I think it is kind of cool to see the "nucleus" of your own body. What others see of me may not be all that, but I do think I have interesting, and very attractive, bone marrow.

The doctor visit was Thursday of this week and the results from all the testing is "all clear." No abnormalities to report. Blood work was all in the normal ranges. Platelets still aren't back to the days before the arrival of the alien, but they probably never will be again. That's the facts, Jack. However, platelet counts can be altered by any number of reasons and not just the history of an alien or the concoctions that kill them.

So that's it for now. Next appointment isn't until February and there will be no more "fun" testing until a year from now.

I just noticed that it was three years ago this very day that I came home from my "summer at the spa." Ain't that just somethin'.

Cool stuff on the horizon for all of us is this. Wonder if they will find any aliens?