Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'Tis the season!

This is the season to give and receive gifts with our loved ones. In my opinion, the greatest gift any of us can receive is good health. Maybe not even great health, but good health; good enough to enjoy life with our loved ones, a walk in the park to enjoy the autumn leaves, a sip of wine and a goodnight kiss.

This is the season to be grateful to have my health, but it is also the season to run around to all my various doctors to get updated on my health status. Today I had a visit with Dr. M, my oncologist.

As I had blood tests a week before, the results were known and available to both of us.

His report to me was short and sweet. He said, approximately, "Well, the numbers are about the same. There is no significant change, so we'll see you in four months!"

That is, indeed, good news. "No change" is a report that I love to hear! "No change" means that I will not be changing my schedule to include three weekly visits to chemo. Best of all, "No change" means that I needn't change my plans to visit with friends and family over this holiday season.

I hope all of you will enjoy life to the fullest this season. I know I will!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer follow-up

As I have previously reported, Dr. Hema2 has retired and he referred me to another oncologist who shall be referred to as Dr. M. I met with Dr. M for my usual semi-annual follow-up visit.

I have also reported to you that my essential numbers, IgM and M-spike, continue to creep up. This visit shows the same. Dr. M reports that the M-spike has risen to 0.7 which he classifies as insignificant. However, the IgM number is now about 1200. The expected normal reading is 37-286. An elevated IgM suggests that the immune system is busy fighting an invasion.

Just for reference, when my disease was first discovered, my IgM was an astounding 5,120!

Because of this, Dr. M suggested that we schedule a follow-up visit in three months, rather that the usual six, and take another look at the trend.

Dr. M reported what I consider to be excellent news! He reports that a new, more effective treatment has been released specific to my particular and rare lymphoma. Better yet, it is an oral medication. No half-day visits to the infusion room are required! Woo hoo! It is comforting to know that, as my disease progresses, as we've always known it would, that treatment is now available that is both more effective and easier to tolerate.

My adorable wife and I enjoyed a nice lunch conveniently near the doctor's office with some comfort that any future treatments will likely be easier and more effective than the previous infusions. We will go on a long vacation prior to our next visit and enjoy life to the fullest.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Another great day in the Big City

Today was my regularly scheduled biannual followup visit with Dr. Hema2. I had a complete series of blood tests about a week ago.

First of all, he reports that my M-spike number was about 0.5. He said that it was only slightly increased from the previous 0.25 more or less we had seen for the last several years. It sounds like it has doubled, however, the doctor described it as a miniscule increase.

Once again, he gave me the usual disclaimer talk. He said that the numbers will eventually increase to the level where further treatment is recommended. As every lymphoma patient and every case is different, he hasn't any guess as to when "eventually" may be. The good news, no, the great news, is that it isn't today!

As he is retiring, we discussed transferring my case to another doctor. Thankfully, this doctor will be much closer to our home. He is actually in the same county! I will soon have a Dr. Hema3!

As is usual, my beautiful wife and I celebrated a great check-up with a great lunch at The Good Mexican Place. Any day that bypasses the infusion room in favor of a burrito and a beer is a great day!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A trip to Big City for a great check-up.

As I related previously, my usual oncologist, Dr. Hema has retired. I have been assured that his reasons for retiring were not, at least not entirely, based on treating me!

I was transferred to a new doctor who I shall, because of my wish for his and my privacy, refer to as Dr. Hema2. I appreciate that his office is a fair bit closer to our home although it is still about 45 minutes away depending on traffic and weather.

I like the new doctor very much. He is, as is expected, younger than Dr. Hema, but we also share interests in travel to the western USA.

He discussed my latest test results and he was very happy to report that my numbers are about the same as for the last few visits. My M-spike number is still a vanishingly low 0.2. More important than the number itself is the trend. It has been 0.2 or thereabouts for several years now, meaning that the cancerous cells are still present but neither gaining nor losing ground.

Dr. Hema2 says, as was told to me before, that the number may, at some point, slowly rise and, if high enough, require more drug therapy. That might be in six months or six years or even never. Most importantly, it isn't today!

Dr. Hema2 said that we'd check again in six months and to go enjoy my life. I keep wondering if that means that I should deduct from my income tax return the cost of my next vacation as a medically prescribed expense. Hmmmm....

My beautiful wife was unable to join me at this visit, so we rescheduled a celebratory lunch for later in the week. We did, as requested by the doctor, go enjoy our life!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Outlast the doctors!

It is once again that time of year. Time to check in with Dr. Hema and discuss with him the progress of my apparent remission from lymphoma. As you recall, the remission's state and progress are measured by blood tests. A week or so before my scheduled visit, I first visit a nice lady with a sharp needle to extract a few vials for testing. By so doing, the results are available for discussion at the time of the visit with Dr. Hema.

The results are very close to the same as the last several visits. For example, the M-spike number is now 0.2; almost exactly where is has been for several years. The IgM number is just slightly high at 398.

Dr. Hema said that an M-spike anywhere over 0.0 indicates that the lymphoma is still present. However, its stability, hovering around 0.2 for several years, indicates that it is quiet and that no immediate treatment is needed. He has consistently told me that it may remain quiet for a year or a decade or forever. He says there is no need to treat until the numbers ramp up, if ever.

When it appeared to be time to schedule my next follow-up visit, Dr. Hema announced that he is retiring at the end of the year. It is a sad and a happy announcement. Sad, because Dr. Hema and his wonderful staff skillfully and with smiling, patient faces brought me from, " Bill, you have a rare and dangerous lymphoma," all the way to, "Bill, your numbers are great. No treatments needed. See you later!" I will admire and respect him for my entire life, but I will miss him as he enjoys a well-deserved retirement. I am very happy for him because I am, as you may know, a fan of retirement!

I am being reassigned to a colleague who is in an office many miles closer to our home. While I will appreciate that, I will miss Dr. Hema, Nurse K, Patty the Piercer and all of the wonderful people I have come to appreciate so much over the years.

After hugs for all, my adorable wife and I celebrated with a very nice lunch and a toast to continued good health.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The good, bad and ugly

Well, it has been an eventful couple of weeks here in the Carolinas. As I have reported on this blog previously, I have suffered from cardiac arrhythmia for most of my adult life. Most of the time, it has been well controlled by medication; you probably never even know I had it. Once in a while, for no reason at all, the medications stop working as effectively as before and are changed. Most of the time, that's all it takes and I resume my normal operations; you know, relaxing and enjoying life to the fullest.

A couple of weeks ago, my heart went to atrial fibrillation. It's a fairly dangerous condition that sometimes leads to stroke or death. I doubled my medication, a process previously discussed with the doctors, but it didn't subside. Yes; I have two cardiologists!

After consulting the doctors, I had a cardioversion. Cardioversion is a medical procedure by which an abnormally fast heart rate (tachycardia) or cardiac arrhythmia is converted to a normal rhythm using electricity, in my case.





It's not as scary as it looks, however.

I am happy to report that my pulse has returned to a normal rate and that I am fine. 

Next I visited Dr. Hema. The results of my tests were about the same as previously. My M-spike number was 0.2. That's about as close to zero, meaning cured, as I seem to be able to get without actually being cured. I feel perfectly fine and the doctor and I have no reason to believe that my lymphoma will ever be an issue again.

Although we pretty much knew the answer before we walked in, it is always great to hear it from the doctors mouth. As is our custom, we celebrated with a nice lunch and a few high-fives!

In spite of these issues, I feel pretty lucky. At my age, several of my contemporaries from my high school days have not survived. I feel like I am doing quite well.

Thank you again, gentle reader, for your well-wishes. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

May I Live in Interesting Times!

As you will know from reading this blog, I have experienced cardiac arrhythmia for many years. In recent months, it has developed into atrial fibrillation. As you may know, a-fib is quite dangerous because it substantially increases the risk of stroke. My doctors attempted to contain the a-fib with drugs unsuccessfully. Finally, Dr. Cardio suggested a cardiac ablation: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cardiac-ablation/basics/definition/prc-20022642

It went pretty well and I spent a night in the hospital. Upon reporting a week later for a follow-up visit with the surgeon, I was found to be in atrial flutter. It was explained that it is a close relative of a-fib, but less dangerous. Well, at least I am going in the right direction; from dangerous to less dangerous.

To correct the flutter, I was given a cardioversion: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cardioversion/basics/definition/prc-20012879 The procedure has returned my heart to normal rhythm!

Next, I visited with Dr. Hema for my six-month check-up regarding my lymphoma. After undergoing preliminary blood tests, I found that my M-spike number, the primary indicator of lymphoma or other cancer in the system, was found to be 0.26. In other words, it is very low and steady and right about where is has been for several years. Dr. Hema said, in short, 'Terrific! See you in six months.'

My lymphoma continues to be about as close to remission as it can get. It may flare up some day, but not today!

I am very grateful and thankful that my lymphoma continues to be quiet.