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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sunshine on my shoulder makes me squamous.

Step 1: Twenty years at the racetrack, bright sunshine, fresh air. The intoxicating aroma of 113 octane race gas! 

Step 2: Sunscreen is for babies and gingers, not for me.

Step 3: See a doctor about that little thing on my arm.

Step 4: Said doctor mumbles something about squamous cells, and with no sympathy, extracts the little thing and about an inch of flesh in every direction. Sutures.

Step 5: Pay the nice lady at the front desk.

Step 6: Use sunscreen too little and too late.

Step 7: See the doctor about that little thing on my face.

I am recovering nicely. The doctor says that, in 3-4 years, you will barely be able to see that 3 1/2 " scar on my arm! Woo hoo.

Frankly, with all the noxious chemicals that have been floating around in my system to treat my lymphoma, I was a bit surprised that anything remotely related to cancer could survive within a mile of my body, 

In early June, I go back to the Butcher of Fort Mill for a similar procedure on my face. 

Don't be foolish, my friends. Use sunscreen and plenty of it. If a little is good, more must be better!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Great Results Just Keep on Coming!

Today was the postponed date for my six-month follow-up visit with Dr. Hema. Last Wednesday, the original scheduled appointment, we were enjoying an unusual bout of global warming. The temperature was 12F and there was a sheet of ice about an inch thick on our driveway. We rescheduled for today.

I customarily have blood tests about ten days in advance with my local primary care physician. The tests were done, however, the most revealing test, M-spike, was not performed. I wrote a stern complaint to Dr. Primary and emailed Dr. Hema. Dr. Hema said that the IgM result tracks alongside M-spike and, on the most recent test, looked entirely normal, as did almost every other test result. Based on the correlation of the two tests and the normal result from IgM, he felt comfortable omitting just this once, the M-spike result.

I have usually reported my M-spike result, but, unfortunately, all I can report today is 'good enough.'

Dr. Hema poked me a little bit, listened to my heart and lungs and said, based on the blood tests and the smiling, happy man with no swollen lymph nodes that stood before him, that no treatment or alarm was needed and to return in six more months with test results, ideally including M-spike!

I always feel a bit lucky, a bit blessed and quite fortunate when I pass the other patients at Dr. Hema's office. Some are too young to be going through chemo and radiation and other noxious treatments. Some are quite ill. Many wear funny hats to disguise that they have no more hair. Many are having a very tough time of it. I bounced out of the examining room with a big smile on my face and a little joke for the receptionist but I was quickly sobered by the other patients waiting for a life-saving treatment.

My good health has continued now for several years. I hope it will continue for several decades!

As always, a celebratory lunch was enjoyed. Glasses were raised and toasts made to good health!

Thank you, readers, for your well-wishes. They buoy me!