Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Feeling well, the special diet, and more "Beavers" jokes!

Dave’s Great Adventure
Chapter 1, Verse 8
August 6, 2002

Well, gosh, the last few days have been very good to me. I feel almost back to normal. More about that momentarily.

Many of you out there must wonder what the heck was up with the series of three e-mails with the last “verse” sent out Friday. What happened was that I wrote up a draft of my thoughts on Thursday and saved them. But my program saves it as .wps, a program some of my family can’t open. So when I send the message, I convert it to text or .rtf. However, some folks, like those on WebTV or those using MyMailStation can only get .txt messages, and the Mail Station folks can only get messages under one page in length. Anyway, I saved my draft, then added a bunch more on Friday, but failed to save the changes. Then I inadvertently sent out the draft! Then, in attempting to correct the problem I once again made the corrections and additions, which I AGAIN failed to save properly, resending the draft (and I thought I was over the mental “fuzzies”). I got it right only on the third try. If you didn’t read the third copy you received you didn’t get the whole story. Sorry. I’ll try to get it right in the future. I may just do all the messages in text format from now on so it’ll be harder for me to screw things up.

And this brings up an interesting situation. When I started sending out my thoughts on my leukemia and my chemotherapy a couple of weeks ago, I was just sending these out to a few family members and friends. I am finding that a lot more people than those few folks seem to be interested in my situation and my random musings on what’s going on with me. I still, really, have no objections whatever if my notes are forwarded on to other folks out there, but I know that family members are forwarding the stuff on to other people, who then in some cases are forwarding it on again. Still, I have no problem whatever with this (it even feeds my ego when I hear that I should have been a writer instead of a doctor [from my cousin/step-brother Tom in Atlanta]).

The only problem could be that I no longer really know with certainty who my “audience” is. Now, my humor occasionally verges on being bawdy (see the last verse‘s beaver jokes), but I don’t want to offend anyone. However, these are, after all, my thoughts and memories of my disease and therapy. If anyone finds the humor offensive, hey, that’s why God invented the delete button!

With my last verse I finished with a footnote about my most recent blood counts, which were excellent! I didn’t explain the numbers at all, and some of you may wonder what they mean. The two most important things were that my white count was down from over 60,000 to 5,000 (to a normal level, actually) and that the cells I need (red cells, platelets, and bacteria fighting white cells) are still normal as well. But what does that really mean? It just means the medicine is working as it should, but that’s about all. The white blood cells in the circulation are just the tip of the iceberg, if you will, and really reflect only indirectly what’s going on in the marrow, where the malignant cells are hanging out. So we need to attack them again and again, trying to reduce their numbers in the marrow to as few as possible. Then, I’ll hopefully be in remission for a while. And hopefully, while we’re doing all that attacking we won’t damage my required cells too badly. That could make me quite ill. My eldest son’s girlfriend says she’ll tell jokes to my neutrophils (bacteria fighting white cells), since I mentioned that they’re “depressed,” Hey, great stuff! We’ll see how this progresses over the next five months of treatments. We won’t actually know how well that is until I have another bone marrow biopsy a couple of months after the last treatment. That will report how many leukemic cells remain in hiding. See what I have to look forward too?

You know, having my white count fall to 5,000 is just incredible. I would have been happy just to see it drop to half or so, but a 95% drop!! It just must be because I have so many good folks praying for me in so many places. Not just family, friends, co-workers and patients, but friends of family, friends, co-workers and patients. Even patients I’ve never met, but who just know me are offering their thoughts and prayers. And did you know that I’m getting two or more humorous get-well cards each and every day. One of the folks sending a card every day is Joan. When I told her she ought to stop or she’d go broke from the postage costs she told me to get used to it... it’s her “mantra.” Another person sending a card every day is Debbie, my nurse. Not only does she send a card every day, but she just got back from a trip to Washington state and brought back with her two loaves of German bread and a dozen rolls. And lots more too! She’s just great. And I also get cards from my other co-workers in the clinic at the rate of one or two daily. The love just doesn’t end!

Since last Friday I have been slowly feeling more and more normal. Tired on occasions, to be sure, but not really unwell. We went out to visit our friends Lou and Joan last Saturday evening, as they had German friends visiting from Hamburg, and I managed to stay up ‘til about ten o’clock. The German guests were treated to genuine American food (it would have been silly to try to feed them German food, don’t you think) and the main course was buffalo burgers, something they’re unlikely to find at the local Gasthaus in Hamburg. The burgers were quite tasty. I had a small glass of wine with dinner that night and paid for it during the night when a migraine headache developed. I was told that the Cytoxan may cause headaches. Or maybe it‘s ‘cause I’m getting way to much sleep. Or maybe I just can’t tolerate any amount of alcohol anymore. Damn! Anyway, we missed church as I treated my head the next morning. But other than that, I’ve been feeling better and better and doing more and more each day. You know, if it weren’t fatal, this leukemia stuff wouldn’t be so bad!

Have I told you about my intermittent special dietary restrictions? During the ten to fourteen days after each round of chemotherapy my white cell count will be at its lowest, or the nadir I keep talking about. That’s also when I’m most susceptible to infections. Because of this, during the nadir times I’m not supposed to eat unwashed, uncooked vegetables and fruits that can’t be scrubbed or peeled, like salads or berries, that might harbor salmonella, etc. I keep forgetting about this restriction, but Kathy keeps her eye on me! She won’t let me eat my nectarines unless I wash them with that “Fit” food spray first. And then she gets upset with me if I dry the fruit on a “dirty” hand towel (hey, I couldn’t see any real dirty, greasy spots or anything). She scolded me the other day because we went out to eat with friends, as I mentioned already, and ate cole slaw, tomatoes and strawberries. I didn’t think anything about it, but Kathy saw what I was doing (don’t worry, Lou and Joan, I did fine). Anyway, I made it through my nadir this month with no problems, but I expect that with each cycle my nadir counts will get lower and lower and hence my susceptibility to infection will increase each month.

I’ve been working with the CD writer that I bought last week and have been running off copies of my CDs like crazy, so I’ll have my collection in the car, but will have copies when I go in for my chemotherapy. It is just so cool to run off a copy of a CD for about 40 cents a disc (well, not counting the cost of the writer, the extra USB ports, etc.). And, of course, to make it run even better, I’ve bought some more memory, a faster processor and a faster USB card which I’ll have installed later this week while we’re gone. Well, at least the discs are cheap.

Today I feel completely normal. I went in to the clinic and again announced that I was ready to go back to work, at least part time temporarily. I’m going to work three half days next week and also a week from Monday, just before I start the next round of chemo. Then I’ll have to be off for at least a couple of weeks again.

Since I feel so well, we’re going to go to Las Vegas this weekend. We had long ago made tentative plans for this trip, which is actually to attend the wedding of our niece Hilary Eckberg but weren’t going to go if I wasn’t up to it. Well, I’m up for it. It will be wonderful to be able to see most of my family for the first time in months. I don’t gamble, but I plan on seeing the Harrah’s antique car museum.

When we get back I have a most unpleasant task awaiting me. About 18 months ago I witnessed a hit and run death when a car literally ran over a guy on a bicycle and then took off. I was first to get to the victim, but couldn’t do much, unfortunately. The guy died within an hour or so of being struck. The driver goes to trial as soon as we get back from Vegas and I’m to be a witness. I can’t imagine why the kid just doesn’t take a plea of some kind. It should be a slam dunk case; he did it, he took off. What else is there to say? I don’t look forward to the experience. The kid’s family has apparently hired a high profile attorney, the same guy that got Bill Romanowski (the football player) off his drug charges a couple of years ago. Man, the trial could be a whole “verse” all to itself.

Well, back to the “Beavers incident.” You know, it wouldn’t really have been funny at all if not for the fact that I’m a gynecologist, the officer’s name is Beavers and, well, you know, am deeply into the topic on a daily basis. Kathy in Atlanta thought my getting caught by The Beavers was hilarious and wished she could have witnessed the event. (I did have to explain the reference to my Mom, who thought it must be a new slang term, when really it’s been around for decades and decades) Anyway, I did get some responses for other possible newspaper headlines based on the fact that I, as a gynecologist, got caught by The Beavers.

Here’s where you hit the delete button if your mind doesn’t run in the gutter with mine:

All the faux headlines depended on double entendres of one type or another, some more earthy than the others. My sister in law, Kristy, took more of a naturalist approach to the double reference:

“GYN receives lecture from angry Beavers!”

and: “Beaver slaps GYN with fine for entering trap too fast!”

My eldest son, who submitted his thoughts anonymously (and therefore will remain nameless) strung together a whole string of double entendres to come up with some earthy headlines:

“Dam! Doc snatched by eager Beavers!”

and, speaking of multiple double entendres-- “Beavers pounces on speedy doc’s boner!”

And lastly, truly anonymously: “Doc way too quick for The Beavers; pays substantial penalty with early withdrawal.”

Enough for now! I have to take my computer in to the shop tomorrow for its upgrades and also will be out of town to attend the wedding in Las Vegas. For the moment my leukemia and my condition are seemingly under control, so I’ll get back to the computer with more musings next week. At some time I need to tell you how I felt when I got the news about my leukemia. It’s painful, but I need to do it. Probably next week.

Until then,