Thursday, October 31, 2002

Low White Cell Counts, and Hat Tricks

Dave’s Great Adventure
Chapter 4, Verse 3
October 31, 2002
It’s limbo time....

My apologies to anyone younger than 30 or older than 60 who has no idea what the limbo is. It was (is?) a “dance” that was popular in the 60s (coming over from the Caribbean islands) during which people tried to get under a stick that was progressively lowered after each try. The DJ at the dance would say, over and over, “How low can you go?”

That’s the question we’re asking right now. I had a blood count done at my nadir, last Friday (five days ago, now), and got the results back Tuesday. My counts, which had been doing okay, have sort of fallen off the edge of a cliff. Actually, my red cell count is still very normal, but my platelets are down to 126,000. That’s sub-normal, but not dangerous. However, my white cell count is concerning now. It has been in the 2,500-3,000 range, low but adequate. Suddenly, it’s only 1,100. And my neutrophils, the “good guys,” have dropped to 100! That’s damned near zero, the way I see it. It looks like my marrow, where the cells are made, is surrendering to the chemotherapy, having been blasted so many times in the last four months! So, because my white counts are so very, very low, Kathy has me quarantined in the house to keep me away from crowds. I’m very susceptible to just about any kind of bacteria or viruses at this point. I also cancelled just about all the work I had been able to arrange in the clinic for the next couple of months. You know, sick people tend to congregate there! I probably shouldn’t spend much time there if I can avoid it.

I don’t really know if I should travel. I’ve called my doc’s personal message number a little while ago and asked about that but haven’t gotten an answer yet. Since I’m still in even more of a nadir, or low point, than usual, I still can’t eat fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. The nurse I talked to at the Oncology clinic also said I need to practice good hand washing, take my temperature if I think I have any signs of a fever, and avoid sex! Well, that wasn’t much of an issue anyway. I guess she’s telling me that sex really is “dirty!”

Hey, I found out where the term “hat trick” came from. None of the sports savvy members of my family came up with any information, but Kathy’s sister Sharon in Bozeman, Montana and her uncle Jim Griffith in Arizona both sent me the derivation of the term. We all knew that is was some sort of ice hockey term for getting three goals in one game. Well, it turns out that before it was an ice hockey term, it was a cricket term in England. It dates from about 1877 and was used to describe taking three wickets off with three successive bowls (whatever that means). This entitled the bowler to receive a hat from his cricket club to commemorate the achievement. By 1909 it was being used in other sports as well to describe getting three of anything in one game. So, there you have it!

So where were you in 1988? Back when my pills were new. Natalie Campos, our son Jon’s girlfriend, wrote in to say that in 1988, when our eldest was starting college, she was starting middle school! I guess the age difference would have made quite a difference then, but means nothing now. By the way, Natalie, my neutrophils are still waiting for those jokes! They didn’t get here in time. (I’m making reference to a line from several DGAs ago in which Natalie had written that she’d tell jokes to my neutrophils since they were “depressed.”)

Our son-in-law Dan wrote to me to suggest that if I in fact elected to die in our home that Kathy could tell prospective buyers that there was a friendly Gyne (Frauenarzt) ghost in the house who would do pap smears for the new inhabitants! Hmmm, I wonder if that would make them feel better or worse!

Our friend Claudia Koetzle in Germany, who lives in the little town of Dettenheim, not too far from Karlsruhe, wrote another nice letter after she and her SF 49ers-loving husband Mike got back from a vacation in southern France. She had written in several months ago after I trashed (schmaehen) Las Vegas to add her comments. She and Mike have been to America several times to visit our wonderful national parks. They’ve probably seen more of them that we have. Anyway, they visited Las Vegas a few years ago and she had to admit that they had walked around taking pictures of the outrageous hotels. The way she so accurately put it, it was amazing to see what could be done in the absence of any common sense and against all obstacles! As an example, all the fountains in the middle of the desert!

I just got a call back from my doc. He’s not too worried about my low counts. He says I can still travel, and that I should get another blood count tomorrow. If it’s still very low, we can try some stuff called Neupogen, a medicine that boosts the production of neutrophils, before I travel.

Well, today is Halloween. There is snow on the ground here as there seems to be just about every Halloween since we moved here. All the little kids who come around for candy are always so cold that most of the Trick-or-Treat-ing is over by about 7 PM or so. Speaking of Halloween, Claudia notes that it’s getting to be a big thing in Germany too, in recent years. Halloween is an American tradition that adults are adopting, as all American are aware. Well, the Americans in Germany brought the tradition to Germany and we often had German kids coming to our door looking for candy on Halloween. In fact, the Americans had a great big Halloween party at the Frankenstein castle in Darmstadt (south of Frankfurt) for many years until it became too, too popular and unmanageable. Well, now Claudia says it’s being promoted by the folks who manufacture costumes and decorations and folks get together in their Halloween garb, drink too much and do stupid things. Sounds like an American tradition, all right!

Kathy just yelled for me to look out the back window. There was a big, beautiful coyote (Steppenwolf) in our back yard. It looked like it was trying to find some rabbits or birds for lunch. In the absence of wild fare, they also start looking for dogs and cats left outside. We lose a lot of small animals in the neighborhood to the coyotes, especially to people new to the neighborhood who don’t realize the dangers of leaving their pets outside.

I guess that is all for now. We will be having company in the house for the next three days and then we’ll hopefully be going to Hawaii, so I probably won’t get another update out until after about November 11th or so.

Bye for now....