Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Still Doin' Well, And Antarctica???

Dave’s Great Adventure
Chapter 5, Verse 3
December 4, 2002
Still Doin’ Okay

Well, this “adventure” has suddenly become quite boring, with not much going on, at least as far as the treatment and follow-up of my disease goes. But we’re still plodding along and using our time before I go back to work to see family and friends. But I did have another blood count last week that I’d like to update you on.

But first, in my last letter I reported that my white count was up to over 5,000 and was normal for the first time since we found out that I had leukemia. That prompted a good question from my family in Rock Hill, SC, who asked why my count, at 5,000, was normal, when my count at 5,000, last July after the very first round of chemotherapy, was not normal. The answer is that last July my total count went down from about 65,000 to about 5,000 after the drugs, but the percent of lymphocytes was still about 85%. Now, when my count went UP to 5,000 last week (after the Neupogen injections) the percent of lymphocytes was only about 8% or so. And since all the bad cells are lymphocytes, having a normal lymphocyte count and percentage put me into the definition of being in remission.

Now, a week ago last Monday I had blood drawn again. As expected, my white cell count went down again as the Neupogen effect wore off, this time to 2,100. That’s lower than I had expected, but I guess about what my doc had expected. Now what I don’t know is, that since my neutrophil count dropped so dramatically, but my lymphocyte count remained the same (at 500), the ratio of the lymphocytes to neutrophils and the other cells has now gone back up! Now my lymphocytes are about 23% of my white cells. That’s not normal. So am I in a complete remission now or not? I’ll have to ask my doc next week when I have my bone marrow biopsy.

Speaking of lymphocytes, with the four months of chemotherapy we killed off over 99% of them, dropping their numbers from about 56,000 or more, down to 500! I’m impressed that the chemotherapy could be so specific as to target the lymphocytes accurately enough to do that without also killing off 99% of my red cells, platelets and everything else. And that’s enough technical, medical talk for today!

Hey, I’ve gotten a lot of people asking me the same question: “What, Antarctica? Are you crazy?” Well, I’ve got this great brochure that describes some trips/cruises to Antarctica and I think they sound like a lot of fun. My wife, who doesn’t “do” cold weather very well, remains unconvinced, but I think she’ll go along. Cold is all in your mind. I’ve been reading Sir Ernest Shackleton’s book, “South,” based on his ill-fated voyage to Antarctica in 1914. At one point he notes, in his ship’s log, “Temperature 37 degrees Fahrenheit, pleasantly warm.” My wife does not think that 37 degrees is warm at all! The cruises go to visit penguin rookeries (I guess they’re places where they hatch their young), the old whaling stations in South Georgia, Shackleton’s grave, near the whaling stations, glaciers, ice cliffs and more. And we will get to land on and walk around on Antarctica! I think that sounds neat! How many of you have done that?

Over the last week Kathy and I were able to travel to Oklahoma and Texas, taking our first driving trip in quite a while. In Oklahoma we visited and had Thanksgiving dinner with Kathy’s folks and youngest sister. Then we headed south to visit our daughter Jen, her family and our younger son, Jeremy and his girlfriend. We were able to see my younger sister Deb and her family as well, as they were visiting in town from California just for Thanksgiving Day. They came for the Dallas football game, which Dallas actually won! After a couple of days in the Dallas area with the grandkids (have I ever told you that they are sooo cute!) we headed back north again to see Kathy’s folks again before returning home. While in Oklahoma we picked up a couple of things from her folks. They are moving to a retirement home soon and are downsizing all the things they have collected in their home over the last 35 years so we brought home a cedar chest Kathy’s granddad made in 1938. We also brought back a picture Kathy’s dad had gotten from a prisoner/artist who painted it while in the prison in Anthony, Texas, where Kathy’s dad worked for many years while with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This weekend we’ll have some houseguests. Our elder son is coming for a short visit and is bringing along his girlfriend. That’s going to be fun. Jon’s girlfriend, Natalie, has never been to Colorado so we’re going to try to give her a real Rocky Mountain experience. The mountains beckon....

I think that’s all that might be of some interest to you. I’ll be back with another update next week after the bone marrow biopsy and yet another blood count to let you know how I’m doing and what our short term plans are. Until then, this adventure just keeps plodding along.