Friday, June 29, 2012

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +495

We leave the fair metropolis of Rochester, MN, for home tomorrow morning -- very early (if we can manage to get up in time). The last two days have been a bit of a rollercoaster of tests, exams, and head-scratching. 

Thursday began benignly enough with the usual blood tests. The following test, a pulmonary function study, is difficult at times, and in this case set off alarms with my doctors. My previous tests had shown some decline in lung capacity, maybe 15% -- not unusual for someone my age, who has asthma and misspent many a year tending my food goiter. This test showed my capacity down 50-60%! Also, my oxygen level (usually 98-100% on the stair climb) was in the high 80's to lower 90's.

My regular numbers were all beautiful. My hemoglobin is now out of the anemic range and at the low end of normal. My white cell count, ANC, and platelets are in great shape. So, why can I not carry a bag of groceries from the car to the kitchen without sitting down to rest and catch my breath?

To answer that question (and others), we stayed one more day (today) for an echocardiogram, a CT scan of my torso, and (gulp) a bronchoscopy. The bronchoscopy (because of anesthesia) took about 3 hours and has left me with a sore throat, a slight fever, and a lot of questions that cannot be answered until the data from all the tests is analysed and studied.

Also, Marian will have to drive at least half the way home, because I am not supposed to drive for 24 hours from the beginning of my anesthesia. We hope to make it home in time for Marian to honor committments tomorrow evening. I will be waiting on pins and needles for test results and possible treatments. I hope to have more to share next week.

Well, I have to get packed and get to bed. 5:00 AM comes early, even in Central Daylight Time...

Thanks for your prayers and good thoughts! Good night, and God bless!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mick McKellar Update — Day +487

Current medical situation: My numbers look pretty good. It is becoming very difficult to see where any of the GVHD rash exists. However, I am still taking substantial doses of Prednisone daily, with all its concomitant baggage. Numbness in my hands and feet remain a problem, but don't seem to be worsening. A recalcitrant bronchial cough plagues me daily, but a chest x-ray last week was clear. My allergies have been problematic this spring and summer, and fatigue and shortness of breath remain my constant companions. But, by-and-large, these are aggravations and inconveniences, and I can live a fairly normal long as I remain out of the sunlight, stay away from crowds, don't go near the water, and remain near a bathroom (because of all the water I must drink). In six days, we travel back to Rochester, MN for blood tests, consultations, and exams. I hope to pass along good news from the visit.

I will pass it along, if I can get back into the habit of writing again.

I cannot explain my recent writing reticence, at least not entirely. More than a hundred attempts to compose and update or write a poem have been abandoned in the last few months. Perhaps I fear a prose/poem power failure. Maybe my muse has lost her moxie. I could be lost in a fog of mental fatigue, aided and abetted by a chemically-induced procrastination coma (i.e., I'm too lazy and blame it on the drugs...).

Possibly, I had nothing to talk about...

Yeah, right!

The Four Stages of Mankind — Revisited

There was a time when I only repeated stories, comments, observations, and questions for emphasis or to obtain clarity. Now, I often repeat myself because I simply forget what I said, or what I was told. I am certain I covered the Four Stages of Mankind somewhere in previous communications, but I was reflecting on them this afternoon and here they are, once again for the first time: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, and "My, Don't You Look Good!"

I was thinking about this old joke, because I realized I have been using it to deal with the unexpected giddiness I've been experiencing when, upon meeting friends, family, and acquaintances, they have commented: "You look good!" Prior to my adventures with CML, the phrase just didn't pop up very often in the course of my life.

Mirrors were never particularly kind to me, but were never brutally unkind until my weight reached the 320+lbs. mark — and that shocking morning that my father was looking back at me — through the looking glass. The lowest point was after the third chemotherapy session, while I was in Rochester, MN for evaluation and testing. Flesh was melting from my bones and my hair was coming out in clumps. The image in the glass was beginning to resemble the Cryptkeeper from Tales From the Crypt. I was molting...and looked revolting. I looked ill. I looked like a leukemia patient.

Months after my transplant, when folks started to comment that I looked good, I truly thought they were only being kind — trying to cheer me up. I often dissembled and deflected the compliments...using the ratty old Stages of Mankind joke. Now, I believe they were truly surprised that I looked so normal. Obviously, things have improved, although the loss of hair, moon face, and double chins which have accompanied my Prednisone treatments remain an unpleasant fact of life. My life hasn't been and will never be normal, but acknowledgement that I do not look ill is reassuring and life reaffirming for me. I may be wry and dry, and juggling the jokes, but I am pleased as punch you noticed.

Echoes of Joy

Old dolorous Mick truly died when I was diagnosed with leukemia. I grew up, grim as bad weather, with a serious soul and a tendency toward the melodramatic. However, the man who dwells in the CML crucible is no longer that person. My soul remains serious, but my heart rejoices with each and every sunrise. I danced close enough to the abyss that death whispered a tune in my good ear. I don't fear death, but I like living and I don't believe God is done with me yet. I love life, but I hide it well.

Please keep in mind that if I am cranky, it just might be the Prednisone pushing all the wrong buttons. If my face is set like flint, with a dour caste and tight lips, I may simply be trying devilishly hard not to cough in your face. If I seem distant and a bit sad, I probably am — because I cannot yet remember why I just walked into the room. If I am not talking, I may be listening — or I might be asleep or adrift on a daydream.

I have noticed lately that the affairs of the REAL world seem increasingly distant, softer, dimmer. It sometimes feels as though I am sitting beside myself, casually watching me be me, or roaming about while the rented house I inhabit merely rests and awaits my return. Sometimes I am awake when I dream, and sometimes I dream that I am awake. Talking to God has become easier, although staying awake long enough to finish my prayers can be a trial. I can be alone, without being lonely, and I enjoy simply inhabiting my own head, dusting off old memories and rejoicing that I can remember them. I am re-reading my library, as I seem to have forgotten so much about books I read years ago — that "everything old is new again."

Thank you for following along on my update. There is so incredibly much I want to say, to write, to sculpt and paint with words, before I drift away from this cracked shell — but it seems that, at least for awhile, I have forgotten how to say it. I am working on it, I truly am...

Thanks to all to continue to pray for us and send good thoughts our way.

Good night and God bless,