Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +613

A black patch would've been cool...


OK, so I did say it plenty of times on Tuesday afternoon — at least, until about 4:00 PM, when the patch came off — by instructions from the doctor and the nurses. I was also instructed to rest for the afternoon and take it easy on Wednesday. Nobody had to remind me, as even cataract surgery appears to be an insult to the body, and mine did not like it much.

I snapped a blurry picture of my eye patch, but I could not tell it was blurry until today, because my vision was rather blurry — even in my good eye. Also, I tried to read some messages on screen and reply to a few, but staring at my monitor hurt my right eye and my vision was pretty bad for Tuesday afternoon and most of Wednesday — probably due to swelling from the surgery. This afternoon, my vision has improved dramatically, though my right eye vision is still a bit blurry. I am hoping it will continue to improve over the next few days. One lesson I learned in the last two years is that I heal much slower than when I was younger and before my CML/GvHD adventure.

Look Ma! Two eyes!

Colder World

My world has become a bit colder, whiter, bluer than before the surgery. One of the two cataracts removed from my right eye was an old fashioned yellow cataract and it added a warm, sepia-tone to my vision when using either just the right eye or both. The tint is gone, and colors are a bit crisper and colder than before.

With Marian's help, I take eye drops (an antibiotic/steroid combination and an NSAID drop) to help prevent infection, reduce swelling, and control pain. These may continue for up to three weeks. I'm just hoping my eyes will be good enough to drive when we have to make our next obligatory visit at Mayo Clinic on November 15. One would think that, with all the available communication technologies (video conferencing, teleconferencing, even Skype), capable physicians here could work with capable physicians there, and save not only the awful expense of moving our bodies 400 miles for tests and consultations that could be done here and via electronic communication, but could also remove the very real dangers of travel in our neck of the woods during the gales of November, the storms of December, and the deep freeze of January/February. However, these options are not offered — and how do you argue with the people who worked so hard to save your life?

My Mysterious Medical Status

Blood was drawn early this morning and tests were run at Portage Health. A nurse called me with the numbers, and they look pretty good. Considering I had surgery day before yesterday and have not done my "morning constitutional" for three days (it was raining too hard this morning), I was quite pleased with them. There is not much new to report, other than a few mysterious purple spots on my forearms, which seem to be responding to steroid creams. I still manage to get out of breath while washing dishes. I find this embarrassing, but have accepted it as part of my "new normal" — a normal that seems to change almost daily.


There's nothing special to me about the number 613, other than this is day 613 since my transplant. February 21, 2013 will mark my two year anniversary of the gift of life from my brother Kevin, but that day seems a long way ahead. Although some of my transplant contemporaries (and friends) have passed on in the last few months, it seems I have been touched by God and carried forward in His strong embrace. My emotional roller coaster ride — from sadness and fear to joy and gratitude — has been exciting, tiring, and a bit scary. Physical symptoms come and go so quickly, I hardly have time to notice before they depart, only to be replaced by a new cough, a new mark, or a new pain. One thing is certain: Life with GvHD is never boring.

Thanks to all who pray for us and send us your good thoughts and best wishes.

I will write more as my eyesight improves and I can spend more time staring at a computer monitor. Until then, God bless and good afternoon!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Mick McKellar Update — Day +595/596

The Eyes Have It

Some may have noticed that my updates and other writings have become sparse and sporadic. The vision in my right eye has degraded rapidly over the last few weeks — most noticeably in the last two weeks. A visit to my eye doctor confirmed my suspicions: It appears that I now have two cataracts in my right eye. The old, yellow, nuclear sclerotic cataract is still there...slowly growing and gently pushing my right-eyed world toward sepia-toned sunsets. However, there is a new player on board. A fast growing friend for Ol' Yeller called (I hearing isn't too good) a posterior subcapsular cataract — most likely a side-effect of my long and close association with steroid medication — probably Prednisone.

If all goes as planned, I am scheduled for cataract surgery on October 23, 2012. There will be some tests ascertain that I am up to the effort and that my already somewhat abused body will handle the additional insult. An eerily similar situation occurred in 2001, when what we called a "white cataract" appeared with the slow-growing and docile yellow cataract in my left eye. It grew very quickly and caused numerous and dangerous problems with my eyesight. The doctor I saw Friday is the same doctor who removed the cataracts from my left eye eleven years ago. The vision in my left eye is still 20/20 and there have been no discernible problems or complications following that surgery. I am holding onto hope and praying for another success.

But, Can He Drive?

That question haunts me now. Even if the surgery goes well, and no additional treatments are needed, it will likely be at least four weeks before I will have new glasses — hopefully for reading and close work. The zinger in the Zeitgeist is another trip to Rochester, currently scheduled for November 14-16, 2012. Nine-hour drives on some rather lonely roads in potentially hostile weather conditions rides rather low on my list of Tolerable To-Do's. There's always a chance, with a bit of luck and a wink of God's eye, that we will find some decent weather in mid-November, but "the gales of November" are real and those Alberta Clippers sail through all winter long.

I'm also hoping that, with proper paste-ups and mechanicals...and the old snow tires back on the front...our 10-year old Focus will once again handle what mother nature and Lake Superior deign to send our way. It is a long and tiring drive in good weather, with lots of daylight. When the days grow short and Heikki Lunta grows restive, the drive may become reminiscent of an episode of Ice Road Truckers.

One can feel detached from the rest of the world up here, but seldom do I feel as alone as when plowing through blowing and drifting snow in the dark on M-26/US-45/M-28, en route to Ironwood and beyond. For most of that trip, I can't get a single bar on my old Tracfone. At one time, being "out there and out of touch" was a rush, and I really enjoyed testing my driving abilities against winter's worst. Now, tottering about in the white wilderness on those wacky and wonderfully slick winter roads can seem a bit extreme without sufficient cause.

The Numbers Game

My blood test numbers are all stable and look very good. My lung function numbers seem to be at a plateau and do not vary. My blood glucose numbers remain at or below 100, with a rare venture up to 103. My blood pressure, higher since we switched from the medication that caused a persistent dry cough, still remains in a comfort zone.

Still Intrepid, After All...

With few exceptions, I still walk my walk -- .75 miles each morning and more, when possible. A couple of days ago,  however, I was afraid the kids at their bus stop would shove a carrot up my nose and call me Frosty -- so plastered with wet snow from a lake effect squall was I. The early morning walks will grow more interesting as they grow darker and more slippery.

It remains for me to discover how well (and how slowly) I can participate in snow removal. Last winter, I found snow scooping a reliable resource for constant and aerobic exercise. Of course, I am willing to wait a couple of months to do the research...

I started this as an update for day +595 and I am finishing it as an update for day +596. It took four sessions to complete because my eyes get so tired trying to focus on the screen.

Now I need to get some sleep. I have an EKG scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks to you all for your prayers and good thoughts.

God bless and good night,