Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +825

Winding down from a special day. I was diagnosed with leukemia on May 26, 2010. Today I became a three-year survivor! Woohoo!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +802

A Pleasant Surprise

Internet surprises are rarely welcome and seldom a cause for rejoicing. Although I rarely open unsolicited e-mail from unfamiliar sources, one message caught my eye. Before opening it, I searched for the originating site and found it...a consulting firm. Intrigued, I opened the message and (for the first time in a while) smiled my "pleased as punch" smile.

A person (or, most likely, an algorithm) found a résumé I posted nearly ten years ago (about the time Michigan Tech involuntarily retired me), and a member of their staff wanted to interview me about a job opening in Appleton, WI. If that was not a good fit, they had another opening that seemed to fit my qualifications.

Cattle Call

Now, I am all but certain this was part of a cattle call, a résumé roundup to fulfill a quota for a client, but (expletive deleted!) it just felt good to be asked again! The job opening was for a Union benefits specialist, starting salary $50,000 per year. If one is going to dream, why not dream above the poverty level?

After I calmed down, and quit grinning at my reflection in an inactive computer monitor screen, I set about writing a worthy response to this unexpected boost to my flagging self-confidence. Here is the message I sent to the firm, with names removed, of course:
Dear (Name Withheld), 
Ah, you have given my poor old heart a satisfying and much appreciated lift. I am writing in response to your e-mail of May 2, 2013, requesting an interview regarding a job opening (or two!).  
In the nearly ten years since I posted that résumé, a dark torrent has passed beneath my bridge. I am 63 years young and 802 days out from the blood and marrow stem cell transplant that saved my life -- and altered it forever. On May 26, 2010 (at 9:00 AM, actually) I received a call telling me to report to the hospital. I was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia. Three times I knocked on death's door and three times I fought back before he could answer.  
I am now in full remission; subsisting on a small pension and Social Security disability benefits, taking 20 + medications each day, and learning to cope with only 27% remaining lung capacity. (Sometimes, the treatment can be more painful than the disease...) 
I have been feeling particularly useless of late -- not much for snow shoveling and all that -- and your kind message reminded me of the value of a mind, which despite the chains on the body, remains free and able to "slip the surly bonds of Earth." (With thanks to John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
If you wish to talk, please call. I am home most of the time, except when weather permits me to totter about in the wilds of Laurium, MI. It seems however, that I may not meet the physical qualifications for said employment. 
Pleased as punch, I remain, 
Elwin N. McKellar, Jr.

Other Good News

I received a call from my local oncologist/hematologist office with the results from yesterday's bloodletting. The numbers, although far from sterling, are well within limits for one well past his expiration date:

  • Hemoglobin: 12.6 (a bit anemic, but don't tell anyone)
  • White blood count: 5.0 -- in normal range
  • ANC: 2.8 -- in normal range
  • Platelets: 186,000 -- well within normal range
  • Total Bilirubin: 0.6 -- normal
  • Creatinen: 1.1 -- within normal limits
  • Magnesium: 2.0 -- normal as can be...

My walking has been curtailed by the sudden onset of winter's white and ice -- too slippery for old numb-foot to be tottering about on the snowy, slushy, frozen roads (no, we don't have sidewalks in Florida Location...).

Thanks to everyone who prays for us and sends us supportive thoughts. Thanks to God for granting me the gift of yet another day (even with the snow...).

God bless and good afternoon,


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +800

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right."
                                                                          -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

My Life Was a Lie...

Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that I missed a day as I counted forward from Day 0! Right around day 242, I skipped a day, moving day 243 a day ahead. Marian (and others...) were chiding me, insisting I was counting day zero (00) as day one (01); and I kept insisting that I did start the count correctly. Well, I was right...and I screwed up the count anyway. The only thing I can say in my own defense is that it was probably the drugs (Yeah, right...).

... Still, I Reached Day 800 Today -- Wednesday, May 1, 2013!

Spring finally comes to Laurium.
Yesterday was supposed to be day 800 after my blood and marrow stem cell transplant, but I stand corrected, and penitent -- celebrating today instead. A journey of 800 days has brought me to a world of less oxygen (wheeze, cough, gasp!) and more light. I still start each day with from 10 to 12 medications (Prednisone is 5 mg every other day, and Azithromycin on M, W, F).  The afternoon finds me taking 7 medications. There's a pill at 9:00 pm, and 5 more at bedtime. It's always an adventure to discover which side effects will dominate any particular part of my day.

I will go for blood tests on Thursday morning. It's only once a month now, because my CBC numbers have been so stable, at or near what should be normal for me. I still pray for a miracle to heal my lungs and let me breathe again. Oh, I know the science is against it -- what bronchiolitis obliterans and GVHD have taken away, no one shall return -- but, when did I ever blindly follow expert advice on anything?

  • When I was injured at 18 months old, they said I would never walk properly without prosthetics...but I did.
  • When I developed bronchial asthma at age 5, they said I would never be an athlete...but I was on the varsity swimming and tennis teams in high school, and junior varsity tennis at MTU.
  • When I tried out for the high school choir, they said my ears were made of tin and a bucket would not help. However, once I figured out the math for the scale and could arrange anchors (notes I could match) in a song, I was able to sing in choirs, chorales, operas, and stage musicals. 

Becoming Intrepid Again

Now I am learning (and training) to make the most of what I have left (about 27% lung capacity). I can dream, can't I?

At least, I now can see over the banks!
By the way, I walked a half-mile outside Monday, and I just finished another half-mile yesterday afternoon. (Ta Da!) Now that the ice is gone and the temperature is not so cold as to trigger cold air-induced asthma, I can meander a bit -- tottering from shadow to shadow to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible.

Soon, the critical danger of colds and flu should pass, and I can once again emerge from my winter cocoon to attend Mass and visit with friends. I look forward to the freedom. In a few days, it will be three months since I was last in a hospital. Yeah!

To all who continue to pray for us and send us positive thoughts and energy -- Thank You! I'm in uncharted territory here...I did not expect to live this long. I remain surprised and grateful each time I see the sun rise...or at least a bright spot in the overcast.


"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right."
                                                                                            -- Henry Ford