Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1346

M58 in Minnesota
An Unplanned Experiment

It seemed our trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN was proceeding without mishap or misadventure. The weather, though rainy and chilly as we left the Copper Country, cleared up as we crossed the border into Wisconsin at Ironwood. Fortified (stuffed, actually) from breakfast at Mike's Family Restaurant in Ironwood, and happy to be past the mess of road construction on U.S. 2 in town, we cruised on through WI with fair weather and 40+ MPG from the Focus.The DQ in Cumberland, WI had not yet closed for the winter, so we stopped for a rest and a well-deserved treat (the last sugar I would consume that day, for I had blood tests the next morning).

We crossed both branches of the Mississippi River at Red Wing, MN — not yet mighty, this far north, and turned left on M 58. About halfway to our junction with US 52, we stopped to take a photo of a most interesting cloud formation, and to double check the status of our baggage in the trunk. Imagine my shock and dismay: The case with all of my medications was not there!

Marian heard me howling and uttering unintelligible sounds while frantically drumming a Malaprop mayday on the largely decorative rear spoiler of the Focus. Naturally, she was concerned for my health, thinking perhaps I had been overrun by a herd of belligerent baboons or savagely displeased Sasquatches. When I calmed down enough to remember how to open a car door, I informed her of our sin of omission.

We decided that returning over 350 miles to retrieve the medications was a non-starter, and proceeded on to Rochester, in a substantially more subdued mood. After all, my afternoon meds were not a concern, because I carry my next one or two doses in an old contact lens case in my pocket.

In later discussions with my doctor and the BMT staff, we decided to forgo all meds until I returned home. Ultimately, I suffered few ill effects -- mostly from rapid dosing when I returned to my Copper Country home.

Testing, Testing, 1 - 2 - 3…

Wednesday, October 15, was a busy day. First stop (as always) were the fasting blood draws (nothing to eat after 6:00 PM the night before, and no water after midnight). My veins usually run away and hide, but the experienced phlebotomist at the lab speared one on the run and obtained my samples. From here, we went to the ninth floor to meet with a pharmacy rep about my medications. Usually I show him what’s in the box. This time I relied on my memory -- this was not fun for either of us.

Next was a bone marrow biopsy with sedation. This also required spearing a larger wild vein for an IV. I was invited to sit in a narrow recliner with wheels. The nurses placed an IV, hooked me to monitors, and strapped on an automated sphygmomanometer (a torture device that squeezes your arm until your fingers nearly explode). I knew something was up when they adjusted my seat belt.

Seat belt?

An hour and about a thousand questions later, they unhooked some of the machines, and pushed my recliner (transformed into a high tech wheelchair) down the hall to an operating room.  Upon arrival, my Transformer, excuse me, my recliner, changed again -- into a rather narrow operating table/gurney. I was hoping it would fold up once more to become a BMW or a Porsche, but no.

I dropped my drawers, someone pushed an innocent looking white liquid into my IV, and the next thing I knew, I was back in my recliner in the cubicle where I started -- with a bandage on my lower back.

Next stop was with my old friends on the 18th floor of the Gonda Building, for a pulmonary function study. Sitting in the booth and doing the stair climber was not fun with a bandage on my back, but we got through it. The rest of the day was for consultations/exams with my doctor and my transplant coordinator.

The Results Show

Blood test results showed that all but a couple of test parameters were within NORMAL limits. Wow! Technically, I wasn’t even anemic anymore. This was great news. My doctor even reduced my anti-rejection medication again. My pulmonary function study was down slightly, back where it was before my last one (in May). Because I really had not lost any ground to the disease, this was good news. Biopsy results and the Chimerism test would have to wait -- unlike the science fiction machines on CSI, DNA testing and genetic tests take time to process and be analyzed.

The trip home was uneventful. In fact, we never saw a single deer (other than road kill) on the entire trip.

October 25th

My doctor called me on a Saturday! Hesitantly, I asked what was up. He wanted to let me know that my bone marrow was clear -- no sign at all of the fusion protein that indicates my leukemia is active! This means full remission remains in effect! Also, my Chimerism test showed that my blood remains 100% donor. My blood pressure is still a little high, but we’re working on that.

Unless I do something stupid (like eating clam chowder again), I don’t go back until next May. 2015 sounds super to me -- February 2015 will be four years since my transplant.

I am still amazed and grateful when my eyes open each morning, and I go to sleep thankful and hopeful for the gift of another day. I take nothing for granted and try not to waste a moment of this extra time I’ve been granted.

Thanks to you all for your prayers and good thoughts. My road ahead remains bumpy and full of potholes, but then again so does Atlantic St. I just slow down for the bumps and try to get around the potholes.

Good day and God bless,


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1326

We are preparing for another trip to Rochester, MN, so the Mayo Clinic can ascertain why I am still alive. Although I do not look forward to long road trips anymore, I hope we will have some decent weather for our travels. I’m once again up for a bone marrow biopsy and the ubiquitous pulmonary function study, as well as multiple blood tests. Mostly, they are tracking my remission and checking medication levels. They search for a type of fusion protein whose presence indicates active CML, but whose absence indicates that their tests are not sensitive enough to definitively state it is not there. They will also do a chimera test, which so far has indicated my blood remains 100% donor DNA, and we hope it stays that way.

All my medications and the chemotherapies I endured have left my memory like a fine Swiss cheese -- aging very well, but there are some holes. I continue to write, poetry mostly, with increased use of a thesaurus and dictionary. Often, I know there is a word I want to use, but I just cannot put my mental finger on it. Frustrating.

Recently, I found I can no longer remember all the poems I wrote. In fact, I cannot directly quote from most all of them. So, I began cataloging all the recorded poems I could find in my records, at least since I started putting them into digital files, in or around 1999.

This afternoon, I brought my catalog up to date in a searchable, cross-referenced file. My ancient paper records are still in the attic, awaiting some long winter afternoons. The poems I wrote and gave to my mother prior to her death in 1990 appear to be gone forever. They disappeared upon her death and I did not keep copies of those hand-scrawled poems. Those poems were carefully crafted correspondence in meter and rhyme, and one simply did not keep carbon copies of personal letters.

The official count from the last 15 years is 876 poems, including a few Haiku and more than a few limericks. I was pleased to discover that over that same 15-year period, I duplicated titles only twice. Now, I can run a title search and prevent duplication.

The Minstrel cycle is well underway, with many more stories haunting the edges of my waking dream, begging to be completed and shared. Lately, they clamor so incessantly, they wake me in the middle of the night. I must rise and write them down -- fearing that else, they will be lost forever. I wish I didn’t love it so much...I would get more sleep.

Having been granted many more days than I thought possible, I search for a reason. I pray constantly that it is to help someone or entertain/inspire someone who is lonely, lost, or losing it. I would be seriously disappointed if I was spared only to be an object lesson to others.

Thanks to all who still pray for us and send good thoughts our way. Though we are often running just ahead of the wolf to get to our door, life is good. It’s increasingly complicated, but good.

God bless,