Well, somebody's magic wand worked.
My blood counts, specifically certain white blood cells, have been in the dumper for about two months now, preventing me from continuing with the Mayo study drug. In fact they were so low that I received special booster shots that came right from some underground secret bunker and were flown by special stealth aircraft right to my clinic where they were administered (painfully) for three days in a row. These things were guaranteed to put hair on your chest, increase your genital size (neither particularly attractive items if you are female), and scare the bejezus out of your bone marrow, thereby supercharging the production of the missing white blood cells.
Well guess what? Didn't work. In fact, the critical cells dropped in population. WTF? Am I an alien? I get these expensive secret shots and my skimpy neutrophils take a dive? What gives? I certainly have no clue.
As a result, my oncologist at the Mayo says she wants me to come down for another bone marrow biopsy. Her theory is that I am not making WBC's because my bone marrow is either A) totally infected with cancer, or B) dead. Neither of these scenarios sounded particularly appealing to me, so without telling her, I preferred to believe there was a series of options starting with C and running on for some time that would have all sorts of other possibilities described like, "subject proves to be a mutant with unpredictable healing powers" and going on along those lines.
So anyway, my son and I dutifully head south to the Mayo last week for said procedure. We leave early and arrive on time for the mandatory blood punch. No matter where you go for whatever procedure, they insist on stabbing you in the arm. This was no exception and I waited along with about 100 other cattle for my number to be called, my elbow punched, the obligatory test tube of blood to be drawn, and the "gauze" tourniquet to be applied that would make it impossible for me to bend my arm until its removal in some conspicuous public arena where it could be discarded in plain site of hundreds of people, thereby giving rise to suspicions of possible plague or TB threats.
From there we hustled up to our biopsy appointment where I made the mistake of congratulating myself on getting a 10AM appointment that meant we might be back home before the evening rush hour traffic hit and I could still make a little of this day. Big mistake. Oh, it was my fault entirely. By now I should know better. I was just feeling so good that I spoke honestly when a little bending of the truth could have saved so much more time.
It was at the check-in desk that I made my fatal error. When asked if I had eaten anything the red alarm bells should have gone off, but no - my serendipitous mood compelled my mouth to speak before my higher functions could kick in and I said, "Well, I had a piece of toast about 7 AM." "Anything on it?" she asked? "Just a little olive oil," I replied. "I'll be right back, please have a seat," she said.
It still had not sunk in that I had made a terrible blunder. I sauntered over to the seats where my son had already extracted my laptop from its case and was busy booting it up. I was thinking of all of the nice drugs I was going to be receiving in very short order when I heard my name called from the desk. Oh-oh, these things are never a good sign.
Upon returning to the desk, the nice nurse informed me that with sedated procedures (like what I was going to have), no food or drink could pass my lips for six hours prior to the procedure. Therefore, they would have to move my appointment back to 2 PM - was that OK?
Hmmm, lets see. We got up at the butt-crack of dawn and drove two hours so I could do this thing and get back home at a reasonable hour. Now, everything gets pushed back by four hours and my kid and I are like homeless people until then. Of course all of the other options were worse so I said OK and we left.
On any other occasion, I would have taken my boy to the place with the best burgers in town, but the no food/no drink kind of put the kibosh on that. In the end, we found a local newspaper, checked out the local movies, and went to see the new Batman flick at some suburban mall. Luckily, our new car has a nav system that lead us right to the place. All in all, it was a fine way to spend the time except for that it ran a little longer than expected and I arrived back at the Mayo about 45 minutes late.
I have to say that they were good sports about it all and still let me get holes drilled into my pelvis with juice and core samples taken. And they even let me have the sedation as promised so that I don't recall a bit of it, but awoke bright and chipper afterwards, and after promising that I would let my son drive home, they sprung me loose.
The drive home went fine. My son is proving to be a good driver, having only given me one heart attack moment when he slightly misjudged his closing speed on a stopped car in front of us.
However the next day started with a weird phone call. I was still reading the paper on the screen porch when the phone rang. It was the Mayo saying that my blood test results were a little unexpected and "could I please get another blood test today?" Unexpected in what way, I asked. Well, she replied, the cells in question seem to have made a rally outside the bounds of expected behavior. Well then, I said, you must have mixed me up with someone else, but sure, I'll get another test done up here today and have the results faxed down to you.
Hmmm, I thought. Very strange. Now a problem was laid in front of me. Do I go back to the local clinic that has been doing all of these tests, or should I find a new place?
I don't think I have written of this, but back when I first started this Mayo study and learned that I would have to have blood tests done on a frequent basis, I looked around for a clinic that was close to my house where I could have this done and that participated in my insurance plan.
Thanks to the marvels of the internet, I was able to go to my insurance providers website and search for clinics associated with that provider that were close to my zipcode. There were a number that showed up, but a phone call to the nearest gave me all I needed. They would do the blood draws, send them to a lab, and fax the results to the Mayo - no problem.
OK, I thought and scheduled my first appointment. But when I walked through the door of the clinic for the first time, I began to have misgivings. There were pictures of the Pope and the Virgin Mary all over the walls. There was Christian soft rock on the sound system. There were a lot of children and mothers around. I have to say that everyone was very nice in a Stepford wife kind of way. Nobody said or did anything that was unusual or out of the ordinary, but I was totally creeped out every time I went there.
You need to understand my frame of mind at this point. First, I was feeling pretty good physically. True, I was having night sweats, but they varied in intensity and lately they were on the light side. And, the low-grade fevers had disappeared as far as I could tell. During the day, I felt pretty damned good, which didn't quite jibe with the dead bone-marrow scenario. So, my conspiracy theory persona kicked in and asked theoretically whether the Uber-Catholic clinic might be "off" when it came time to reporting my blood test results.
Now, let's take a reality check here. First, I am not a conspiracy fanatic. I don't see plots behind every bush (except for the Wellstone plane crash). Second, I don't know how simple blood tests are done now, but when I was first studying these things, people did them while looking at slides under a microscope with a clicker-counter in one hand as they identified cells in their viewfinder. I suppose now it is all automated, but in the end, errors can be made.
The problem was that my counts were so low for so long (all done by the same clinic/lab) and then there is this miraculous leap in numbers seen first at the Mayo and repeated again by the new clinic that redid the blood test as asked - so where do I go with this? To a happy place I guess.
Whether there is a conspiracy or not, I now have the go ahead to restart the Mayo study drug. I hope that in doing so, I can lay off on the last of the night sweats. They are such a pain. We shall see.
In any event, I am in better shape now than a few weeks ago (according to the tests), so that is worth celebrating (on a minor scale at least). So, have a good weekend. I'll let you know more as it comes in to me.