MD Anderson Week 2: Donating All of My Blood to Science

Results day.

I suddenly feel like a contestant on The Biggest Loser, except that I’m trying to shed Leukemic cells instead of pounds. If feeling ill is any indication of success, it’s easy to stand on the scale and assume that I’m the big winner for the week.

As expected, the past seven days has had its ups and downs. DCC-2036 hasn’t been as kind and forgiving as the other drugs. Nausea gives the chemo personality and the occasional headaches indicate that it likes to party. Discomfort is occasionally as unpleasant as it sounds. However, if this is the downside of a life free of uncertainty and chaos, I guess I can get used to it. In the meantime, maybe the Zofran will keep me from waking up every day and thinking I’m pregnant.

This is the second week of five that I’ll have to be at MD Anderson. I’m only going one day a week for now. I want to save the gift of hospitalization for the possible bone marrow transplant. After all, I need something to look forward to. I also need to give people time to begin gathering ideas for a possible surprise party…you know, to welcome me into my hospital room on day 1. Okay, I’m a little overzealous. I’ll stick with what I know.

Today was the long day of the trial. Before I could eat, I was fitted with a butterfly IV. Picture me in a tuxedo, standing in front of a three way mirror, managing my cuffs as a short Italian man with a white tape measure decides the best location to stick a needle inside of my arm. It was nothing like that. Instead, I walked into a room, they pulled the curtain closed, and I cried. Kidding, I didn’t cry, but all I really knew was that I would have to give blood at different intervals for the next four hours. That is not something I like getting up early for, but I’m thankful Katie is here to make this process as good as it can be.

The day went a little like this: Blood draw, EKG, blood draw (15 mins. later), blood draw (30 mins. after that), another blood draw (30 mins. after that), a blood draw (an hour later), and finally one last blood draw (two hours after that). All of the blood in my left arm soon packed their bags and split. As I write this, my left arm is literally half the size of my right arm. Think one full limb, one raisin attached to a shoulder. The purpose of all the testing is to see how much of the medicine is in my blood at each of the given intervals.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the EKG. All it does is measure my heartbeat and prints it out on a sheet, but as I was laying on the table, I heard, “Uh oh, well that’s not good.” I looked over to see the paper print out, but it didn’t have my heart rhythm on it. It was blank. I felt my body go cold as vivid images flashed before my eyes. “My body is floating towards the ceiling. Do you think I’m going to make it?” I asked. “I think so,” she laughed, “I just had to reattach a loose cable.”

The superficial results of the blood tests are great. We are starting to see my white blood cell count decrease and fall back into the normal range. Although this is great news, it’s important to understand that even my old medicine provided normal counts. The problem we needed to address is at the core, where cell production exists. It’s a great thing to kill immature, leukemic cells, but it’s another to prevent them from being produced in the first place. The hope is that the new Sheriff in town (DCC-2036) shapes up and ships out. Otherwise, we’ll have to start all over with something else.

After all of the testing, Katie and I went to a required class to prepare us for the bone marrow transplant. The more I find out about the process, the less scared I become. The less scared I become, the more likely I am to say screw the trial, let’s move forward with the transplant. Thinking about the long term affects of having chemo in my body, even if in pill form, is not something that’s very appealing. Especially when, at any given time, I could be drawn back to the dragon that I could have slayed when I was young, vibrant, and capable of enduring the harsh dosages of chemotherapy.

What do you think, Katie?
That’s about right.

4 Replies to “MD Anderson Week 2: Donating All of My Blood to Science”

  1. Leukemia sounds like the biological version of illegal aliens. Your body is all "get rid of those white blood cells that are taking our jobs". And they are all "dude, not my fault, my mom is illegal but i was born here".

    Maybe thats not how it works at all — but I did like the idea of a sheriff coming to town.

    I'm still excited for you — even if I have to take the good news with a grain of salt

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