Friday, March 14, 2008

...And Now the Bad News

The results are in from yesterday's bone marrow biopsy, and while the blast count is still low, it's not low enough. My third stint in the joint starts Monday. This time around, however, I plan to bring my laptop (with its brand-new 56K modem) so I can keep connected, maintain my sites, and keep writing.

For those who are interested, the next three paragraphs contain the lowdown of events that led to the uncertainty of whether or not I was in remission. If you aren't interested in the medical stuff, you can skip ahead.

First of all, remission is not necessarily cure. Remission is just the reduction of a cancer to an acceptable level. The first phase of chemo (called the induction) is meant to reduce the amount of blast cells (lymphoblasts or myeloblasts, proto-cells that don't normally show up in healthy blood) to something like 5%. (Five percent of what, I don't know.) If that's successful, then we say I'm in remission and we move on to the next phase of chemo (consolidation), which wipes out most or all of the rest.

A certain amount of time after induction is finished and my body has had a chance to rebuild itself, I get a bone marrow biopsy to determine if I'm in remission or not. Last Monday (the 3rd), I had mine. The results were a little puzzling: the liquid bone marrow (also called the aspirate) and the solid marrow had two different levels of blast cells—one too high (though only a little), the other just fine. As a a result, the doctors were in disagreement as to whether I should be admitted. My hematologist preferred to err on the side of caution and admit me for chemo.

However, the day I went in to discuss the marrow results, I also had my usual blood test. It turned out that the resulting blood smear showed a low number of blast cells. Rather than possibly subject me to chemo unnecessarily, my hematologist decided that it would be best if I had another biopsy to be absolutely sure. That biopsy was yesterday, and this time it was clear: I needed to be readmitted.

So I was admitted today, and a bed was waiting for me. However, since I want to get some things in order before spending another four weeks in stir (sorting out bills, converting more Gatchaman episodes for the PSP, etc.) I've got a weekend pass. I'll actually be starting my chemo on Sunday evening.

What more to say? Third time should be the charm.

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