Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blood & Guts

Quite the title to this post, huh? Right now, I feel like that's all I think & talk blood and guts (I don't think I'll ever get used to doctors saying "gut" instead of stomach - weird). If you ask how I'm doing, I'll say "okay" and not much else, because, honestly, I'm getting tired of talking "medical" - and I'm sure you're all tired of hearing about it. And beware...this post is FULL of medical jargon and my next uphill climb, so if you're tired of reading about it too, stop now. Go have a cup of hot chocolate and curl up in your favorite fleece blanket and read a Christmas book. I wish I could join you. I thought I was getting a reprieve from all the cancer worries until the next scans in February, but it was not to be. Shoot.

Yesterday, I went to my first appointment with the hematologist, Dr. Shami. There are very few clinics at Huntsman where I haven't had to walk through the doors, but Clinic 2C was one of them. It's on the way to Dr. G's clinic, and Lindsey & I have often wondered why it's so busy and different from the other clinics - this one has a waiting room outside a glassed-in reception area, where the others are all open to their waiting rooms. Even the name of the clinic was mysterious: BMT/Multiple Myeloma. I soon learned all I didn't really want to know.

Regular lab work was done, multiple pages of new patient forms were filled out, a detailed visit & exam was performed by Dr. Shami's assistant, Aimee, and then I waited for the doctor. I had the good sense to bring my library book and got in several chapters before they both came back in the room. Dr. Shami was a very nice Indian(?) doctor who sat on the edge of the exam table as he talked to me about my low blood counts. I loved when he said he had already talked personally to Dr. Grossmann about me, so he felt he knew my story pretty well. We talked about my notorious Whipple surgery and how my health had been affected since then. Then he got down to the "blood & guts" of the matter. He said he felt there were probably three reasons for the low counts. One was MDS or Myelodysplastic Syndrome (you can look it up - I did - but take a deep breath first & don't automatically assume I have it). I was actually shocked and discouraged that one of the causes of MDS is radiation treatments - gee, thanks for giving me something else to kill me. A step further from MDS was AML or Acute Myeloid Leukemia (again, look it up if you really want to know, but I'll just tell you that it's not fun reading matter). The third reason was Hyposplenism, which is defined as "absent or reduced splenic function, usually due to surgical removal (spleen)", which would be part of the Whipple. As you can tell, the third reason would be the best, as far as further prognosis and treatment. So, what's next? Again, there were more options that included waiting to see if the counts would go up - not really an option, since they've continued to drop for the last six to eight lab tests. Dr. Shami's recommendation is that I have another bone marrow biopsy (remember the one I had in Feb?) that would be tested much more extensively to look at chromosomes and markers and blasts to see if it's performing the way it should and if it contains any cancer cells. Gulp. And I thought melanoma was the only beast I had to slay!

The biopsy is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 9. Dr. Shami said he would call me with the results, but that they may take up to a week to be fully analyzed. He said at that point, if the results required his expertise as a hematologist, I would come back in & receive the next plan(s) of action. If the results were within Dr. G's expertise, I would go back to him for further treatment, etc. Dr. Shami's actions could include transfusions, chemo, and stem cell work. I was kind of in shock at this point in the discussion, so more details will have to follow. What I do know is that I now have to worry about one more thing.

About Clinic 2C, BMT stands for Bone Marrow Therapy (or Treatment) and Multiple Myeloma is "cancer that starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow". The reason for the glassed-in reception area separate from the waiting room? Germs. Problems in the bone marrow account for serious infections, so many of the patients have to wear masks. Dr. Shami suggested, "If you go to church, sit quietly in the back...and don't let anyone cough on you!" When I laughed a little, he didn't. There you go.

BUT, I remain completely confident that The Lord will bless me and answer all the prayers being offered for me by small & great. I've waffled back & forth with "what if", but what always remains is the positive spirit of faith in God. He has performed so many miracles for me, and though I'm sure my allotment is exhausted by now, yet He continues. He has suffered all for me. He knows how I feel. He even knows this feeling of keeping my worries contained in these posts instead of speaking them aloud & seeing someone's face register alarm & fear. I'm okay. Really. It's Christmas time & I'm cozy and warm and bathed in the lights on my tree. Just keep praying for my blood & guts. Besides, how could you not smile at this cherubic face? (Jax at 5 months)