Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day +5...and some thoughts on positive thinking

First, the mundane: the APN was right on the money. White cells cratered today...count is at 0.2. I think that means there are 20 white cells left in my blood. Like the Jedi knights, hunted to extinction...like the last stragglers of Arthur's knights searching for the grail...like the sordid characters in Rick's bar in Casablanca...these last white cells are hanging out on some street corner with their last pack of smokes while the rest of my bloodstream lies in a shambles around them.

Anyhow...enough of that. All the other labs look good and things are heading in the right direction. Platelets are only 40...which means if I so much as look at something the wrong way I'll bleed out. So the next few days are important ones, and I'm going to lay low and hope I can stay away from any kind of infection. So far, so good.

Now...I have been reflecting a bit on the nature of my attitude in this struggle...and I did want to make an observation or two. I'm not making myself out to be a heroic figure or anything like that...and it's funny since in my past life I had a very cynical sense of humor (okay, okay, it comes out here as well) and was anything but a pollyanna. But I was struck my something about my approach that is probably worth commenting on for my own reflection if nothing else.

Somebody who also keeps a blog on cancer was kind enough to reach out to me a couple of days ago, and I looked at that person's blog. Now I am NOT passing judgment on this person in any way, nor am I taking ANYTHING away from their struggle, so please don't take this that way. But two of the last three entries focused on secondary cancer from treatments used in chemotherapy, and on the dangers of receiving blood. It's hard to say where "cautionary" ends and "alarmist" begins, but they seemed pretty dire.

I choose differently. Yes, there are risks to open-ended use of some chemo (in my induction, Etoposide and Cyclophosphomide are both associated with long-term acute myelogenous leukemia, as early blog readers will know from my research on them). However, these risks are small -- 2% in the population at large, and that includes much larger doses of these two drugs than I received. Yes, the world health organization has sounded alarms about getting too many blood transfusions...but the fact is blood is pretty essential to well-being and if you don't have any blood, you feel like you've got eight toes in the grave, believe me. Getting a transfusion when one's red counts are very low is a sensible thing.

What I'm trying to say is that my approach has been to ask questions, make sure my providers know what they are doing and that they have considered these issues, and then place my confidence in the protocol. Dwelling on everything that can go wrong is defeatist and works against the body's efforts to heal. I'm not going to don Tibetan robes and move into some ashram someplace, but I do believe that the mind and body are part of the same system and that having confidence in the treatment is essential to it working. Frankly, I think part of the reason I contracted cancer in the first place is that I was cavalier about my well-being. No more. I choose to live. I choose to beat cancer. I choose to have confidence in my protocol, and I choose not to dwell on every little thing that can go wrong. This is not the same thing as choosing ignorance. It is, instead, a categorical rejection of defeatism and a categorical rejection of the little demons of doubt that trip us up.

Okay. Enough philosophizing. I'll try to make sure tomorrow gets some good inbred jokes or something. :)

P.S. Forgot to mention, the stink on floor 7 is HORRIBLE. I only really started noticing it the last three days or so, but it's that smell of the preservative in the transplant bags...like rotten beef boullion...sickly sweet...ugh. I chew gum to manage through it. Yuck.