Sunday, May 15, 2011
I had to apologize to the staff and doctors last
Thursday and Friday, who performed the kyphoplasty on 3 of my 7 collapsed vertebra, have monitored my progress with my physical therapy, performed many x-rays, etc. I had talked about them, but not put their pictures on the blog. Here they are in all their glory. I will let you guess which one of them was pleased with the proposition, and which 2 weren't. This lovely and kind lady is Marilyn. She runs the office, schedules surgeries, schedules his many professional presentations he is asked to make around the country, schedules x-rays, C-spans and MRIs, is the greeter and works just for Dr. Shane Burch, my orthopedic surgeon. She also coordinates my appointments with Dr. Wolf's office, so that I can do everything that each of them want, without ruining the schedule of the other. Wonderful wonder woman. She is just a joy to deal with. When was the last time your doctor's office asked, "When would it be convenient for you, and what other doctors are you seeing so that I can make sure it all works." She used to work with Dr. Wolf's office. Less stress here.
This cute young doctor, yes she is a full fledged Dr, is Samantha Piper. She is Dr. Burch's minion and wants to be a nationally recognized leader in cutting edge (a little play on words there in case you missed it) spinal surgery like he is. She spent a few minutes with me getting all of the latest info. on my condition, reviewing the survey of information that they have me put into the computer each visit, and doing some physical tests. She is a little less peeved than Marilyn about having her picture taken, and a little better of a sport about it. She has eyes and uses them during surgery
This dashingly handsome man is none other than THE Dr. Shane Burch, MD, and a lot of other letters after that. Today he was in particularly good form. He had a recent haircut, had shaved (1st time I had seen him without his 2-3 day growth), and had on a pink shirt with a small pattern and a pink and purple checked tie. He looked like a GC model and has a great bedside manner to boot. He is an avid outdoorsman and he hopes to get me backpacking again. We talked backpacking. He was surprised at all the places I'd been. He lives in Marin, about 35 miles from the hospital over the Golden Gate bridge. Marilyn told me that when the weather is willing (not raining), he rides his bicycle to and from work. Even when he has 7am surgeries. He smiles a lot, yet has no bugs in his teeth that I could see.
His report to me was: 1) He was very pleased with the progress that physical therapy has made. I didn't have to get a bone density scan because you could see in the comparison X-rays of when I had my surgery on November 20, 2009 and now, that my vertebra are much stronger and denser. He also showed me and was very pleased that my spine is much straighter than it was when I started the physical therapy. He also gave me a referral to receive injections in the area of my T-9 through L-2 vertebra, to verify his belief that it is the facets on the back of my vertebra that are rubbing and causing my spinal pain. If the injections bring some relief, then we know. Then, he will authorize me getting radio frequency oblation treatments on the nerves in those areas. Basically, they obliterate the nerves and kill them, which in turn kills the pain. I will still have the back problems from the collapsed vertebra, but, I won't have the pain associated with it. THEN, I should be able to return to some short term (3-4 day) backpack trips and other physical activities. Not, however, full contact b-ball or mud football at Thanksgiving. I'll take what he can give me. Like Danny Glover used to say, "I'm getting too old for this stuff", anyway.
I want you all to know that this is the first successful one-armed picture I have taken with the camera. I made this picture large for 2 reasons. First, I wanted you to get the true size comparison of the Vietnamese beauty in the middle. She wears 3" platform shoes so she can get to 5'! This is Thuy (pronounced T-wee, said quickly). She is, or was, Dr. Wolf's nurse practitioner. Friday was her last day. She is leaving us to follow her boyfriend who is in Boston. They've been separated for a year. I've been telling her that until he makes a bona fide marriage proposal, don't do it. Of course that was for purely selfish reasons. She is wonderful. We will miss her. Thank you Thuy for all of your kindness and care. We wish you the best in Boston.
The other reason was to show you what an iron man Dr. Wolf is. Does he look to you like he just got back at midnight from a 5 day world-wide symposium in Paris on multiple myeloma, of which he was one of the keynote speakers. No jet lag for him. He hasn't hired a replacement for Thuy yet because he's hoping she'll get to Boston and either break up with her boyfriend or hate the Boston summers and return. I'll keep you posted. I have an inquiring mind. I want to know.
To get you caught up in my saga,as I have been remiss in being a faithful blogger: I have had 3 lab reports over the last 2 months which had indicated a possible return of my cancer. My local oncologist and Dr. Wolf weren't too worried, and I just didn't feel like it was back either. But after the 3rd report came back with the same result, they ordered a bone marrow biopsy just to be sure. So last Monday Dr. Malone did it. It really doesn't hurt too much. The worst part is after he has pushed the needle through the hip bone and begins to such the bone marrow into the needle. That was uncomfortable. He did notice that getting through the bone was much harder than than when he did it for the 100 day bone marrow biopsy after the stem cell transplant, which he did in the beginning of June of '10. That was a good sign. Then he gets a core sample. That one is about 1/8th of an inch across and goes through the bone, through the marrow, and through the other side of the bone about 1/2 inch or so, so that the marrow is intact between the 2 layers of bone. That one didn't hurt as much initially, but has been more painful as I sat, drove to SF for my appointment, walked, etc. The good news is...I am still cancer free. Now they just want to figure out why the misleading readings. Probably the liver or kidneys. We'll work on that next. Also, he shared that some countries around the world that do not have as involved a pre-distribution screening (FDA) process have been using the Revlamid maintenance chemo treatments for nearly 3 years, instead of only 2 years in the US. They reported that a significant number of patients (no percentage shared) that stayed on the Revlamid for 2 years or more have ended up getting other forms of cancer, particularly liver and kidney cancer. Therefore, he will stop my daily Revlamid treatments after 18 months. May 28th will be 1 year of it. He may stop me sooner, if he gets more info. that concerns him. However, he said that he still feels that if not for the Revlamid, my cancer would have returned by now. And that would be bad.
So the only other thing to report is that I did get pneumonia for the 3rd time since the first of the year. On antibiotics. They're working. Still coughing up stuff, but feeling much better.
Here's something that just blew me away. At the end of this month, it will be 21 months from the time I was first diagnosed with the IgM multiple myeloma, and 14 months since my stem cell transplant. This past weekend, 1 year ago, was the first time that I was able to go outside for something other than a doctor's appointment. Darrell and Candice took me to the annual 'Wings and Wheels' show at our local Warbirds Museum. They have a fantastic display of military equipment, vehicles and planes dating back to WWI and going to the present. They also had about 400 classic cars, boats and other types of vehicles on display. The honored guest was none other than Parnelli Jones. I lasted about 30 minutes. I wore my depends (TMI?) and collapsed on the couch at home with a big smile on my face. At times it all seems like it was an eternity ago. Other times, like yesterday. What I will never forget, or ever stop thinking about, is how much all of you helped me through it with your prayers and love. Our High Council speaker today spoke of how praying with a unity of purpose can bring great blessings and miracles. I wanted to stand up and say, "Bro. Bitter, you're preaching to the choir. I'm here because of their prayers on my behalf". Thank you all. I thank my Heavenly Father for you every day, and ask Him to bless you as you blessed me. I love you all for what you've given me. My life back.