March 1, 2017

Today was a major turning point, in a good way.

First, let’s cover the not-so-good parts: I still have neutropenia. The numbers inched up yet again since yesterday. My Absolute Neutrophil Count went from 200 to 300.

Little good news: when it passes 500 I will no longer be neutropenic; at my current rate I should be there within a few days.

Also not-so-good but fairly minor for now: for the first time since my discharge, my body temperature measured above 99º F today. 99.3 to be exact. That’s not high enough to warrant any action, but was kind of a bummer to see. I need to monitor it regularly at home, and call the clinic if it goes above 100.

Further good news: I asked my doc what restrictions he recommended I follow for my neutropenia in the meantime, and he said simply: avoid crowds and sick people, and make sure everyone in the house washes their hands thoroughly and often. No need to hole up in my bedroom. No need to wear a mask everywhere else. No need for healthy visitors wear masks. Woo-hoo!

Even more good news: our cat Schmutzig saw the vet this morning and was diagnosed with a bladder infection. I call this good news because it explains all of her observed symptoms and is highly treatable. She’s on antibiotics for the infection and on pain meds because her lower belly is very sore and sensitive right now. All should be well with her in a matter of days. Meow.

She also enjoyed the car ride immensely. For real. Schmu is a very special cat.

Today’s crazy-fantastic, turning-point news: my biopsy results came back about as good as they could have been. The treatment target was for blasts and promyelocytes to be less than 5% of all blood cells. Mine were 1%. Have I mentioned lately how fortunate I feel?

This does not mean I have achieved full remission yet. It does mean that, beginning today, I am stopping all cancer treatments (arsenic trioxide and ATRA) until all of my blood counts return to normal. No more daily infusions for a while. No more spending most of every morning in the hospital. In fact, tomorrow will be the first day since January 22 that I don’t have to go to the hospital at all. Wow.

This also means that, as my body flushes out the toxins and medications, I should see my various side-effects fade: rashes; chapped lips; dry and itchy eyes; blurred vision; fatigue; inner-ear pressure; slightly-swollen face. All of this will make it easier for me to begin reconditioning my muscles to again enable me to run, jump, climb and play again.

To keep some perspective on this, I am not yet cured, nor completely out of the woods yet. I’ll be visiting my doctor and getting blood work weekly to see when all my blood counts reach their normal levels. My doc expects this to take 2-3 weeks. Once they do that I get another bone marrow biopsy, and we expect that to also be completely normal—to find no cancer at all. If that all happens, that’s when I will be in full remission.

The next step after remission is to begin what’s called the Consolidation phase of treatment. I will go back onto the arsenic trioxide and ATRA, but only five days a week instead of seven and only for two weeks straight. Two weeks on, then two weeks off, then two weeks on, then two weeks off—for a total of six cycles, or 24 weeks. If all goes well and I get to the end of that, my treatments are essentially complete. I will be checked twice yearly for signs of relapse.

Things still have plenty of ways to go wrong in all of that, but my progress so far gives reason for cautious optimism. Today has been a huge relief for Tricia in particular.

And that, as they say, causes me to smile. Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.

Good night.

-Markus

This post originally published on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markus.silpala/posts/10212348911384615

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