It's hard to believe 3 months have passed since I underwent chemotherapy. I had my last blood tests on July 22nd, and the results were mixed. T he good news is that about 99% of the malignant cells in my peripheral blood have been knocked down, and blood count-wise things are not getting worse (although I do have some questions about my T-cell ratios).
Each month the rate of reduction in the malignant cells has decreased by half. The first month 98% of the remaining hairy cells were destroyed, the second month 50% of the remaining hairy cells were destroyed, and the third month 25% of the remaining hairy cells were destroyed. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that this month 12.5% of the remaining hairy cells (of which there are very few) will be destroyed.
The bad news is that my blood counts aren't really that much better than last month. My white cell count is still about one-third of normal. Still, I've got 3 more months to improve, so I keep reminding myself I'm only halfway there. My liver function tests (AST and ALT levels) came back very high. I'm assuming this is because of the Clonazepam I've been taking to help me sleep, so I stopped taking it for the past week. I'll stay off it until I have my primary care doc do a liver function test next week.
I've lost about 16 pounds since chemotherapy. I simply can't eat enough while I'm at work to keep up with what my body needs. On the bright side, I'm back to working full days on some very interesting NASA science and technology satellites -- NuSTAR (to research the super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy) and GLORY (to research Earth's aerosols, clouds and irradiance).
I'm really not too concerned about the low neutrophil count anymore. It seems to be slowly increasing, and from all accounts, I'm more susceptible to infections from germs already in my body than external pathogens. Christi, Claire and I went with our friends to the water park last week and had a great time splashing, sliding and playing in the water. I made sure to slather myself in sunblock spray to maintain my lovely pasty-white complexion. It's my sworn duty as leader of the Pasty Boyz.
The following charts show my blood count progress up to the last blood test:
Typically at 3 months, the WBC count is close enough to normal to warrant only testing the peripheral blood 3 months from now, but in my case, I need to go back in 3 more weeks (1 month since the last one).
On a good note, I can workout on my elliptical and exercise bike much more easily than I used to. About two weeks ago, I rode 20 miles on my exercise bike on interval training at about 75% of the bike's full resistance. I'm very anxious the get back to the Grand Canyon and see what I can do once my RBC recovers to a normal level.
Last June, I hiked an hour into the Canyon and it took me about two hours to hike back out. I had to stop and rest about every 200 feet to catch my breath and keep going up. At that point, I was already probably below normal on platelets, and I'm sure my red count was suffering too. Thank God my friends were there to share their water with me and keep me going.
It was exhilarating to make it out on my own two feet -- knowing that my friends were there to pull me through; but I was left wondering "How come it was so much harder for me than everyone else?" Certainly, sitting for 12 hours a day at work didn't help, but I kept wondering if something else was wrong. I wasn't really dehydrated, my legs just got tired really easily. Two days later, 4 people died when a medivac rescuing a hiker from the Canyon was trying to land and collided with another copter taking off from the Flagstaff Hospital. Without the right friends, that could have been me.