Sayonara Marrowish

[notice]Because I am no longer going to blog at my Marrowish website, I just imported all of its articles, pages, and comments into this site. The following Marrowish article discusses my reasons behind the change.[/notice]

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now and now is as good as time as any: I am going to suspend blogging here at Marrowish and blog only at my other site BOJIKI.

I’m doing this for a couple of reasons:

The primary reason is that things have radically changed for me since starting Marrowish back in December 2009: now that the cancer is gone and I have this Lung GVHD/Bronchiolitis Obliteran thingy, things just don’t feel the same for me around here–I feel differently about my relationship with the Lung GVHD than I did with the leukemia for some reason, which maybe I’ll try to explore and write about later at my other site; also, I’ve changed a lot since starting this blog, both physically (I certainly don’t look much like that guy anymore in the banner photo) and mentally–I’m ready to move on.

Sayonara Marrowish

Another reason I’m doing this is because I’m lazy–I’m tired of managing two sites. I don’t intend on taking this site down, so everything written to date will stay up indefinitely, or at least until the evil Prednisone overlord who resides in my head forces me to take it down. And I will still write about Marrowish-type issues–I will just be doing it at BOJIKI instead (look for the “Marrowish” tag in the Tag Cloud or articles filed in the “Health” Category).

In addition to this site, I am also going to suspend tweeting at my Marrowish twitter account. If you want to follow my health updates, along with any of the other BS I tweet about, like updates about my books and other writings, as well as my musings about current events, you’ll need to follow me at twitter.com/kurtbrindley.

This place, and especially all of you who stopped by here to offer your support, prayers, and encouragement, really helped me cope with some crazy stuff this past year or so and I am very, very grateful for it.

I look forward to seeing you all over at BOJIKI.

OK. That’s it. Sayonara.

Stimulating News

Ever since mid-December 2010, I have been getting light headed whenever I stand or lean over. A couple of times I have come pretty close to passing out. The last checkup I had the doc took my blood pressure lying down and it was 135 over 70 something. He then had me stand up and took it again. It was 110 over 60 something. A pretty significant drop.

One of the many side effects of prednisone, the steroid I take to try to stop the deterioration of my lungs, is that it causes sodium retention. Because of this, the wife and I have really been cautious about my sodium intake, trying to keep it as low as possible. The doc thought that my low sodium intake was causing the light headedness so he recommended that I up my sodium intake a bit to see if that helps. I didn’t think it was the sodium and I let him know, but I said I would give it a try anyway since that meant I could eat more pickles.

After having a couple of days to reflect, the doc decided he wanted me to take a Cortisol Stimulation Test, or Stim Test as it’s referred to in the business. Basically, all the test consists of is drawing my blood, testing my cortisol levels, then injecting me with something that stimulates my adrenal glands, and then at the 30 minute and 60 minute periods after the stimulation, drawing my blood and testing the cortisone levels again. Because the adrenal glands were stimulated, the level of cortisone should be higher.

I just received an email from my doc that says: Your Cortisol stim test was normal response. There is sufficient amount of Cortisol, according to the test, to protect you against orthostatic hypotension [dizziness].

That’s good news. However, even after increasing my sodium intake, I still getting dizzy when standing. Any of you smart people out there have any ideas what may be causing this? My gut is telling me it’s just a reaction to the cocktail of medicines I take every day but if you have any other ideas, please let me know.

Wishful Thinking

There have been many o’ mornings throughout my life that I have laid in bed, fighting with the snooze button on the alarm clock, wishing that something would happen in my life that would make work go away forever.

We all know the old saw: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Well, I got my wish.

I just didn’t expect it to be answered in the form of a debilitating lung disease.

I was hoping more for…oh, I don’t…newfound riches…being elected king for life on a small tropical island…alien abduction…just about anything other than what I actually got.

But as the new saw goes: It is what it is.

So now what?

Before the lung disease, I was messing around with that leukemia thingy for the past year and it had kept me and my family plenty busy. I was back and forth to the hospital so much and feeling so crappy I didn’t have the time or effort to do much more than sit around, take my meds, and feel sorry for myself.

But just when I was starting to feel somewhat like what I used to feel like before all that leukemia thingy…just when I was beginning to ponder what it was going to be like returning to a normal life (normal meaning back to the daily morning battles with the alarm clock, the cursed commutes, and, of course, work)…just then…without any warning…BOOM…the doctor dropped the bomb on me.

Lung disease.

A lifetime with the constant feeling of slow suffocation.

A lifetime of high, daily doses of steroids.

A lifetime with the constant threat of diabetes and of osteoporosis.

A lifetime with a degraded immune system.

And, by the way, a lifetime of no more work.

I didn’t see that coming.

So much for my dream of helping to build a small company into a megarich, international conglomerated corporation and becoming rich enough to buy a professional sports franchise.

I guess I’ll just have to stash that dream away with my other unrealized dream of becoming an international rock star.

It all still hasn’t really sunk in yet.

I’m only forty-five years old. Regardless of my disease, I plan on hanging around for a very long time.

What the heck is a guy who has reluctantly been holding some form of drudgery…er, I mean, a job…since he first started delivering newspapers sometime around the time our nation celebrated its bicentennial birthday supposed to do with all of his newly “free” time?

What the heck am I supposed to do with myself for the next however many years I have left on this rock?

Well, I do have other yet unrealized dreams.

One of them is to write.

Not just bloggery writing like I am doing right now.

I mean to really write.

To write books.

And not just to write them.

To have them published.

And not just to publish them but to write them in a way that people want to read them.

I want to write in such a way that enables me to be able to proudly call myself a writer…An Author!…and not feel like a creepy, amateurish dork when I do.

So that’s what I’m doing.

I’m writing.

I’ve written.

I’ve written a novel called THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR.

I’ve written a collection of poetry called POEMS FROM THE RIVER.

They will be available via e-book and pdf on (fingers crossed) February 19, 2011.

You can read a synopsis and first chapter of the book at bojiki.com/book.

But you know what? I wrote most of the novel and the poetry collection before I had all this free time that I now have. I wrote them slowly, sporadically, painfully, over a fifteen-year or so period when I was a working class stiff.

Now that I can fully devote myself to writing I should be able to blissfully write for hour after hour every day, right?

I should be able to crank out a novel every six months, or so, right?

Well, maybe…but, I have quickly discovered that writing fulltime is hard.

I am finding it hard to be disciplined enough to write every day.

It’s hard to sit down with laptop in hand…er, I mean on lap…and to think of stuff that other people might want to read.

I am finding that writing is like…

work!

Back when I was writing while I was still working out in the real world, writing was more like a hobby. I didn’t have to do it. I did it because it was fun…or at least cathartic.

It was fun writing crappy poems and crappy short stories and a crappy novel because I didn’t have to worry about feeding my children from the proceeds of their sales. I could pretend I was a writer without actually having to make the commitment of calling myself a writer.

Sure it stung a bit every time I received a rejection slip from publishers, but who cared. I still had a day job.

But now I have no cover. I have found that writing full time is hard work and I have no fallback position.

Well, I’m on disability so I guess I could always fall back onto the position of doing nothing. Do nothing but sit around, collect my monthly payments, and…

wait…

for…

something…

to…

happen.

Zzzz…

Who the hell wants to do nothing for the rest of your life when you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recreate yourself into whatever you want to be (provided that whatever you want to be can mostly be accomplished within the confines of your home…and the internet)?

I have declared that I want to be a writer.

And I find that’s it’s hard work.

And now I feel a little exposed.

And a little vulnerable.

And a lot like a creepy, amateurish dork.

But I don’t wish for it to be any other way.

Because we all know to be careful of what we wish for, right?

Lung GVHD by Any Other Name

As I’ve tweeted in the past, I’ve contracted both acute and chronic Lung Graft Versus Host Disease as a result of my April 2010, Bone Marrow Transplant. For clarity’s sake, or perhaps to confuse things even more, I think it is important to be more specific in naming my lung disease. In my lab reports and in discussions with my doctors, in addition to Lung GVHD, it is referred to by several different names: Chronic Bronchiolitis; Constrictive Bronchiolitis; Focal Follicular Bronchitis/Bronchiolitis; but the name I will refer to it as is Bronchiolitis Obliterans, or BO. According to the doctors, it is the most correct name, and, most importantly to me, it’s the most fun to say.

Say it: Bronchiolitis Obliterans.

Wasn’t that fun?

I am not going to attempt to explain the disease in detail; however, what I will briefly say about it is that it a non-reversible, degenerative lung disease that compresses and scars the bronchioles which blocks, or obliterates, the airways. Unfortunately, there currently is no cure for the disease, but it can be treated with a high-dosage, anti-inflammatory steroid regiment.

I was also diagnosed with Acute Lung GVHD. Another name for this is Lymphocytic Bronchiolitis. Not quite as much fun to say as the other one is it? I have been on a steroid regiment since the end of October 2010, and the good news is I have positively responded to the treatment. My acute symptoms lessened as soon as I began taking the drugs. What a relief it was. Those who saw me prior to me starting the treatment can testify what a pitiful state I was in. In addition to the Lung GVHD, I also had skin, mouth, and lower GI GVHD. The steroids is taking care of them as well and now I have put on close to twenty pounds and I am getting stronger and stronger through stair climbing exercises and weight training.

Of course I still have the Chronic GVHD, or Bronchiolitis Obliterans, and always will; however, because I have responded so well to the acute conditions of the GVHD, the hope is that the steroid treatment will be able to at least stabilize my chronic condition and prevent or postpone for as long as possible, any further degradation.

Yesterday during a checkup with my GVHD doctor, I learned that I will probably be on the steroid treatment for the rest of my life. Not cool because the side effects are horrible; but, like I often have said about all the crap I put up with during the leukemia fight—it’s better than the alternative. I also learned that I will probably never again be able to return to work, or to a normal, vigorous lifestyle like I used to live. I don’t yet know what to say about this–I’m still processing the news.

I do know that exercise and a healthy diet is going to more critical to me now than ever before in my life. I need to continually strengthen and condition my heart and body so that it becomes as efficient and as effective as possible with limited and possibly lessening quantities of oxygen.

Bronchiolitis Obliterans.

At least it’s still fun to say.

After the Transplant

Thinking back, the amount and potency of the chemotherapy that I received during phase one and phase two of my treatment were a pittance compared to what I received for my bone marrow transplant. During the first two phases I thought to myself, ha, this chemo stuff ain’t living up to all the hype. Sure, I lost my hair but it started growing back not too long after the end of each phase. And I never got so sick to where I had to become intimate with the toilet. Not so during the two weeks of chemo treatment before and after the transplant. The doctors really laid it on me with a vengeance then. I got pretty darn sick, especially in the mornings. It’s almost three months later and I would even say that I may still be suffering somewhat from the effects of the chemo I received prior to and after the transplant. And it doesn’t help any that I’m still getting a small dose of it shot into my spine every two weeks.

While I don’t get sick to where I have to pay homage to the toilet anymore, I do get some bad heartburn for a couple of days after the spinal taps. I also still get light-headed when I stand up and, because of my low energy levels, I can only contribute minimally to chores around the house. My counts are steadily rising to normal but they are all not there yet. My platelets are still low which makes it very easy for my skin to cut and bruise and very hard for the injuries to heal. I’m still anemic. It seems that I have a symptom of Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) in my mouth: it is almost completely dry all the time, which makes it hard to eat and sleep, and there are tiny bumps all over my cheeks and gums, which feel gross. I have poor circulation and swelling in my legs, especially my left leg. This is probably because the blood clots that I had at the beginning of all this were in my left calf and have left the veins and arteries a little worse for wear. The toes on my left foot are numb. My vision frequently blurs. And, I’m still mostly hairless which is really starting to annoy me; although some peach fuzz is starting to sprout about the chin.

Considering how bad I felt immediately after the transplant, all that I described above is almost irrelevant. I actually feel pretty darn good and I am very thankful for how well I am progressing and all of the support I am receiving. My days are always light and relaxing. I mostly divide my time between reading (my reading list is found at the bottom of this blog), cruising the Internet, taking naps, sitting by the pool, and watching the boob tube. I try to take long walks every other day or so. Fortunately I live out in the country so when I walk I get to experience the beauty of nature. I get to see wildflowers and woods and ponds and creeks and cows and horses and sheep and goats and all kinds of birds (if I’m lucky I’ll get to see majestic cranes either walking the creeks or flying above the tree line) and friendly folks along the way. My dog Shikibu, the best and cutest dog in the world, often joins me on my walks and she always makes them even more interesting and enjoyable. But probably the best part of my day is when, after the sun begins to set and the temperature cools down, my wife and I hop in the hot tub and spend quality time soaking, reflecting on our good fortune, and planning for our long future together.

The Registry Works!

My wife ran into my doctor this morning while walking about the hospital. After exchanging pleasantries and having a discussion about setting up an appointment for me to meet the new head doctor of oncology, my wife asked my doctor what he thought about the possibilities of the match for my bone marrow transplant.

The doctor said the match is good news, of course, and then he went on to explain that out of the initial eight that were targeted from the registry for additional screening, there were actually two exact matches: the one MUD (Matched Unrelated Donor) that has us all excited, and one other. Unfortunately though, the one other match cannot be used. It cannot be used because the match is me.

The National Bone Marrow Registry and screening process really works. I do not remember when I registered but after all of these years it was still able to find me as a match for myself. Finding out I was a match for myself makes me both happy and a little sad. It makes me happy to know that the system works. No matter how long someone sits around in the system waiting, if their type is a match, they will be found. But it makes me sad in the sense that after all these years I was never found as a match for someone in need. And now, even if I come up as a match, I never can be of help, not even to myself.

Visit www.marrow.org for more information about the Bone Marrow Donor program.