After early-morning bloodwork and a CT scan, the word is in: no surprises in my chemistry, no new passengers on board. This means we slow my visits from twice a year to once a year, and my chances of recurrence have dropped again. Good news we all needed on a Monday after a long, hard weekend.
I hopped on to Reverb last week to see what the latest comparable offerings to my Steinberger were, and the first one that popped up was a twin to mine, and the only other red XP-2 I’ve ever seen, for sale in Austin, Texas. It looks like pricing has come down some since I listed my bass—the average seems to be hovering right above $2000. The shop selling this one is calling it “rare” and are hoping to get another $500 above average, but it’s also been for sale since last year.
My listing is down, as I only got one inquiry (a trade offer for a Rickenbacker 4003) in the year I’d listed it, and no serious offers. Perhaps I lower the price and relist in the spring. It’s sitting in the corner doing nothing and I’d love to see it move to a good home.
This afternoon, on a phone call, I moved some data into Flourish and built a story around the four main cancer data points: white and red blood cells, and lymphocytes. This is a much easier way to display (and update) the data as I get it.
The update from downtown Baltimore is thus: my white blood cell count is still below average, trending slightly downward since a post-surgery high point in August of 2020. Everything else in the bloodwork seems to be leveled off and within normal ranges, with the exception of lymphocytes and eosinophil, which are specialized white blood cells. We are told that my lymphocytes may never rise to pre-cancer levels as a result of chemotherapy, and I’d guess eosinophil is probably the same. The CT scan showed no new passengers, and my oncologist seems pretty positive about everything. So, that’s good! I’ll take it. If I make it to the five year checkup in October with a clean bill of health they say the chance of any new tumor drops dramatically; let’s hope my rare surprise doesn’t return.
I’ve been wearing my Vaer watch almost exclusively the last couple of months, but knowing I was going to start welding class regularly I figured I should switch to one of my utility watches. I wore my LL Bean watch, and during class I was wondering why time was moving so slowly—until I realized the minute hand was stuck and not advancing. This is not the first time this watch has been in the shop for repairs. I’ve been waiting on having the Ollech & Wajs diver tuned up, but now that I have two that need servicing, there’s more of a push to visit a repair shop. For now, my Timex will work just fine for shop use.
A couple of months ago, two writers from one of my favorite sites, Jalopnik, quit that site and started up a car blog of their own: the Autopian. David Tracy has always been a great read; his exploits with busted jeeps, insane wrenching projects and cross-country shitbox trips are the stuff of internet legend. His partner Jason Torchinsky was the weird beating soul of Jalopnik from its inception, writing about taillights, strange Chinese electric vehicles, and his Nissan Pao, as well as being the illustrator for many of its articles. They have assembled a crew of writers covering odd engineering history, daily car news, bizarre car-related videos, and other random stuff—basically a better version of Jalopnik with more personality and less corporate bullshit (as well as many fewer ads). I don’t see a subscription system set up yet, but when it comes (as it is for Defector) I will gladly send them money. More of this, please.
So, all things look pretty good on the cancer front. There are no new passengers in my abdomen via the CT scan. My bloodwork isn’t yet in the Normal range, but I also just got my flu shot on Tuesday and I’ve felt like I want to take a nap every minute of the day since then. All of the levels seem to be holding steady with no major drops, so I’ll take that as a win.
When they announced the COVID booster policy, such as it is, I made an appointment to get a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at my local pharmacy. Feeling pious about the whole thing, I went in and filled out the forms and waited in line, and then they looked at them and told me that I was a month early and that I’d have to come back in late October for the actual shot.
Tuesday night we took Finn to karate, where she is acting as a class helper by request of her sensei. It means she needs to be at the dojo an hour early, but I think the added responsibility is good for her, and we’re hoping she starts taking things more seriously. In the meantime, with two hours to kill, Jen and I hit the local thrift superstore, where I was able to find a nice Patagonia vest and a couple more of the Harry Potter movies on disc. We only need the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 to fill out our collection; a few years ago a friend’s daughter deep in a Potter phase borrowed our complete box set and we never saw it again.
Meanwhile, the dog was at home by herself. Jen was experimenting with leaving her by herself for short periods of time while I was gone, and for spans of an hour or two she seemed to do fine. We left her for a full three hours on Tuesday, half expecting to find a hole dug through the wall or a giant mountain of dogshit on the couch, but everything was normal when we walked back in the door. Progress? Possibly, but I’m not going to hold my breath until we get a couple of months under our belt.
I got bloodwork back this morning, and some things are looking up and other stuff is kind of meh. White blood cell counts are rising slowly, but not where they were 10 months ago. Lymphocytes spiked to almost where they were in 2017 before radiation and chemo—a good sign. However Neutrophils are back at their 2019 levels, and red blood cells and platelets dropped slightly. When I see my oncologist in October for the 4-year checkup, I’ll get some more information on what all this means.
Put this on the list of stuff I kind of already figured: Vaccines won’t protect millions of patients with weakened immune systems.
It’s unclear how many immunocompromised people don’t respond to coronavirus vaccines. But the list seems at least to include survivors of blood cancers, organ transplant recipients, and anyone who takes the widely used drug Rituxan, or the cancer drugs Gazyva or Imbruvica — all of which kill or block B cells, the immune cells that churn out antibodies…
I’m not parading around French-kissing strangers, but I’m obviously going to keep wearing a mask until I see that my white blood cell count is back up.
This morning I’m sipping some coffee on the 10th floor of the cancer building at Hopkins, waiting for an appointment with my oncologist. The building was being erected while I was going through chemo, and I think all of my subsequent checkups minus two have been in this building. The old cancer center was a retrofit of existing buildings, and so it was smaller and darker and had that mid-70’s vibe that can’t be fixed with a coat of paint and updated furniture. The new building is big and spacious, has windows everywhere, and it’s clear they thought carefully about the needs of modern cancer patients when they organized it.
For checkups I have to forego eating or drinking anything before the CT scan, so I walk in to the phlebotomist’s area already low on power. After giving blood I head upstairs to the CT floor, and they give me two bottles of iodine-spiked water to drink after asking me five times whether I’m allergic to contrast or not. The iodine has actually gotten better over the years—it used to be two liter-sized bottles of terrible-tasting limeade pisswater; it’s now down to a pair of 16-ounce bottles that barely taste like anything. They put a second IV in and take me back to the machine, where I lay down on a chute, pull my drawers down to my knees, and a primary scan is taken. Then the nurse pushes contrast into my veins through the IV, which feels like the hottest hot flash ever combined with an urgent need to pee my pants. They take the second scan, the nurse removes the IV, and they send me back outside.
I then head upstairs to the 10th floor, where the café used to be, and stake out a chair along the wall facing Baltimore. It’s pretty quiet up there so I can lower my mask and guzzle coffee and breakfast. Presently, the iodine and contrast want to get off the bus, so I head into a spacious bathroom stall to take care of business. This is usually a multi-step process, and so I am grateful for the 2-hour interval between CT and my checkup meeting.
While waiting, I charted out my bloodwork—the results were back within an hour and a half and posted to my online health portal; modern medicine is amazing sometimes—and it looks like things are generally trending downward across the board. My white blood cell count is back to where it was in July of last year, which is discouraging. Platelet count is up, Neutrophils are up, but absolute neutrophils are slightly down and lymphocytes mirror the white blood cell results. The radiologist did not find any new travelers, though, and my lungs look clean, so there’s that!
Meanwhile, I’ve got a bandage on my chest from the removal of a basal-cell carcinoma yesterday; from what the dermatologist told me, it was most likely kickstarted by the radiation I got and then stopped cold by the chemotherapy. Now that I’m getting (somewhat) healthier it decided to pick up where it left off, and I got it removed. Getting older is lots of fun.
Yesterday was my fall cancer checkup in Baltimore, so I drove in to Hopkins for a CT scan and consult with my oncologist. Everything looks OK on the scan, and my bloodwork is trending upwards—I’m still not in the normal range for white blood cells but I’m knocking at the door for the first time since 2018.
My stamina has reflected the low blood cell count; I’m still not at my pre-cancer ability to crank on house projects for two days straight, but I can go for about 4-5 hours solid before I have to stop, and it takes me most of a Monday to rest up before I feel back to full strength. This is all good news, though, and I’m going to continue to push myself in the belief that the work I’ve been doing is making me stronger.
I put a mask on and went in for some long-delayed bloodwork last week, as my March cancer check-up was done via teleconference. We got the results back and while they’re not dire, they’re a little discouraging. Most of my levels are either holding steady or slightly lower than they were in October—most importantly my white blood cell and lymphocyte counts.
I’m a little confused because I feel like I’ve been healthier in the last four months than I have been in years—we’re eating home-cooked meals, I’m walking the dog a mile and a half every day, and my stress levels are lower. I wonder what the difference is and why it’s not reflected in the labs.
I drove to the Howard County General Hospital yesterday for a CT scan and my regularly scheduled cancer checkup. I was, understandably, nervous about driving downtown to the main Hopkins campus, so I’d been in contact with my oncologist the previous week about where to meet. We shifted everything to our local hospital and scheduled a video chat for the consult. The CT went fine but neither of the labs had any record of my paperwork, so I couldn’t have any bloodwork done. However, the scans all came back negative for any new passengers, and the video conference went pretty well other than video issues on his end.