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Archive for April, 1998

What a relief.  My blood counts are rising and the bone marrow biopsy shows
that my bone marrow is working.  Dr. Hesdorffer thinks I won’t need any more
transfusions, though I may continue to be anemic for a while.

Ever since the radiation ended at the end of February, my bone marrow had been
“hibernating.”  I’d get transfusions of red blood cells and platelets, and the
blood counts would go up for a while and then start plummeting again.  When
counts were down, I was vulnerable to infection, bleeding, bruises, and I
could get very tired.  The transfusions improved the red counts and platelets,
but were time-consuming and had risks of their own – and the pre-medications
of cortisone left me sleepless and “wired up” for a few days.

We finally arranged for a bone marrow biopsy for April 8 to make sure there
was no cancer in the bone marrow, and to see what else we could learn.  It
took a week for us to get the results.  In the meantime, by Monday, April 13,
for the first time in six weeks the white blood count and the platelets had
gone up on their own (without new transfusions), and the hematocrit and
hemoglobin had gone down just a little – they almost stayed stable. That was
great news – it said the bone marrow had started functioning again.  (Walking
home through Central Park that day, I took a ride on the Carousel as my ritual
to celebrate the end of this ordeal).

Then today I finally got the results of last Wednesday’s bone marrow biopsy.
There was definitely no sign of cancer, and the marrow was “40% cellular.”
Dr. Hesdorffer says that result is “not bad” and didn’t account for the low
blood counts – it looked as if the bone marrow was working.  When he heard
that the counts had risen this week, he was very pleased, because that made
the whole picture make sense.  When they did the biopsy, the bone marrow had
probably already come out of hibernation – we just didn’t see it yet in that
day’s blood counts.

Last week, with my white blood count down at 1.4, I was refusing to hug or
kiss people at Passover seders, and I was nervous about washing dishes or
handling flowers or riding in subways.  This week, back at 2.1, Dr. Hesdorffer
says I can stop worrying about such things.

I’m still anemic (hematocrit 25), and thus get out of breath if I climb a lot
of stairs or carry grocery bags.  But I’m feeling much stronger now than I did
with similar counts in February or March.  My appetite is fine and my weight
is stable, and food tastes OK (but not so good that I want to eat
compulsively).  I’m having no trouble with the Tamoxifen pills that I take
daily for hormonal therapy.

Dr. Hesdorffer (head of the stem cell transplant program) and Dr. Rescigno (my
radiation oncologist) will continue to debate whether indeed the radiation
therapy was the cause of my depressed blood counts.  Dr. Rescigno wonders
exactly what mechanism might have been at work that would have caused this
result.  Dr. Hesdorffer says he sees this pattern from time to time, and he
guesses that radiation caused the problem, even if they don’t understand why
it happens.

I turned 55 on April 6, and Margie will be 19 this Saturday.  We’re going to
New Haven to take Margie out to dinner.

I’ll cut this short because I still have to finish my taxes and it’s April 15.

With these biopsy results, Ken and I are feeling that we can treat the cancer
as a thing of the past.  That really feels good!  As you can imagine, my
mother is really joyous.  I was also touched by a call a few minutes ago from
my transplant case manager at Oxford Health Plans.  She said it took her an
hour to get up the nerve to call and find out my biopsy results, because she
was worried about what she’d hear – and she sounded really delighted at the
results.  We’ve never met face to face, but she’s been a steady support (as so
many of you have been).

Best wishes to all of you for Passover, Easter, springtime, or whatever else
you’d like to celebrate.

Love,

Harriet

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