Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Life and Taxes

I am done with the flavopiridol/Alvocidib trial, and I have to get back to my life. I'm starting my federal taxes right now. In fact, posting here is a bit of a break from that very boring task.

I have long wondered why a few lucky souls who have deep, deep remissions of their CLL just drop out of the CLL society and 'move on'. It seems almost like a betrayal, doesn't it?

I will not be so lucky. My CLL has always been higher risk. When I was diagnosed, I exhibited the ZAP-70 marker, I was unmutated, and I had a 6q deletion, which is an intermediate risk marker. I was (and remain) male, and I was relatively young at diagnosis (48). All of those count as risk factors. So, from the start I knew I was not destined to be a smolderer. I envied all of those people (mostly female, it seemed) who could live with CLL and not have it be life-altering.

I delved deeply into the CLL on-line community, starting with the granddaddy (grandma?) of them all, the CLL list at acor.org, started by GrannyBarb. I learned a lot about CLL, and came to fear words such as 'refractory', and 'relapse'. I also learned that researchers are not one to pull punches; when I developed the 11q deletion, I read that folks such as me had a 'grim prognosis'. It's hard to let those words roll off one's back, isn't it?

Anyway, I am not going anywhere. At best, my flavopiridol trial gave me a partial remission. My terribly enlarged lymph nodes in my abdomen have shrunk, but not gone away. For 11q folks, published papers on flavopiridol show an average 9 month remission time. Then, apparently, the average person relapses. Based upon my previous history, my relapse may come sooner.

But at the present time, measured in weeks, I feel OK and feel as though I can devote a bit more time to work and family. Both have been pretty good, though one of my supervisors (she's since retired, thankfully) resented the fact that I was gone so much during my trial and demanded no let up in the work, which means that the three days a week I could work had to equate to five normal days. They did provide me with a converted small 'quiet' room that serves as my office. That was a great accommodation that allowed me to drag my room UV sterilizer in behind me and be somewhat isolated from the germs around the office.

In any case, I will be retiring this May. I really, really enjoy my job, but with that 'grim' prognosis hanging over my head, I can't justify working any longer. My retirement benefits to my wife would go way down if I die will still employed.

I used to have a co-worker who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer when he was in his early 50s, I think about 52. Kaiser did surgery, and he did well for a couple of years, and then the cancer came back. He retired when he started having lung mets. The doctor told him he had about three months left to live. It turned out he was gone in three weeks.

I want to have a retirement that lasts longer than my poor co-worker. So, it's adieu for all of my friends at work, and good riddance to the rest of them!

I hope I have more than three weeks.

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