Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back on CAL-101, but liver is acting up again

I originally went on CAL-101 in late January, 2011. I did fine for quite some time, until April 2011. My liver enzyme numbers went up, and I was taken off the drug. I had major problems when I went off the drug. Something was going on, perhaps a sudden expansion of the lymph nodes that began pressing against internal organs, or perhaps my small or large colon. I was in a lot of pain. Luckily that went away, but I felt poorly for the next six weeks. My liver numbers were stubbornly high.

Then I went into the hospital with zero neutrophils. I was there for five days.

I was able to go back on CAL-101, but at a reduced dose. I've been on the reduced dose for about three weeks.

Unfortunately, my liver is acting up again, and my white count has fallen again, as have my neutrophils. It may be that I'll have to go off CAL-101 because of side effects of the drug, and because my blood numbers are going in the wrong direction.

The saga never ends, apparently.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In, and out, of the hospital

A week and a half ago, I was beset by vomiting and nausea. I was initially sick to my stomach. My wife helpfully suggested that if I just throw up, then it would be over, and I could get back to sleep.

Big mistake! I did force myself to throw up, but then I couldn't stop. I also couldn't keep even a tiny sip of water down. I would vomit more fluids than I was taking in. Obviously, that is dangerous. I was rapidly becoming dehydrated. So at 7 am I went to the hospital's emergency department.

Well, they solved the immediate problem by giving me fluids intravenously, which I expected, and by giving me IV Zofran and Atavin, which makes sense, and then by admitting me, which I did not expect, nor want. They did so because my absolute neutrophil count was at zero, again.

This was a surprise and a disappointment, especially since I had a neulasta shot a week before that. It apparently made no difference, for reasons I will discuss later.

So I spent the next five days in the hospital. This being the US, I had just one roommate. (In the UK, there are up to six patients to a room, even those dying of cancer or heart disease.) He had had pneumonia for three months, and was in the hospital for those three months. He was released while I was there, and I'm sure he was happy he got out.

After my roommate left, I had the room to myself, which was nice. No sharing of the bathroom, nor sharing his germs with me, especially with no neutrophils.

After some manipulation, my counts did begin to rise, sufficient to get me out of the joint. I never really exhibited any signs of illness after that first terrible day. My lungs were clear, apparently, with no fluid in them. But I did get Netflix to work, and I watched some cool History channel programs on military history. Nice. But boring.

Except...for the bone marrow biopsy they wanted to do. Actually, the two they ended up doing.

UC Davis, where I was, is a 'teaching hospital'. Meaning that they take people off the street, give them a few lectures, and then a scalpel, and turn them loose on unsuspecting patients.

The first biopsy was excruciatingly painful. I mean this must be what operations were like a thousand years ago, except without the alcohol making you drunk enough to deal with the pain. And what pain! Apparently this woman (girl) junior doctor decided to go into my bone from weird place (the real doctor told me that he 'wouldn't have chosen that spot to do the biopsy', which is medical-speak for 'what the hell was this woman (girl) doing????). All I know was I was screaming in pain, telling the woman (girl) that I couldn't stand the pain. She then said, and I quote, they could go get someone who had done biopsies before. I said, of course, THEN DO IT!!!

This new woman (girl) did an OK job, though it was still painful.

These two biopsies made number 19 and 20. Is this some sort of record? The kind of record you don't want to have, ever?

My marrow turned out OK. I just have CLL. That's a big relief!

So, they let me go.

Now, what about my neutrophils? Did I have a zero count? How could I survive without being sick if I had no neutrophils???

My neutrophils may be hiding in the tissues, as Dr. Kipps has surmised. The CAL-101 pushes lymphocytes out of the lymph nodes and back into circulation. In my situation, the neutrophils are there, and are being produced (as the biopsy shows), but they just aren't getting into circulation in decent numbers. But, they apparently are there. I don't understand it, and I don't know if anyone understands what is going on, really.

It IS troubling that the Neulasta did not raise my neutrophil levels within the week. Perhaps it was responsible for boosting the neutrophil counts while in the hospital. Perhaps it was the niacinamide I took (though that didn't work to increase the totals in the week leading up to the hospitalization). Things aren't all peachy in the health department, not by a long-shot.

But...I am out of the hospital and doing OK.

And...I'm back on CAL-101! That will ensure (at least for a while) that my WBC increases as the CLL and other lymphocytes are booted out of their happy homes in the lymph nodes, where they grow in happy little colonies, cheerfully killing their host.

I'm on a lower dose. I'm saying my prayers that my counts hold, and my liver numbers stay on track. It took a while for Stanford to get to this point (original estimate, one week off CAL-101; it took me about six weeks in actuality to get back on the drug).

Next step, GET CAL-101 APPROVED so that everyone can benefit from this drug. I think it is keeping me relatively healthy. I just hope it continues. Dr. Coutre has been very helpful in getting me on this drug, and keeping me on it. Thanks!