By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Signing off -- but just for a while

steve kelman

Some blog readers may know that I have been grappling with health issues since January.  I made some references to health problems in a few earlier blog posts, but have generally tried to proceed with my blogs as normal. 

I was diagnosed in January with central nervous system lymphoma, a rare form of lymphoma that affects the brain and, in my case, also the eyes, which are biologically part of the central nervous system. (One of the many facts I've learned that I would have been just as happy never to know!) My tumor was small, and caught early, and I immediately began a course of chemotherapy treatments every two weeks.

The problem with my cancer is that it has a very strong tendency to recur even after treatment has put one into remission.  Thus, in recent years, doctors have begun to use a state-of-the-art and very aggressive treatment involving harvesting and transplanting one’s own (healthy) stem cells, which are parts of the bone marrow that re-create white blood cells to protect the body against infection. 

The basic idea behind stem cell transplantation is fairly simple. Your own cells are harvested and put in a freezer. Then you are treated with very high doses of chemotherapy, so high that the intention is to kill every cancer cell left in your body so the cancer doesn’t come back.  But these high doses of chemotherapy also kill all your white blood cells.  So normally, you would die of infection.  At this point, the stem cells are placed back in your body, and gradually, over a period of several months, your white blood cells come back. 

Especially at the beginning, but to some extent for perhaps 6 months, you need to be extremely careful about infections.  In the hospital the patient is in a room where the air is kept especially disinfected (though you don’t need to stay inside a bubble); everyone coming in wears a  mask and glove; no food is allowed from outside; and other products, like toothpaste or face cream, cannot have been opened before.  Even after leaving that "clean room," there are very major food restrictions, and one can’t be in a public place for two to three months. A few patients still get a bad infection and die, but this is now rare.

Anyway, today (June 23) I begin my nine days of intensive chemo.  Supposedly, the medicines against immediate side effects, mostly nausea and mouth sores, are much better.  But the treatment, and then the assault on your immune system, leave you very tired.  So I’m going to be missing from FCW.com for a while -- hopefully not too long, but hard to tell.  Hope I emerge from this healthy again.

With best wishes to all blog readers,

--Steve


Posted by Steve Kelman on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:17 PM


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