Remember This Guy? (I’ll Be Back)


Woke up today feeling much, much better. The neutropenia probably hit its nadir yesterday, and it was a pretty grueling day. While the nastier side effects of this last cycle were milder than the first, this treatment is more immunosuppressive, and yesterday it felt like I had cement coarsing through my veins. Getting off the couch had to be done in stages: the sit up, the feet to the floor, the stagger to wherever (repeat, return to couch). It wasn’t much fun.

After I got out of the shower last night I opened the drawer where I keep my brush, hoping to comb my hair. Then I looked in the mirror only to see a lollipop-less Kojak staring back at me.

Oops.

I know I’ll get my hair back along with my health, but I do miss my mane. I’ve noticed that I must have had a habit to run my hand through my hair, because I periodically do that now, and all that happens is I irritate my scalp.

Maybe for now I’ll wear this Donald Trump weave to protect my dome…

Thanks, Mom


With our first child on the way, my heart breaks for any parent who has to see their child sick. While with the exception of chemo- and antibiotic-induced nauseau and vomiting, lymphoma has never actually made me feel ill, which made the time from diagnosis until treatment a lot easier for everyone involved. But for now, not quite myself in the chemo’s wake, I know that it is especially hard for my parents to see me bald, a little skinny, and a little slow on the draw.

For my parents, having immigrated to the sunnier confines of South Florida during the Great Pastrami Migration of 1991, and for Jacqui’s parents, who, before Jacqui and I met, moved to Florida during the 2001 Shuffleboard Rebellion, not being close by is rough.

But for my mom especially, the idea of seeing her son go through hell to get better, having already shephered my dad through the same (he is also a cancer survivor), must really suck. My mom’s confidence in my treatment outcome, her support to Jacqui, Otis, I during this time, and her seemingly effortless ability to clean an entire home in what seems like minutes (in her sleep), has been invaluable to us. It even offsets the time in the hospital a few weeks back when she aggravated me to no end by insisting that my IV was dripping too fast.

So thanks, Mom. And hang in there.

I may lose a few more pounds before this is over, but not only will I be de-lymphomatized in a few months, you’ll also have a grandchild.

Freedom and Abandon

It is a gorgeous day in Philadelphia, and all I want to do is go for a long run along the Skuykill. With my blood count diving by the hour, I don’t think I’d get very far. Otis and I just went for a few laps around the block, and that was about all I could handle. But by early next week I’ll be back in the gym, falling asleep on the stationary bike.

Last night Jacqui and I attended the inaugural meeting of the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s brand-spanking-new Delaware Valley/Philadelphia Chapter. It felt liberating getting out of the house, and even better doing it for a great cause.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in the blog, I have taken on the leadership of the new chapter, and am very much looking forward to raising money for lymphoma research, providing a haven of support for lymphoma patients and their families, and educating the public about the disease.

Around fifteen people attended the meeting, which for everyone in the room was filled with emotion. Not all of us there were now or have been lymphoma patients, but around that table we were all lymphoma survivors, having survived the physical and psychological rigors of the disease, or shared in those rigors with a loved one, a friend, a colleague. No matter how much all of us wished, in some unreal way, that we could be there simply as casual observers, or even wished we were home with the freedom and abandon to have our minds on other matters, I believe that together we shall do extraordinary things in the coming months, years, and decades. To do any less would be failure.

So I put all of you on alert: come to a meeting in Philly to show your support or attend an LRF meeting in your city (and if there is none, consider starting a chapter), plan on volunteering at an event in the coming years, or donate to this important cause. In a few days I will have a direct link from baldmike.com to the LRF website. But for now, you can find out how to do all of these things at:

http://www.lymphoma.org/site/pp.asp?c=bfIKIVMIG&b=36832

Proof of Paternity

With just a week left in baseball season, my adopted home city of Philadelphia is agog at the propsect that the Phillies may, for the first time since 1993, make a post-season appearance. With slugger Ryan Howard leading the way, the Phils just may squeak into the playoffs. But given this teams ability to choke, I don’t think there’s a Philadelphian anywhere willing to bet their house on a post-season spot.

Despite the fact that Philadelphia is now my home and the Phillies are officially my adopted National League team, as an ex-pat New Yorker, the Yankees run in my blood. I will admit a strong distaste of all things Steinbrenner (his reinstatement to baseball after a lifetime ban sent Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis spinning in his grave), and I think Steinbrenner has, followed by a bunch of spineless owners, commissioners, and even player reps, weakened the game, squandered the faith in baseball of many a young American boy and girl, and may also be responsible for the ozone hole. But history–having shared almost four decades of rooting for great players like Munson, Mattingly, and Williams with my dad–keeps me coming back for more.

So what more proof do you need than that of a bloodline to show you how deeply ingrained the Yankees are. I may become a Phillies fan, but the red and white will always mingle with Yankee’s pinstripes. Below is a photo of our baby-to-be’s ultrasound. Yea, the nose gives it away. But the hat helps too.

A Mouse Tale

Feeling pretty good today. Had a good night’s sleep. Eating normally (save the boring precautionary neutropenic diet), watching lots of Star Trek re-runs, and preparing for tonight’s inaugural meeting of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Last night I knew that I was well on the road to recovery when I heard Jacqui screaming loudly from downstairs. Was there an intruder? Was she having some weird pregnancy pang? Was Freddy Kruger in our backyard?

I summoned the strength I had gotten from my tasteless piece of grilled chicken and baked potato and ran downstairs (taking a brief nap six steps down), and saw Jacqui is yelling at Otis to “drop it.” By “drop it,” she meant the teeny tiny baby mouse Otis had in his jowls, scooping it up, sucking on it like a mouse-flavored lollipop, spitting it out, and starting the process over again. Yummy. Tastier than three days of hospital food.

We finally got Otis to drop the poor little fella, who, I discovered upon closer inspection, had at least hours, if not days before, made his way to mouse heaven. We can’t figure out if the mouse was a bonus prize from the hospital (Otis apparently found it in my hospital bag), or if he had made his way into the bag after we had gotten home. Either way, chemo-exhaustion and all, it fell to me to discard it. I thought about putting it under Jacqui’s pillow for a good laugh, but I worried that she might react by slipping me a vomit-inducing Cipro. I threw the mouse away.

Finally, you’ll notice that you can now access the blog directly at http://www.baldmike.com/

In the coming weeks we’ll be adding some features to the website, including links to information about lymphoma, pictures of our baby-to-be, and great online mortgage offers.

Guest Blogger: Andrea (Michael’s sister)

Just a quick note to let you know that Michael was discharged late Saturday night. He has been feeling pretty tired and nauseous and not much up for blogging. The good news is that there have been no ticks up in the puke-meter. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I know how much Jacq and Michael have appreciated all of your love and support. I’m always in awe of how many devoted friends they have. I remember being so moved by the multiple speeches at their rehearsal dinner and by the love they share with their friends. It’s pretty wonderful.

The gold medal in friendship this month goes to Mr. Bill Shein. Bill and Michael met at Tufts and have been friends for almost 20 years. He has been here in Philly for both treatments and has helped with everything from laundry, to walking Otis, to picking up dinner, to shuttling Jacq back and forth to the hospital, to making Michael and Jacqui laugh. Overall, his warmth and support mean so much to both of them.

Thanks Mikey for giving me the honor of ‘Guest blogger’. Come and visit and maybe you too can become a guest blogger!

Much love,
Andrea

Guest Blogger: Jacqui

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Michael’s one super kidney. For those who haven’t heard the story, when Michael was first diagnosed last year he had to go through a series of tests including a CAT scan. The tech who was doing the testing turned to Michael part way through and said something like “…so when did you have your kidney removed?” Yup, turns out that my husband was born with a single, albeit enormous, kidney and he never knew. Well, his blood work came back from this morning and it appears that his amazing kidney has already metabolized the methotrexate in his body beyond where we need it to be to get out of here. This means that we can go home tonight after Michael’s last round of chemo (midnightish)!!

Michael is feeling pretty tired. In general I would say that this hospital stay was slightly less pleasant than the last two. We had some screamers on the hall last night and a nurse who didn’t exactly exude confidence. But it doesn’t matter much now because in about 5 hours we’ll be sleeping soundly in our own bed with super Otis and the super kidney.

Keep the emails and phone calls coming. They have been a tremendous pick-me-up when marathons of Northern Exposure start to tire. And of course a happy and healthy new year to all those celebrating. May it be a year of friendship, love, birth and de-lymphomatization.

Sleepy

Feeling tired today. Got the first dose of my second chemo drug this morning and I am feeling it. Not sick, just very sleepy.

Saw my doc this morning who told me that based on last week’s blood counts that things are going in the right direction, so we are very happy with that. I celebrated with a three hour nap. He also told me that I can expect to feel pretty crappy next week, given that this round of chemo is more immunosuppresant than the last round. Lucky me.

So with this bit of good news (the fact that the chemo is doing its job) I wish all members of the tribe out there following my progress a very happy Jewish new year. It was quite a 5766. Very much looking forward to being lymphoma-free in 5767.

I leave you tonight with another possible chemo look…

Otis in Solidarity

Having a good day. Treatment so far has been tolerable. Had a mild reaction to the rituximab at 2am last night. Just minor chills and a little nausea. Switched into a private room this afternoon thanks to the amazing staff on Rhoads 6. Thus Jacqui gets to spend the night, and all are happy, except Otis, who remains confused at the situation.

I miss him terribly.

When I was first diagnosed and a certain Dr. Death armed with the wrong information suggested that I would be heading toward the daisies, all I could think about was that my dog, the second love of my life, would outlive me. Until we had tests results, and the best doctors told me to chill out and that I wasn’t going the way of Campbell Scott in Dying Young, I used to cuddle with Otis in terror. I was horrified that my adorable dog would become the man of the house, always left wondering what had happened to me, and left alone to take care of my beloved Jacqueline. Thankfully, that is not going to be the case, and Otis, while confused at my absense, has taken to wearing a bandana around the house, and has even asked to shave his head. My dog, the genius.