Health Update

Tomorrow is another landmark day. My cancer labs will be drawn with results by next Monday. On my last labs, four weeks ago, the numbers came in stunning, very close to no evidence of cancer (Multiple Myeloma is never cured with chemo but can go into hiding). I was elated. I was also four weeks into a very rigorous 3-drug chemo program. One of those chemos, lenalidomide, is well-known for its effectiveness, and its toxicity. However, I was also pleased to report last time that only a few side effects had been realized by that point.

Unfortunately, side effects soon came after that last report and have been rather severe. Lenalidomide typically causes a collapse of the healthy blood cells, RBCs, WBCs, and platelets, and that’s now what’s happened. This (and other mechanisms) have led to an overwhelming sense of fatigue. It is hard to believe that I was climbing our local mountain and running one day a week, just five weeks ago, and now it takes effort to do the basic activities of life. I can still think and write but not much else. Summer chores are accumulating.

The other thing that lenalidomide has cased is pain. I’ve been spared a lot of pain until now. But I have significant nerve pain in my legs, arms, back, head, and urinary tract. I know it is the lenalidomide because this is my week off (on 3 weeks and off 1) and those symptoms are subsiding. But the pain makes sleep almost impossible and misery when awake.

So, this is what is at stake and how you can pray if you are a praying person. Thoughts and hope would be appreciated as well. The original plan was for me to only be on this intensive program for 2 months, meaning ending next Monday. However, my local oncologist has renewed the same program for the coming months. If my labs tomorrow are nearly as good as a month ago, it will give me the position to petition him to drop at least the lenalidomide. If the labs are worse, he would consider this program life-saving and essential.

There is the problem of what I call the “cancer-patient’s dilemma.” When does life saving treatments render the life no longer worthy of saving? I’ve had this discussion with many cancer patients, although they may not be as candid with the question as I am. At least it would be depressing to know that this present state is my new normal. We will hope for good news from tomorrow morning’s tests and that I can persuade my doctors to get me off this drug. Then maybe hope can be restored.

I will update when the results are in and if there is a new direction in treatment.

Thanks, as always, for your concern. Mike

Published by J. Michael Jones

J. Michael Jones is married to Denise and is the father of five successful adult children, scattered around Washington state and Minnesota. He had a 38-year career as a physician associate, until he was forced into retirement by multiple myeloma in 2019. During his career, he waw a headache specialist at Mayo Clinic, and in the pacific northwest, and worked as a generalist in a variety of locations overseas, including Abu Dhabi, Oman, Cyprus, Egypt, Pakistan twice, Nepal, and Afghanistan's Khyber Pass. He has always loved to think and write, publishing seven books and countless journal articles. After retirement he has focused on his fiction writing including his coming book, The Stones of Yemen.

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