4-22-10    AM (1 of 2)

 Lisa and I cannot tell you how comforting it is to have your kind words, your support, and your personal offers to help out – it eases so many burdens.  We are truly grateful to have our family and such good friends.

 Status: 8.75/10.  (Much better this morning after I spiked a fever last night).

 Events:   Yesterday evening (after my first day of chemotherapy), I had a shaking chill, muscle aches, and what I knew was shortly to develop into a sudden fever.  Most likely a reaction to the chemo, but the staff doesn’t fool around with that kind of stuff around here.  Wanting to make sure it wasn’t a reaction to a bacterial infection they immediately ordered a chest x-ray (looking for pneumonia), blood and urine cultures, a physical exam, and IV antibiotics.  I was able to finally get to sleep (but not without frequent awakenings for vital signs during the night) and feel better this morning.  There are few things in life that can’t be fixed with either duct tape or a good night’s sleep.

 Comments: When the nurse walks in the room bringing in the chemotherapy, she’s wearing a mask and face shield, a gown, and thick gloves.  The IV bag of chemotherapy fluid is wrapped in several pads, which she carefully lays on the floor away from anything in the room.  The bag itself has the words “danger” written prominently in boldface type both in English and Spanish.  There is a black skull and crossbones on it.  And then she inserts the fluid into your bloodstream.

    Having donated most of my blood, vial by vial, to the Hopkins laboratories, they’re going to give me a couple of units of blood back.  Doctors measure the amount of red cells in your blood as a percentage, that’s because most of your blood is actually a straw-colored fluid called plasma.  It’s mostly salt water, but it contains a host of substances including proteins, fats, and other chemicals that are being transported throughout your body with each heartbeat.

     Normally the proportion is actually made up of just red blood cells is in the range of 35-45%, varying between men and women.  Doctors refer to this percentage as “hematocrit” (he-MAT-oh-crit) or in the lingo, simply “crit” as in, “I hear the patient’s crit dropped.”  Mine is 25, so I’m due some payback.  They’ll give me, as they do most people who get a transfusion, pure red cells without the extra plasma.

    When I was working in Chicago as an editor at JAMA, a colleague and good friend brought my name to the attention of the news director at the ABC station (WLS-TV).  He said he wanted to give me a job, but I told him I already had one.  He insisted we go to lunch, and after several of these visits he said, “I know you, you like to teach.  I can give you a very large classroom.”  He found my weakness, and while still working at JAMA, I became the medical reporter at the station (and it was that connection that led to me to meeting Lisa at her job at the ABC station in San Francisco, perhaps the most important event in my life).

  Lisa was here by my side last night when I was feeling bad, holding my hand and rubbing my back, bringing more comfort than all the antibiotics and other ministrations I received.  She is a truly remarkable woman, an extraordinary person, and the love of my life.  She drives up each morning from Bethesda to Baltimore after getting the kids off to school, becomes my patient advocate (and not surprising to anyone who knows her well, she already has compiled a 3-ring  notebook that would make a NASA launch protocol look skimpy), then drives back each evening to be with the kids.  We’re trying to keep their lives as normal as possible with all of this, even installing Skype on both our home computer and on my laptop here in the hospital.  I video-conference with them each morning as they head out the door and before they go to bed.  What enables me to put up with all this crap is looking forward to being home with them.

    I’ll update everyone this evening on how the day went.




8 Responses to “”

  1. Hopie Dan Says:

    The morning blog was a bonus we didn’t expect.Thank you for being so in touch. When Hank gets back from Tops he’ll get me better on Skype, got my picture up that’s a far as I get. Love , Mom & Dad, too

  2. James Miller Says:

    Dear Bruce,
    I have always enjoyed seeing you and Lisa at The FREDDIES each year and was deeply saddened to hear of this challenge that you are facing. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. Please also know and remember that during the day when treatments and activities are at their peak, as well as in the night time and early morning hours when sleep is unobtainable, there are hundreds and hundreds of others who are standing there right beside you, doing all that we can to help you shoulder some of the burden. May you find Peace in the midst of this storm.
    James Miller

  3. patricia obletz Says:

    Dear Bruce,

    You paint a moving and vivid portrait of your experiences in combatting this cancer you have, and of your family life. Thank you. Both you and Lisa are amazing people.

    That chemo they’re infusing you with sounds radioactive!

    And it’s so cool that you can see and talk to R and E morning and night. And that Lisa can commute between you and them. What stamina.

    I’m so glad that you have the right kind of duct tape, and are working on getting enough sleep. You and Lisa rock!


  4. Aileen Says:

    Ever the reporter, your blog is a real gift. I’m so glad you’re with the ‘best of the best’ up there in Baltimore. Let them take care of you–rest as best you can, and I’ll be in touch with that little woman of steel to help wherever and whenever I can. Scot and I send you our best–Aileen

  5. Peggie Neill Says:

    Dear Bruce,
    You taught me about having a SOCO, so here it is: I am going to storm the heavens with prayers.
    The email from you was welcome, and I am sorry to hear this news of the hand of cards you’ve been dealt. This is hard on you and your family, and surely tests your concept of self as physician, now self as patient. Your blog already shows some of your great strengths – equanimity and wicked self-deprecating humor. It’s hard to feel unwell, and sometimes resolve can flag; but you are NOT alone – please always remember this. You and your family are on my prayer list, and that of my 100,000+ Irish Catholic relatives.

  6. Judi Golding-Baker Says:

    My Dear Bruce,

    I hope you are able to get some rest tonight…

    Thinking of you with lots of love,

  7. wendy Says:

    My newest mantra-
    with every wimper and whine I hear these days, even from myself.. I say to myself and others…at least you’re not having to deal with chemotherapy

  8. Marsha Says:

    Hi Bruce,

    I can see how your reporting is so well received – your analogies are great. It’s hard to imagine they could be any better if you were feeling well! Glad you’re keeping us all posted on your daily happenings. GREAT news about the cell type.

    Jerry and I don’t want to bother you and Lisa with lots of phone calls, but I do want to let you know you’re in our thoughts and prayers. We’re hoping this goes as smoothly and quickly as it possibly can, and looking forward to spending a nice relaxed evening at home with you and Lisa SOON! Know that all your neighbors here are wishing you well, and couldn’t be more interested in doing anything we can to help – of course Lisa already has everything covered — but we’re all here for you and your family.

    Sweet dreams!

    Marsha and Jerry

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