Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Biopsies and Sea Glass

Today, on this snowy, chilly day here in Philly, I'm having ANOTHER bone marrow biopsy. This makes nine, I believe...

As I shared a few posts ago, my white cell count has been dropping steadily since December- wavering somewhere between .8 and 1.3, and without any obvious cause. My ANC (those important little buggers) have also plummeted to unsettling lows recently (two week ago they were 254 ( which is considered severe neutropenia and is very dangerous- they have since come up to 550) , causing me to bust out the masks and hand sanitizer and return to that sucky no fresh fruits or veggies diet (plus a bit of hermit-like behavior) while I await their return to safer levels. The odd part about all of this (right, there's only ONE odd part...) is that my other cells have been growing and flourishing, something that has so far assured that there is nothing wrong with the graft. My doctor at PENN has tweaked my medication several times, taking me on and off of various drugs, as well as kept a close eye on my CMV levels, to very little effect. Because having such a low white cell count is exceptionally dangerous for a BMT patient (well, for anyone really), he would like ot give me injections of a drug to help boost those numbers. This is where the BMB comes in.

Just after my transplant, I was given, ehhhh...maybe four? five? shots of a drug call Neupogen, which, as I said, helps the body produce more white blood cells. Super helpful, no? The thing is, this drug, because of what it does in the marrow, can seriously goof up the results of a biopsy, which is NOT super helpful. In order to know what is happening with my white blood cells, I need a biopsy. See where I'm headed here? No Neupogen without a biopsy. Fun fun.

So, the plan today is for P and I to trudge through the snow to PENN, see Dr. Porter, review my blood work from today and have a biopsy done. The last....um...few biopsies I've had done have not caused very much anxiety in me. I've had faith. I've had confidence. I've had abundant hope. This one? This one is kind of freaking me out. I feel...unsettled. P told me he could feel it in me. There are certainly good reasons for these feelings, but, to be honest (workin' on it), I am nearly as unsettled ABOUT BEING unsettled as I am...unsettled. When the results come in I do have confidence that there will be no cancer, but I just don't like the idea that there could be something else going on. Something sinister. Or not. Maybe it's just one of the meds. We shall see.

In the mean time, I would like to share with you something that I was meditating on last week while spending time with my wonderful Mother-in-Law in Atlantic City collecting sea glass (YES I did call my doctor for permission...I was a little freaked about the possibility of catching some sort of fungus from the deep).

As I was crouched down, carefully examining the pebbles and sand that stretched across the beach, hoping to discover those illusive specks of tumbled and colorful glass, it occured to me how similar the human life cycle is to that of a shard of sea glass. The search became a moving meditation, so much a yoga practice. We all begin sturdy, yet empty. Different shapes, colors, sizes. Then spend our lives being filled and emptied (and filled again maybe), serving a purpose (maybe not a bottle, maybe a lamp on a ship, a light on a boat, stained glass from a long-gone sea-side chapel). At some point in our lives we find ourselves, in any number of fashions, tossed, tumbled, broken, drowned, laid out in the sun, dragged back into the fray, rolled in the muck and mire. At the end of all of this, we have the opportunity to emerge changed. Softer than the shard we went in as. Pitted, yes. Rougher, maybe. Maybe smoother. Maybe the chemicals in us react with the chemicals in the world and we change color. Some colors, like people, are rare. All shapes unique. Some glass is hidden for hundreds of years. Some is created right where it began. Some travels thousands of miles to find you. In the end, we are all the same, but different.

Those gems we found, Peggy and I, helped me to remember that through pain and fear, the world is a beautiful place. There are small beauties to be found and treasured, even on the sketchiest of AC beaches :). My small jar of finds is sitting in a sunny window. It is beautiful. This life is beautiful, scary, sad sometimes, but so beautiful. I needed a reminder of that reality. A reminder to be thankful for the rough ocean that has the ability to turn out such beauty.
My treasures from the day. Click to enlarge if you like, there are some cool pieces in there!

If you could, dear friends, send some mellow juju my way today. I much prefer your juju to an Ativan:) Thank you, so very, very much. Always.

Much love, Philly and beyond. Anyone up for a snowball fight, by the way?!


  1. I'm sending positive thoughts your way today. I hope the biopsy is as quick and painless as possible!

  2. Laura,

    I remember reading my Aunt's anxious blog posts and emails as she was preparing to take her daughter in for post-treatment checkups every few months to make sure the cancer hadn't returned. She always asked for prayer and did her best to have faith herself, and each time the results came back positive and promising. You've fought hard so far, and I think you've done an incredible job. Thinking of and praying for you today as you go in with uncertainty, that you'd be calm and at peace with whatever the results may be. You can do this!!

  3. Mellow jujus are being sent your way and lots of prayers and giant hugs too. Hope the day wasn't too stressful for you and Phil. Keep the faith!! xoxo CAL PS Love the sea glass.

  4. this is quite the journey, isn't it, laura, and you are SO not alone! keep the faith, keep on talking, sharing, and letting us keep you in our prayers! and thanks for always making me think new thoughts, see new perspectives, and being my friend.