mouseSome potentially good news is coming through the media (in this case CBS news) about a new cancer treatment using genetically modified T-cells. According to the report researchers are already testing it on terminally ill leukemia patients.

There are apparently some difficult side effects but the article didn’t elaborate. Still, researchers say they are meeting with some success. It is good to know they are getting closer to new treatments for us.

As always, I am not recommending this treatment for you. I’m not qualified to do so. Besides, I don’t think it has been approved yet by the FDA. But you might want to discuss it with your doctor to see what she thinks about this new research.

Oh, I hope you aren’t squeamish though . . . they remove T-cells from your body and modify them with molecules from genetically engineered mice then inject them back into you. So, don’t blame me if you develop an inexplicable attraction to cheese or an innate fear of cats.

[photo courtesy of Warren Photographic]

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We have something going on in our house that I have forgotten to share with you. We’ve been living like the Waltons. You know, that TV show where John Boy, his siblings, his parents and grandparents all live in the same house?

Well, that’s us. My daughter, her husband and their two boys moved in coming on a year now.  They are building a new house and needed a place to stay in the mean time. There is one difference between us and that TV show though: the Waltons had a large, two story house. Ours is a small, 1008 sq. ft., three bedroom house. It’s what you might call a tight fit.

So, my wife and I moved most of our stuff to storage to make room for the larger family joining us.

Now you might think this living situation would cause a lot of stress and strife. But I’ve got to tell you it’s been great from day one. Chores are shared (with only an occasional sigh from the grandkids) and we all seem to get along. At least it appears that way. Who knows what secrets rantings may be going on behind closed doors… just kidding.

It’s given my wife and I a chance to get closer to my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids. And those boys, what a blessing they are. Since my wife is Icelandic they call us Afi and Amma. It means a lot to me since my Dad was called Afi too. It’s like taking on a wonderful man’s mantle. And, Afi sounds a whole lot younger than ‘Grandpa’.

Anyway, point is, being around family can really make a difference in your countenance. I tend to be introverted and stay to myself. The problem with that is it allows me to brood. Writing blogs helps to pull me out of that because I feel like I’m talking to you all, but even more powerful is being surrounded by my loved ones. And I gotta tell you there is nothing more wonderful than the hugs I get from my grandkids and my appreciative daughter when I feed them breakfast and send them off to school/work.

It’s important to take time for yourself, but taking time for yourself and isolating yourself are two very different things. Make a point of spending time with your family and/or friends. You need them. And, point of fact, they need you too.

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Me and Leuk voted one of the Best Blogs of the YearI was searching on the Web for leukemia information and came across Healthline’s “The Best Leukemia Blogs of the Year for 2015” and, to my surprise, my blog was listed #4 of eleven.

Their post, written by Anna Schaefer, says my site was reviewed on September 8, 2015 by Steven Kim, MD who apparently approved it for the list.

You can read their review of my blog here.

Thank you Healthline. And thanks to my readers for encouraging me to keep writing.

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LukemiaSucks[Editors note: This post is about how to overcome the beginning symptoms of depression. If you are experiencing serious depression you should seek professional help. Please read my Disclaimer page.]

Sometimes leukemia can make us just stop. Shutdown. It is, after all, a potentially terminal disease and that can get a guy down once in awhile.

Despite a positive attitude and the good face we put on for our loved ones, some days Leuk gets into our psyche in an overpowering way.

That’s what happened to me recently. Depression was hanging around all day and climbing into bed with me each night. When she’s empowered by Leuk it’s hard to shake her off. But I found a way and I thought I’d share it with you.

The depression started with a feeling of lethargy. Things that had mattered to me just faded away. At first common, every day tasks became harder to do.

Then my writing got hit. I stopped writing altogether. Though it can be challenging at times, writing is part of me – part of who I am. This blog and another one I write went silent. I couldn’t seem to muster the mental strength to even think of an idea, let alone write about it.

Even worse, a novel I’ve been working on became impossible. I had already written a first draft. The story needed filling out and revising. This, for me, is the hardest work of writing. At that stage writing can be a love/hate experience. But I normally push on through and ultimately enjoy it. But gradually, insidiously, I lost interest. No, it was more than that, I was afraid to write. Well, it’s hard to explain, maybe fellow writers out there will understand.

If a simple blog post was a tough hill for me to climb, the mountain of a novel was impossible.

Depression is like Alice’s rabbit hole. If you let yourself, you’ll fall deeper and deeper into it. Not many know this, but I once had real serious depression before I was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the real stuff requiring therapy and meds. A dark time in my life.

WeedPulling

Photo by Willie Smith

I think it was that experience that helped me see the signs in this recent episode. This time I wasn’t completely in the hole but teetering on the edge. There’s a point, a brief moment, when I can catch myself and climb out of the rabbit hole. I can stop myself from  going deeper. The lethargy and loss of confidence was the marker. The alarm was sounding and I knew I had to do something.

Then I remembered some advise I received not long after I found out about my leukemia. A woman I know had gone through breast cancer and beaten it. I asked her what she did, how she kept hope going. Her answer came fast and definite. “Have a goal. A long-term goal of something you want to accomplish.” She wasn’t talking about the goal of beating cancer. She meant a goal outside of the cancer. A life goal I’ve always wanted to accomplish.

It was the best advise I’ve ever had. I would only add one more thing: set short term goals as well.

My novel is my long-term goal. But it was being defeated. I figured my only way back was to make myself achieve very short term, I’m talking just one-day-at-a-time, goals. I promised myself I would do just one thing each day. The first was doing the dishes. Then soon I was doing a ‘honey-do’ project. I still wasn’t writing but I could feel my confidence returning.

Then sometime later, with some nudging from two of my readers, I began posting to my blogs again. I still haven’t gotten back to my novel but I feel it coming.

Last weekend I helped my son with some yard work. I was pulling weeds from what used to be a flowerbed when it hit me. I was actually enjoying it. Even more than just uprooting weeds, I was helping my son. I had a purpose. I was actually out there, outside of my head, and the depressive thoughts were gone.

I know my reader’s are at different stages in their fight with Leuk. Some, like me, can remain daily active, others have had to slow down their lives, and still others are bed-ridden. But each of us can find something, no matter how small, to keep us going. It might be pulling weeds or it might simply be giving a grandchild or other loved one an hour of our time.

Whether our goals are big or small, they give us a purpose, a reason for being. Victor Frankel, a jewish psychiatrist discovered this while surviving the hell of the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is a short, good read. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, I guess what this overly long post is trying to say is, don’t let Leuk make you forget who you are. Set realistic goals, both short and long-term. They will get him out of your head and keep you out of the rabbit hole.

Godspeed to all of you.

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If you’re undergoing Chemo you are probably facing some “fun” side effects. Nausea being right up at the top of list.

There is some excellent advice and suggested medications for dealing with and treating Nausea and Vomiting on the NavigatingCancer website.

NavigatingCancer is an excellent resource for all things cancer, not just leukemia. If you register you can also have access to discussion groups where members share their experiences. I am a member and find it very worthwhile.

As with all sources, you should talk to your doctor before proceeding with any advice. But give the website a look. It’s kind of a home for those of us fighting Leuk. I’m guessing he doesn’t want you to read it. But just ignore him and continue to build your education on how to beat him.

Hang in there guys and gals. You can make it.

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