Tuesday, April 8, 2008

SCRIPPS: Let the medicine begin!

Tues. April 8th.
With the BORDERS California "Altar Boys" Book Tour completed, I started medical treatment today here in La Jolla at Scripps Clinic, the only hospital I know that valets your car. For all of you who have asked, or wonder, here is the short version, in three acts, of my medical treatment:

DIAGNOSIS: Hairy Cell Leukemia, relapse, after a hiatus of 17 years from my previous treatment here at Scripps. This is where the current, successful, treatment for HCL was developed and I had the good fortune to find this program 17 years ago when it was then an experimental drug. HCL is a disease of blood production in the bone marrow. All constituents of blood: hemoglobin that carries oxygen; platelets that makes blood coagulate and stop bleeding; and, white blood cells that fight infection, are adversely effected.

For example, my hemoglobin is 8.9 when normal is a range of 13.2 - 17.1 so I can't walk up stairs or lift anything without being out of breath and stopping. My platelet count is 41,000 instead of a norm between 140,000 - 400,000 which means I bleed if cut (and possibly bruise easy or commence spontaneous bleeding if it goes too much lower). My white blood count is 1.4 instead of 3.8 - 10.8 and the neutrophils are at 400 instead of 1500 to 1700 which means I am at high risk for infection--and I risked a book tour for BORDERS? Absolutely. Five great days with my son, Rob!

TREATMENT: Chemotherapy. Sounds so scary but this treatment does not result in hair loss and all the terrible things you associate with that word. Instead, a line is put in my arm and a drug infused continuously over a 7 day period though a machine the size of a walkman on a strap around my waist. This should kill the HCL (and probably a bunch of good cells, too) and allow for regeneration of new, clean blood cells from my bone marrow. After the 7 days, we will watch for at least a week to make sure there are no side-effects and to see if the new cells grow and result in increases of all of the numbers above at least to a point that it appears the drug worked. Then, we can go home. I will still avoid people for a while until my white blood count no longer puts me at such risk for infection.

FUTURE: The last time I did this treatment it resulted in 17 years of remission of the leukemia. We are hoping for a similar result this time. And...I have to have the Gardens of Springhill at my estate ready by May 10 for the National Garden Conservancy Tour and be ready to resume my book tour by May 15 when I address the library associates and retired faculty at California State University! So, thank you for your interest. I hope this answers your questions all in one place. And...BUY MY NEW NOVEL "THE ALTAR BOYS," TELL YOUR FRIENDS, AND POST GREAT REVIEWS ON AMAZON!


At April 14, 2008 11:36 AM , Blogger Patricia said...

Hi John,

I have thought of you so many times since reading the Bee article. You are a wonderful person who always makes me laugh (except now)and I am sending you very strong vibes to get well and beat this thing.

Hope you spend some time sunning and generally enjoying SD as much as you possibly can.

Love and the very best of wishes.

Pat Tweedy


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