Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Miscellany

Not much to speak of going on right now, so I have worked up a collection of items that do not, individually, seem to warrant posts of their own.

I may have mentioned that, soon after the transplant, my hair, which I previously had cut very short but not shaved, began coming out in clumps. One had only to touch it to make it fall out. It was flying around everywhere. So one day, after being dismissed from the IPOP clinic, instead of returning to the apartment as usual, we instead sought out the local outpost of Image Recovery Centers, which specializes in helping cancer patients deal with their appearance issues, and which is located right there in the cancer center. I wasn't interested in their collection of wigs, but they do have a little salon where one can have one's head shaved. I don't know whether the all-female staff is selected for, or is just trained to exhibit, what appears to be the defining personality trait of the place: a soothingly calm
demeanor so reassuring and relaxing that one is caused to feel deeply at ease, if not to fall asleep. Once I was shorn, we got out of there before we had the chance to do anything foolish, such as purchasing one of the New Age-y CDs or aromatherapy kits on offer. At this point, I am getting a little bit of peach fuzz on my skull, but I still must wear a hat or cap, even indoors, to avoid feeling a draft up there.

In the first several weeks after the transplant, I had some problems with short-term memory loss. Huong would speak of some recent incident as if she expected me to know what she was referring to, and I would be able to come up with nothing about it, as if it had never happened. This was of course disorienting and frightening, but this symptom is apparently both relatively common and short-lived, and has faded with time. But now I am noticing an interesting symptom involving longer-term memories. I find that I sometimes project my latter-day damaged self into memories of past incidents that actually occurred (I think), but that predated the onset of my illness. Whenever I realize that I am doing this, and attempt to repair the memory by replacing the "sick" self with the original "well" self that surely belongs to it, I sometimes find I am unable to do so, and I begin to lose confidence in
the memory as a whole.

Whatever the degree of success that has been attained by the transplant, it cannot have repaired the many cancer-caused lytic lesions peppering my spine and ribs. The Christiana oncologist has indicated that it is his intention to eventually resume the bisphosphonate therapy (probably consisting of monthly Aredia IVs, as before the transplant) as a countermeasure. This reminds me of an incident that occurred the last time I received a dose of Aredia. I was seated next to a man who turned out to be a 10-year multiple myeloma survivor. He was first diagnosed when he was about my age, and endured a successful bone marrow transplant. He is now on maintenance therapy that is nearly identical with my induction therapy (Revlimid plus dexamethasone plus Aredia); but unlike in the case of my induction therapy, he is stuck with taking these drugs continuously, as far into the future as anyone can now see. So for me, his story was composed of both encouragement and discouragement, in equal parts.

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