Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Month's Tests

The monthly routine into which my medical life has settled goes something like this: A few days prior to visiting the oncologist, I have blood drawn for the battery of tests he wants to do. The office visit itself of course begins in the outermost waiting room; eventually I am called upon by a physician's assistant, who weighs me before ushering me into an examination room, where I await my audience with His Lordship. Upon entering, he gives me a glance up and down and pronounces his satisfaction with my appearance; then he jumps onto a computer, brings up my test results, mutters a bit about one number or another, but finally declares his general approval of the aggregate. He inquires about any pain I might be having, but am not. Then I'm up on the table while he listens to my lungs and heart, and gently probes my belly and squeezes my ankles. We talk about whether he needs to write any prescriptions for me. Finally, it's Q and A time, which these days usually is brief, although this month we chatted a bit about the new vaccine recently approved for prostate cancer, and whether there is anything like that being developed for multiple myeloma (but that's a subject that deserves a post of its own). Finally, on the way out, I schedule my next office visit, and a session for an Aredia IV, which ordinarily occurs a day or two later.

The blood tests that are being done fall into one of three broad categories, from my perspective. One category is that of blood cell counts: red, the various types of whites, and platelets. This month, these were all within their normal ranges, except that I am a bit low on red blood cells. This is a side effect of the Revlimid, and is a factor in my fatigue problem.

A second category of tests I think of as "levels of chemicals in the blood", stuff like calcium, sodium, potassium, creatinine, and glucose. Currently these are all in their normal ranges.

The third category is that of proteins and
immunoglobulins (a.k.a. antibodies). Oversimplifying greatly, we want to see adequate numbers of the types of antibodies expected to be produced by normal plasma cells, and we don't want to see any of the junk monoclonal proteins produced by defective, cancerous plasma cells. Again, currently the tests are showing more or less the right numbers of the former, and none of the latter. I will continue to take Revlimid as long as this state of affairs continues.

Meanwhile, the monthly Aredia treatments are supposed to be strengthening my bones; this, in concert with suppression of the disease that caused them, should be making some of the lytic lesions on my spine disappear. I haven't had a skeletal survey for awhile, so I will get one sometime in the next month or so, thus giving us a reading on how well I'm doing on this front.

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