Monday, February 16, 2009


Luck seems to play a role in determining who survives leukemia and who doesn't. It's a bad-luck disease for sure. Relatively rare, and except for exposure to benzene or excessive radiation, its causes are unclear. The survival rate for adult leukemia is discouraging, although it's better than for some other diseases. The treatment is harsh and sometimes fatal. You can be "cured" of leukemia and expire from the side effects.

I've been ruminating about why some people survive leukemia and others (more) don't. Sometimes it's the aggressiveness of the disease. Sometimes it's geography. Sometimes it comes down to a single microbe. My leukemia responded well to chemotherapy. I live in an area with easy access to excellent treatment facilities and top doctors. I somehow dodged the germs that might have erased all my other "lucky" circumstances.

Pardon my negativity. I've witnessed far too many valiant fights where leukemia has been the victor. There are successes, to be sure. I'm one of them, for now at least. I hope my luck holds, that my retrofitted immune system continues to search and destroy lurking mutant clones.

There's no time for hand-wringing though. You can up the odds for someone battling leukemia by giving blood, becoming a bone marrow/stem cell donor, donating money to groups fighting for a cure.

This is your lucky day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly

I'm going out on a limb, taking a leap, turning my back on leukemia, and flying off to who knows where. Before you accuse me of false bravado, wishful thinking or serious delusion, let me explain.

Yesterday I went for bloodwork and saw my doctor at Dana Farber. I was last there in November. My labs were all normal, and we had nothing of a medical nature to discuss. I told him I feel as good or better than I'd felt pre-leukemia. He was very pleased and said I didn't have to return until, get this, September!

No lab tests, no meds, no nothing. I'm leaving the nest. Goodbye.

I've now been in remission for 19 months. I know I'm not considered "cured," but I've decided to go with the premise that I am. I've had enough of leukemia and I hope it's had enough of me.

Before I left Boston, I went over to the hospital where I had my transplant to visit a friend who had a transplant there last week. She looked great, and I know she's getting excellent care. Then I went to the wing where I spent a month back in September 2007 to see if any of the nurses who cared for me were on duty. Mona was there, and was she happy to see me. I told her all the good news, but probably didn't need to say a word. I am the picture of health, not a picture she sees very often. Most of the patients on the floor are quite sick, as I was some 17 months ago. I thanked her for her fine work and asked her to let the other nurses know that I'm doing well.

I'll have to land soon, but right now I'm soaring.