Thursday, June 26, 2008

Explanation and Plan

You must be so bored with this. If you are bored, just stare at this picture I took the other morning rather than reading the below explanation for my dad's condition / situation and the treatment plan.

Today my dad's blood work looks good tomorrow he will move to rehab. After about ten days, he will be discharged - kneeless - and go home to hang out in the cast and hang out on the walker for a couple of months. Then, provided that two months goes uneventfully, he will go back to Charlotte and get some new fake knee parts installed.

You might be wondering where the leukemia fits into any of this. It doesn't. And that is where it gets difficult to explain. His knee doctor has no interest in that part of my dad's issues. When he heard my dad's story of not dying nearly as many times as all the rest of the scientists predicted, the doctor said, "Eh," and contacted an oncology team to review my dad's file and consult with the nursing staff about blood work and medication. My dad has never met these people. So far they have stayed away, presumably because on the cancer front, things are quiet.

So is my dad in remission? We don't know. But for a guy who had full blown AML almost a year ago - and has had no treatment for that issue whatsoever - we almost have to assume that he has either a) been in remission at some point or b) that his leukemia is for some reason lazy and ineffective at doing its job (which is killing people, essentially).

We all generally agree that at least once in the last 12 months, spontaneous remission has occurred. The information out there about this phenomenon is spotty at best - so few people get this break that the data is not all that helpful. From what I can tell, it is:

1) rare

2) transient

3) always welcome

My dad is in a unique position, however. In September, his blood work and bone marrow confirmed full blown recurrent AML - and yet he just didn't die. When he showed up at the hospital six weeks ago - very much alive with his troublesome knee infection - they tested his blood again and said, "Gee, you still have leukemia." And then they refused to treat the knee on the theory that he has an expiration date of less than two months.

Except five weeks later when the infection was so gross that it appeared to be life-threatening, my dad simply rejected the idea of dying of a knee infection and went to another hospital, where the people were more receptive to the idea that my dad's life (and leg) were worth trying to save. So now six weeks and a major surgery later, aside from being seriously inconvenienced by his lack of a knee, my dad appears to be, um, just fine.

The official family approved explanation for this is: God (and Jesus) have the last word on when it is time to turn the lights out on my dad, and with so many people of all sorts praying for my dad's recovery, God (and Jesus) have been so busy listening to all that noise that they are simply too overwhelmed to hit the switch on the main generator with my dad's name on it.

Is there a medical explanation that works? Sort of. People who have AML and magically do not die are rare, but the people who get this special break usually have a few things in common. They are:

1) A strong primary relationship with a loving spouse.
2) History of staff infection - the uglier, the better
3) Strong faith and desire to live
4) Chronically depressed, ill-mannered, sarcastic, middle-aged children with bad hair and serious daddy issues.

My uncle is himself a scientist (as is my dad) and he has friends who study leukemia. Their opinion is that my dad's immune system has been stimulated by this knee infection and that the very busy life being led by the immune system is having an anti-leukemic affect. Way back when this Season of Badness started, my dad's oncologist did mention that a good wholloping mouthful of infectious disease is actually a good thing, so long as the patient survives it.

So there is our explanation. Jesus if you like, germs if you don't. But certainly your prayers - plus my poor mental health and my sarcasm - are doing their part as well.

Happy Thursday.


Dagny said...

That is amazing. And I am so glad.

Seriously, got tears here.


Sizzle said...

Go Jesus! Go Germs!

Still praying.

P said...

I used to not believe in germz, but now I do! Hallelujah!

I am having trouble wrapping my mind around not having a knee for a good long spell.

Annie said...

I am with p on the knee thing. I don't really care the reasons, I am just happy he is doing well. I believe it is his attitude that keeps him going. I also love his new doctor :-).

LizB said...

Yay for germs and Jesus. Can I add one more theory to the pot for you to stew on? Based on my experiences, I believe the human will is an equal ingredient in situations like this. When faced with the prospect of more surgery, chemo and radiation, my dad died peacefully in his sleep two days after learning that his kidney cancer had spread to his lungs. He chose to die, in my opinion. He didn't kill himself -- he simply stopped living. Conversely, my friend Ev chose to live for 10 years after she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and metastatic disease to the surrounding muscle and spine. Hell, she was so-called "Stage IV" for the last 7 of those 10 years. Her doctors kept insisting that death was eminent, yet she simply kept living. She died on her own terms at the age of 61. Perhaps your dad's will is like that.

Regardless, I'm happy that he's doing well. Keep taking care of you, Nina.

maryse said...

a friend from the ivory coast told me once that bacteria were african vitamins.

Kate P said...

Oh, boy. Please tell me it is the kind of cast you can sign. That would be fun seeing what you'd write on there, Nina.

Finn said...

So basically Jesus gave your dad a staph infection, which has sent him into remission. And he did so at our request. Or to escape your wrath.

Whatever works. ;)

ricki said...

Not bored yet here - very very happy to hear about the remission (if we dare call it that without any kind of qualifying word) in your dad.

Hey, if God works in mysterious ways, surely bacteria (and the human immune system) can, too. Or maybe the bacteria were God's work in some way.

Still praying here.

utenzi said...

The bacterial theory sounds kinda thin to me but still a lot better than divine intervention. Either way, it's pretty amazing that he's doing so well, Nina. Sans teeth and knee but alive.