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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Testing Day

Today was a long day at Dana Farber.  We left the house around 8:00 am and got back just before 8:00 tonight.  We had a 10:00 appointment scheduled with Richardson, but we cooled our heels until 12:30 before we finally met with him.  It was worth the wait though.  He appeared unconcerned about the fluctuations in my beta2-microglobulin and albumin readings, which was a great relief.  He is also unconcerned about my weight.  He continues to maintain that I look great.  I have put on about 4-5 pounds in the last few days since I got my appetite back, so I guess there is nothing for me to be really worried about.  Finally, he confirmed that if I draw the tandem transplant arm of the clinical trial and choose to withdraw from the trial after the first transplant, I will still be eligible for Rev/Velcade/dex consolidation therapy and/or Revlimid maintenance therapy.  That was good to hear.  Surprisingly, Dr. Richardson also held out the possible option that if my numbers don't look as good as hoped after the first transplant, the option of a second tandem transplant might still be on the table.  I hope it doesn't come to that, however.  In summary, it was a very positive meeting and most of my concerns have been allayed.

By the time we left Richardson, the rest of my testing schedule for the day was down the poop chute. We ran around like headless chickens trying to get it all done.  Fortunately, everyone was accommodating and fit us in as best they could.

Tubes of my blood
Next on the list was my blood draw. Holy crap!  This set a new record...they sucked 31 tubes of blood out of me today! Check out this picture of the resulting collection.  What a multicolored array!  It's a wonder I didn't need a transfusion after that.

Next up was the echocardiogram.  A primary objective is to measure the "ejection fraction", which is the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat.  A normal ejection fraction is 55 to 70 percent.  I had this done in July, and the ejection fraction then was a respectable 60%.  The technician wasn't allowed to tell me the exact number today, but she said it was definitely better than it was in July!  That's cool.  Maybe after all the blood they just had relieved me of, what was left was easier for my heart to pump. 

Then came the pulmonary function test.  I've never had this done before, but I came through that with flying colors as well.  My lung function was above 100% of the expected values for my age.  This day was really going pretty well.

Next we rushed over to radiology to get my bone scan X-rays.  By the time that was done, we were running late for the ever-popular bone marrow biopsy, scheduled for 4:00.  Needless to say, this was my least favorite part of the day.  Last time I had this done at DFCI, Gretchen was in the room watching the procedure.  She wisely decided to forgo that pleasure this time.  While we were waiting, we talked with another patient who had just had it done.  He said his bones were so hard that they couldn't punch through last week, so he came back today to finish the procedure.  They had to use a drill to get through, and he said they had to stop every 5 seconds or so to let everything cool down before continuing.  Hmmm.  Just the kind of story I wanted to hear before undergoing the procedure myself.  I have been a bit gun shy about this ever since my first bone marrow biopsy done at Lahey Clinic last year, which was really quite painful.  I have to admit though that today it really wasn't too bad.  The technician, Fara, really knew what she was doing, and while it was somewhat uncomfortable, it wasn't very painful.  Maybe I'm just getting used to being continually poked, prodded, and stuck, so that none of this really bothers me much anymore.

The results of all these tests will be trickling in over the next week or so.  In the meantime, I am heading off to Ocean Isle Beach, NC on Saturday for a week of golfing, camaraderie, and fine dining (but, alas, not drinking!) with my brother, Terry, son, Jeff, good buddy, Bobby, and assorted other characters from Pennslvania.  I intend to enjoy myself Last Hurrah before the transplant process.  I hope to update my blog while I'm gone, but don't all hold your breaths.  I have my priorities straight here.


  1. Hi Bill - You had quite a busy day yesterday. Hope all your results come in with good news. When do you start stem cell collection process? Do you know what is the actual procedure is like? Enjoy your time with your family in NC.
    I finished cycle one on MLN9708. So far so good. I miss not having a glass of wine here and there. Oh well...
    Mike from NY

  2. Hi Mike,
    I start the stem cell collection process on March 2. Then I am scheduled to check into the hospital for the transplant on March 17. I hope the MLN9708 works as well for you as it has for me. Keep me informed. By the way, a glass or two of red wine might not be bad and might even be helpful. It works for me. Just stay away from beer and the hard stuff. Check with your oncologist.