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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Metaphorically Speaking...

There is a long driveway from our house out to Old Wharf Road.  I only tend the lawn near the house, so the property near Old Wharf Road mainly grows wild.  I do try to mow it several times a year just to keep the larger plants and/or trees from taking hold.  However, one of the problems I have continually faced is that this area abounds in poison ivy.

I hate poison ivy!  I am very sensitive to this pernicious rash, and I have contracted it many times over the years.  It seems as if I can get poison ivy by just thinking about it too hard.  I have become a militant about eliminating poison ivy whenever I see it.  However, this is not a easy as it may seem.

Our mailbox is at the end of Old Wharf Road at the intersection of Church Street.  Being a lazy son of a gun, I used to drive out to the mailbox every morning to retrieve the newspaper.  However, since my stem cell transplant, I have been walking to the mailbox every day to get a little exercise.  (I know, I should have been doing this all along.)  As I have been strolling by this patch of ground at the end of our driveway daily, I have had time to ruminate, and it has occurred to me that my battle against poison ivy is a horticultural metaphor for my larger fight against Multiple Myeloma.

I have come to realize that poison ivy is like a disease, which I will call Poison Ivyloma.  Like Multiple Myeloma, Poison Ivyloma is incurable, but it can be controlled somewhat with brush killer (chemotherapy).  My efforts at disease control over the years have only succeeded in achieving Partial Response (PR) or at best, Very Good Partial Response (VGPR).   Relapse is only a matter of time, and the Poison Ivyloma always reappears.
Effect of "transplant" "chemotherapy" on my patch of land

Late last summer, I decided to take more draconian measures to rid this area of Poison Ivyloma.  Rather than do a spot treatment of the poison ivy plants, I sprayed the entire area with Round-Up!  I just realized that this approach was analogous to my recent stem cell transplant.  As with the chemotherapy, melphalin, which hopefully killed off the myeloma cells as well as all the other cells in my bone marrow, my blanket herbicide application had the same effect.  It not only suppressed the Poison Ivyloma, but killed all the benign plants as well, leaving behind a virtual wasteland.  (A "benign" plant is anything that is not poison ivy.)  See the attached picture.

Poison Ivy on my neighbor's land

Just a few feet away from this plot of land, on my neighbor's property, Poison Ivyloma runs rampant!  Here is a picture I took yesterday showing the new growth of the tiny, shiny, reddish-green poison ivy leaves springing to life on his land.  However, there is no sign of this scourge in my "transplant" area.

In terms of its effect on Poison Ivyloma, my "stem cell transplant" process has worked.  The area has achieved at least a Complete Response (CR), if not a stringent Complete Response (sCR) to the treatment.   My hope is that the seeds of all the benign plants (analogous to stem cells) survived over the winter, so that this spring, just as my own immune system is growing back, this area will soon spring to life again, vibrant with benign plants and free of the dreaded poison ivy.

Of course, I realize that this trivial problem of Poison Ivyloma pales in significance compared with my case of Multiple Myeloma.  Nevertheless, I have hopes that both will remain in remission for a significant period of time.

I think that this blog post reveals that I probably have entirely too much time on my hands.  However, this is what you can expect from me on occasion if I don't have any real medical news to report.

1 comment:

  1. What makes you think only the "benign" plants will spring back to life in your patch?!! In my experience, you have to remain vigilant with poison ivy and every year spot kill ANY of it which springs up - anywhere!

    Now, I think you have every chance of keeping it at bay and I wish you luck. I hope this doesn't follow as a metaphor for your MM; I don't want to be a spoil sport. It's just that I'm as susceptible to poison ivy as you (is it the Irish ancestry we have in common?) and I seem to hate it as much! Every summer I have to get Steve to spray it (I won't go near it!), also with Roundup, every time I see it in the yard. I also have to get him to spray along the side of the road in our neighborhood on the path of Mack's daily constitutional! Since, like you, I am extremely vigilant and can spot poison ivy all over, I allmost never come in contact with it myself. However, I haven't been able to train Mack to recognize it or to stay away from it - or from me!

    Best of luck with your fight!