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Monday, May 26, 2014


After more than a year of trying to sell our house, we finally did it!  We have agreed on all the terms with the buyer and plan to have a signed P&S agreement by tomorrow.   We were concerned about a couple of issues that arose during the inspection, but the buyer agreed to pay the full offer price.  It's a cash transaction, so there is no mortgage contingency to deal with.  In addition, she will allow us to stay here for several months at a nominal rent.  That's a huge benefit.  It relieves us of a lot of pressure and gives us some breathing room to pack, get rid of stuff, and, oh yeah, find a new home.

This is a huge weight lifted from our shoulders, but it is also bittersweet.  We have really loved this home over the past ten plus years, and we will definitely miss it.  However, it is much too big for just the two of us, and the carrying costs are more than we want to continue to bear.  It's time to move on.  We are hoping to find a smaller home that will meet our needs for years to come (I'm being optimistic in looking forward to "years to come").  I'm sure we will find the right place.  In mean time, we plan to enjoy our last summer on the river.

There has been some recent buzz about a potential new immunization therapy for MM using a genetically-modified measles virus.  Two heavily-pretreated patients were given the vaccine, and the results were dramatic.  In both patients, the MM receded dramatically, but after several months, the MM returned in one of the patients.  The media has played this up, but we all have to understand that this is nowhere near becoming a potential therapy in the near future.  What I think is most exciting about this is that it exemplifies the vigorous focus now being concentrated on finding ways of triggering the body's own immune system to fight cancer.  I recently blogged about this last month:  Immunotherapy Research.  There are a lot of promising developments in this arena, and I expect that there will be some significant breakthroughs in the next few years.  Here is a video by Dr. Ken Anderson of DFCI showing how excited he is about these new approaches:

immune-based therapies for multiple myeloma

There seems to be a sense of optimism among researchers that we may be on the threshold of some major advances in fighting all cancers, not just MM.  I am grateful that I continue to be in remission, which may give me time to take advantage of some of these new therapies as they become available.  I know it's only a matter of time before my multiple myeloma rears its ugly head again.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pin Cushion

Full Moon over Farm
I haven't updated this blog yet this week, since I spent from Monday to Wednesday up at the family farm in Champlain, New York with my son, Jeff, to open it up for the summer.   The Internet connections aren't so great up there, and besides, we were too busy having fun for me to worry about my blog.  The weather was great, and on Tuesday, we cooked porterhouse steaks over the charcoal grill for dinner (medium rare of course), and then sat around the fire pit smoking cigars, drinking beer, and just chatting.  It doesn't get any better than that!  It was a full moon, and the clouds scudding across the sky were breathtakingly beautiful in the moon light.  I took this picture with my iPhone, which kinda sucks, but Jeff got some really great pictures with his professional Canon camera.  I can't wait to see how his turned out.  Gallery quality, I would guess.  Alas, we had to come back yesterday so Jeff could pick up his girlfriend, Christine, at Logan Airport on her flight back from Paris.  (Most of our family have been world travelers lately going hither and yon!)  Short as it was, we still had a great visit to the farm.  It's always a relaxing, wonderful experience when we can get there.  We plan to head back up for the Fourth of July weekend.  Can't wait!

On my way to the farm, I went back to the Farber Monday morning to see if I had recovered from my cold and to check my numbers after a week without Revlimid.  It was all good.  My pathology results from last month still show no signs of monoclonal gammopathy (yay!).  The antibiotic prescription they gave me last week worked fine, so I was back in good health.  Interestingly, my white blood cell count (WBC) and hematocrit (HCT) both jumped back up into the normal range!  Wow!  My WBC was 4.1 and HCT was 38.8.  While my continued use of iron supplements has helped these numbers a bit, the most logical explanation for the big jump is that my week off the Rev really helped.  I have been worried about my continued anemia over the past several years, but these latest results give me some encouragement.  First, I think the iron supplements are slowly restoring my blood counts to normal.  And second, I think the Revlimid is responsible for a lot of my lower counts, even though I am taking the minimum dose of 5 mg/day.  I did forget to take my Rev to the farm, so I got an extra 2 days off.  My bad!  Anyway, I am now back on my normal daily regimen of Rev.  I also turned in a 24-hour urine sample on Monday, the first time since January.  The results have now come back showing no monoclonal protein in my urine (another yay!).  I couldn't be happier with my progress so far.  I consider myself extremely lucky.

I finally got my immunization shots, which have been put off for months because of a cold or forgetfulness or whatever.  Anyway, I got a full dose of five shots on Monday, three in my left arm and two in my right.  I felt like a pin cushion.  Here's what I got:  Polio, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A&B, Hib, and DTaP.  The Hib is some kind of anti-meningitis vaccine, and the DTaP is the typical diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine given to all 2-year olds.  My new immune system is now two years old, so I guess it's time for me to get all these baby vaccines taken care of.  By the way, Heather, my favorite nurse, gave me the shots, and they didn't hurt at all, even though she hates giving them.  Only later in the day when I was up at the farm did I notice that my arms ached a bit.  No big deal.  I'm really used to being poked, prodded, and stuck by now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Home Again

We got back Sunday from a whirlwind vacation to Ireland and Barcelona, Spain.  It was a great trip, and it was wonderful to spend time with two of our kids and their significant others.  It's too bad the whole family couldn't have been there, but alas, they all now have their own lives and commitments.

As you may know, I have Irish heritage, with my known paternal family roots going back to Co. Tipperary in the early 1800s.  However, I have not found any known relatives using conventional genealogy research.  Therefore, I have resorted to DNA testing to see if I can find some ancestral roots that way.  From my y-chromosome DNA results, I discovered that I am a descendant of the progenitors of the O'Brien clan in Ireland, with roots extending back to the time of Brian Boru, who was High King of Ireland a thousand years ago.  This year, Ireland is celebrating Brian Boru's victory at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, which freed Ireland from the Viking invaders.

Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
One stop on our journey was the Dromoland Castle in Co. Clare, which used to be Brian Boru's castle. We then spent two days celebrating Holly's friend's wonderful Irish wedding.  After the wedding, we drove to the famous Rock of Cashel.  When we got there, they were celebrating the coronation of Brian Boru as the King of the Munsters, before he became High King.  It was a happy coincidence for Jeff and me to see this reenactment of a ritual that may have happened to an ancient ancestor of ours.

 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
After touring Dublin, Holly & Ryan, Gretchen & I flew to Barcelona for 4 nights.  What a great city that is!  We had a chance to see the famous Sagrada Familia, the unfinished basilica by the famous architect, Gaudi. We also spent many hours walking around the old city with its Gothic architecture and narrow streets.  I was pleasantly surprised that I had plenty of energy for all this walking and my bum knee didn't bother me at all!  We ate well, and the tapas were delicious.  After a wonderful holiday, we all headed for home on Sunday.

After a short night's sleep, I went into the Farber on Monday for my monthly checkup.  Everything is still fine.  My iron levels are still low but are improving gradually.  Unfortunately, I picked up a cold while in Europe, so I still had some sinus and chest congestion on Monday.  Since the Revlimid inhibits the immune system, Mary and Muriel decided that I needed to stop taking the Rev for a week and gave me an antibiotic prescription to keep me from getting a secondary infection.  I have to go back next Monday to check my numbers again, and if I'm back to normal, I will go back on the Rev.  I still need to take some immunization shots, but they postponed them until next week as well.  Other than that, all is good.