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Friday, December 15, 2017

Is Anybody Still Listening?

I was somewhat relieved to discover that my blog account has not been mothballed due to my long absence.  It's been seven months since my last update.  My how time flies!  So, here I am, still alive and kicking.  I've had a lot of encouragement over the past few months to update my blog, but somehow I have kept procrastinating.  I have finally overcome whatever mental or writer's block has kept me away.  There's been a lot of water under the bridge or over the dam since then, but I promise not to bore you with too many details.

On the Multiple Myeloma front, I am pleased and grateful to report that I am still in remission.  It has been almost 6 1/2 years since my initial diagnosis.  At that time, expected life expectancies were about 5-7 years.  By that reckoning, my time should be about up by now.  But I was fortunate to find myself at the vanguard of the new novel therapies which have transformed the MM landscape and extended survival times.  While I have no illusions that this can go on indefinitely, I feel pretty good about my prospects right now.

I seem to be healthy in most other respects.  My blood counts and chemistry numbers are mostly in the normal range, except for my white blood cell and neutrophil counts.  These are normally suppressed due to my Revlimid maintenance therapy, which is why I have to have them checked monthly to make sure they don't drop too low.

Oh yes, and my bilirubin generally runs high, also due to the Revlimid.  Bilirubin is a liver-related number, with a normal range below 1.2.  Mine usually runs about 1.7, but all my other liver-related numbers have been in the normal range.   A couple of months ago, my bilirubin jumped up to 2.5. Oops.  Since it relates to liver function, I thought that maybe I had been imbibing too many Blue Moons (my favorite beer), so I decided to cut back on my intake.  The next month, the number dropped back to 1.7, and then this past Monday, it fell further to 1.5, well within my normal range.  I don't know if my drinking had anything to do with the elevated number, but I think I will continue to monitor my Blue Moon consumption going forward.

On other health matters, I still have issues with skin cancer.  I continue to pay the price for my youthful indiscretions of willfully basking, baking and broiling my lily white Irish skin in the sun. I recently had three more squamous cell carcinomas diagnosed.  The one on my cheek was surgically removed two weeks ago, and the other two on my chest and back were removed by freezing with liquid nitrogen.  Unfortunately, I just found out that the dermatologist didn't get all of the one on my cheek, so another surgery is necessary.  I'm kicking myself for having this done locally in Newburyport rather than going into Boston as I did last March.  Now I have to go back into Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and have Dr. Schmults do a Mohs surgery to get the rest of it, which I should have done in the first place.  Live and learn.  Sigh!

Thanksgiving was a really special time this year.  We had the whole family here for a change.  Brian, Pam, and Logan drove up from New Jersey, Holly and Ryan flew in from San Francisco, Jason came from Hartford, and Jeff and Christine came along with her mother and sister.  As an added bonus, Gretchen's God daughter, Stephanie, joined us from Beacon, New York.  We had a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixin's for the 13 of us.  I must modestly admit that I did an admirable job roasting the 20 pound turkey on the grill.  Gretchen did a great job with the spinach pie and other goodies.  I have a lot to be thankful for!  Who knows how many more times we can gather the whole clan together again?

Now for the big news.  Considering our advancing ages and health issues, we recently decided to seize the day and travel while we both can.  Fortunately, Gretchen has been recovering nicely from her surgeries, so she should be able to manage the stress of an extended vacation.  We have wanted to travel to Southeast Asia for a long time now, so in September, I tried to find a Viking Cruise in that region.  Almost everything was sold out for the entire winter season, but there was only one slot available for the entire season that I grabbed immediately.  On December 28, Gretchen and I are headed to Southeast Asia for a Viking Cruise on the Mekong River!  Our itinerary includes 3 nights in Bangkok, then we fly to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for 3 nights.  We then board a river boat to cruise up the Mekong River for the next 7 days, stopping in various Vietnamese and Cambodian villages, including Phnom Penh.  We then go by bus to Siem Reap, where we spend the next 3 days exploring the Angkor Wat area.  Then we fly to Hanoi to spend the last 3 days of our trip.  We fly back to Boston on January 15.  What an exciting adventure this should be!

Now for the kicker.  I had a birthday lunch with best friend and business partner, Bahar, last week.  (Yes, I just turned 75.)  We both talked about our travel plans, and Bahar said he and Katherine are headed to South Vietnam after Christmas.  Really?  As it turns out, they are taking the exact same Viking Mekong River Cruise that we are!  Almost as astounding, their stateroom is #307, right next to ours #305.  Now what are the chances of that?  Come on, really!  Bahar and I have shared many coincidental experiences in our lives, such as our sons, Brian and Jason, being born a day apart in the same hospital with the same doctor, with their mothers sharing the same room.  That was pretty weird.  But this one takes the cake!  This should be a lot of fun!

Maybe I'll update this blog when we return.  But then again, with my history, maybe I won't.

Happy Holidays!!!