Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Progress Well Baby Visit

Got here at 10:00 for an 11:00 appointment. The waiting room was virtually empty (I was going to say 'a ghost town', but considering the venue...).

Anyway, got vitals taken and am happy to report BP: 110/70 Pulse: 71. The walking, yoga, and meditation are paying off.

Got into the exam room by 10:20 and have spent the time reviewing the new NAVAIR Fraud, Waste, and Abuse instruction. Turns out I'm pretty good at Fraud and Abuse, but I may have to go in for remedial Waste training. I understand the training is given down at our Cherry Point site.

Still waiting for Katherine, but to be fair it is still 20 minutes before my appointment time. Still planning on finding the meditation labyrinth at the Georgetown Waterfront Park afterwards, then yoga tonight. Full day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Testing a Method of Using Google Earth Maps for Illustration

If you see this, you're timing is great--if it works, I'll be deleting it almost immediately.  OBTW, this is the entrance to Georgetown I use almost everytime I go up there.  Parking is to the left before the guard shack, and the windows surrounded by the black box are the windows of the seventh floor trials infusion area where I used to go for chemo.  These were the "good view" rooms.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Revlimid Mystery Revealed!

Okay, it doesn't really rate the National Enquirer headline, but the good nurse Jenny did explain why I'm picking up my Revlimid at the hospital on Tuesday instead of having it shipped here.  Turns out that one of my fellow trial participants started Revlimid with a white count that was very low (and the Revlimid would only make it lower), so they are requiring all us trial participants to have labs at the hospital in order to get our pills.

On the plus side, my blood counts have been great for the last few weeks.  No worries.

Plenty of exercise today:  I went to my bi-weekly 1 hr 45 min Dynamic Flow yoga class.  Not nearly as difficult as the class two weeks ago (different instructor) and I wasn't the worst one in the class.  I actually made it through the whole thing without taking any breaks.  I'm not back to where I was before the hospital adventure last June, but I'm happy with the progress so far.  When I got home, I was informed by Robbie that he and I were going on a 3-mile walk.  So we did.  I've got some liquid, malted calories coming my way tonight, so if you're in the local area and want to stop by the Olde Town Tavern around 8:00 p.m., I'll buy the first beer.  If there are more than one of you, I guess you'll have to share.

On Tuesday, after my well-baby visit with Katherine (who is just about a month from her own well baby) I'll be taking the opportunity to visit the Georgetown Waterfront Park and walk their meditation labyrinth.  Over the last several weeks, I've been starting every day with 15-20 minutes of meditation in a dormer I've partitioned off for that purpose.  I'm intrigued by walking meditation in general and specifically in the meditation labyrinths, and am amazed at how many there are in the area.  "How do I find a meditation labyrinth in my area?", you ask.  Well, how about at  http://labyrinthlocator.com ?  Got to love the internet.  For the really physically underwhelmed, you can buy finger meditation labyrinths that you hold in your lab. So Tuesday afternoon I'll be trying out my first labyrinth meditation.I've really gotten a lot out of my seated meditation and have high hopes for this venue.  I'll let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have to Share

This is an exerpt from an email that I received from a woman with whom I work. She started following my blog before she ever met me. I actually got a little choked up when I read this email, and I've asked permission to use it in my upcoming presentation. I wanted to share it with all of you. This is the realization of one of my greatest hopes for my blog. It may be that some specific readers will recognize their situation. Thank you so much for sharing--I'll try to maintain your anonimity.

"...I shared your blog with one of my best friends...whose father happened to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of CLL last Spring. Her father is more of a private person who struggled with how to tell those around him that he had cancer especially when the outcome of his diagnosis was uncertain. Everyone responds to crises differently, some are better able to process information by sharing it, others feel the need to keep information to themselves until it reaches a point of criticality. Both are valid points of view, but in a situation such as this it can be very difficult for the loved ones of someone who is less likely to communicate about their experience. Reading your personal accounts was helpful to her because it gave her the perspective of someone going through the first person experience and she thoroughly enjoyed your upbeat tone and positive outlook. She eventually shared your blog with her father and her mother and it helped create a dialogue about how one can inform those they love about their struggles without the perception of throwing a personal pity party. Her family continued to follow your blog and her father also found the perspective of another person to be helpful. CLL is such a broad disease that it can be difficult for someone with the diagnosis to know what to expect and therefore know what to share or how to do so. It is one thing to look at survivability numbers and another thing to know the story of real life person. In that sense you gave her family support of learning more about the disease, knowing what they might expect during her father's treatment, and how someone else has coped with the diagnosis. I just wanted to let you know that through your blog you have probably helped more people than you know, and some you may never know. BTW - My friend's father underwent more traditional treatment for his CLL/ Leukemia but is now doing very well. [My friend] is copied on this email because I asked her permission before sending it and most of what I have written above is plagiarized directly from her. Not to mention that the discussion we had regarding your blog actually contributed a lot towards her letting me know what was going on in her life in regards to her father's illness and in that way was a really good vehicle for communication between us as friends."

Wow. Just Wow. Thank you.

P.S.  I've never personally looked at the survivability rates.  In the words of the great Han Solo, "Never tell me the odds."

Robbie's Day Off

Robbie has the rest of the week off from school (Surprise!), so by definition I have the rest of the week off from work (except for my constant Blackberry missives--I developing little, tiny calluses on my hunt-and-peck fingers.)

We were going to go to the Smithsonian, but he popped a fever last night, so I limited us to local area travel.  Gorgeous day for most of the day.  We went to Solomons Island and did some beach walking, then to some local sculpture gardens.

While at the garden, he napped on a sculpture and I was able to get in twenty minutes of meditation.  I also found out by phone that my next shipment of Revlimid has been hijacked and is being sent to Georgetown instead of here to me, per direction of Jenny Crawford.  I don't like change--it normally portends.  I'm curious about just what this is portending.  My next appointment (with Katherine) is next Tuesday, when I'm scheduled to start Round 5 of Revlimid.  I'll let you know what new adventures await our hero.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Final Headshot

This is for the folks in New Jersey putting together the advertising for the Survivors Day event where, against all good advice, they've asked me to speak.

Go ahead, Meno.  You know you want to.  Make that comment.

Bio to go with Headshot

Tim McMichael was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1958, and was raised on a cattle farm in the little rural Louisiana town of Amite. A 1980 graduate of Louisiana State University, Tim served seven years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Flight Officer, flying in the backseat of the F-14 Tomcat. After getting out of the service in 1987, Tim continued to support the Navy as a civilian. He currently works for the Naval Air Systems Command, where he is Chief of Staff to the admiral in charge of Research and Development.

Tim was diagnosed in February 2009 with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and is now participating in a phase II clinical trial at the Lombardi Cancer Center of Georgetown University. He is currently well on his way to remission.

Tim lives in Southern Maryland with his wife Liz and their six-year-old son, Robbie, who Tim quite modestly describes as the smartest, funniest, and most beautiful child ever conceived.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring has Sprung (not original, but true)

Typing on my blackberry from the playground at St. Mary's River State Park, where Robbie and I have traveled--he on his bike, me on foot--on this bee-yoo-tee-full Spring day. I am in t-shirt and shorts in celebration of this 75-degree, sunshine-filled, soft-breeze-blowin' day (by the way, I'm trying to set a record for most hyphens used in a blog entry). It's glorious.

One of the tenets of Buddhist thought is to live in the "now". If you spend your life fretting about the past or worrying about the future, then you are missing "now", and when it comes down to it, "now" is all you have.  Life is a continuous cascade of infinitely short "nows".  Days like this make it easy to stay in the now.

P.S. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  There, that ought to nail down the hyphen record.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homework Assignment for YOU!


I've been invited to speak to a Cancer Survivors' Day gathering in New Jersey in early June.  The title of the presentation will be "I Didn't Order the Lymphoma" and the topic will be blogging and why it's important.  I hope to make it humorous (bet that surprises you). 

What I need from all of you is some input on what your favorite/most memorable blog entries have been.  I'll probably be reading many of the entries during the talk, and I want to make sure I get some good examples. 

If you would be so kind, please comment back with the dates of your favorite blog entries and maybe some idea of what it was that made it stick in your mind.  It doesn't have to be the funniest; it could be the hospital blogs that gave you information that you might not have otherwise gotten.

If you don't want to comment or haven't figured out how, please email me your inputs at timothy.mcmichael@navy.mil.

Thanks much,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Hi all!  No big news, but a personal yogistic breakthrough.  At class tonight (Tracy teaching, Justin and Yoko the other students), I finally met one of my personal yoga goals--I did a headstand.  In fact I did several headstands, including one that didn't use the wall as a back stop.  I did get an assist from Justin, for which I was very grateful.  Also, in what may be a first in North American History, it was a yoga class with more male students than female students.  I was part of history.  Just wanted to share.

Friday, March 12, 2010

He's going to Slytherin

Although we have not yet heard him speak in Parsil-tongue, the picture above proves that Robbie can unhinge his jaw to eat pancakes.  That snake-like tendency alone should land him with Snape and company when he gets to Hogwarts.

Got my ass absolutely handed to me at a two-hour Dynamic Flow yoga class this morning.  Of the 30 or so students there, I definitely positioned myself for the "Most Improved" award.  Don't get me wrong--glad I went, felt great when I left.  But I did have an "Oh Crap! We're only an hour into the class!  I could have sworn it was almost over!!" moment.   It was great to see Ann H., the instructor, who is the Ur-instructor in Southern Maryland and an absolutely fabulous teacher.  I knew I was in trouble when I looked around the class and saw that my fellow students included pretty much every Southern Maryland yoga instructor from every class I've taken over the last two years down here.  The workout that Ann crafted (and through which she never showed a moment's fatigue) pretty much taxed them to the limit.  Me?  Reduced me to a gasping puddle of sweat.  Never the less, wouldn't have missed it.  I can only improve from here.

Liz and I took Robbie to "Cheeseburger in Paradise" tonight, where he continued to establish his Adventure Eater credentials by eating Conch Fritters.  Love that kid.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ibuprofen

Nothing new medically, but went to a great 1-1/2 hour yoga class last night.  I was a little nervous going in, as an hour and a half is a relatively long class, and this was labled as a "Level 1/Level 2" class, meaning it could get moderately advanced.  I wasn't sure I had the strength or stamina to hang.  There were only four students in the class, and the other three looked all fit and bendy.

Turns out I did have the stamina and I did have the strength (or at least 90% of the strength).  GREAT teacher named Tracy, who loves getting her feet above her head.  We did a really neat, different 'flow' segment that got the sweat going, worked several poses that targeted the hamstrings (ouch), and finished with half-handstand (described in my last pre-hospital post in June), shoulder stands, and finally full handstands.  Well, 75% of the class did handstands.  One person--OK, it was me--just couldn't force himself up into the full handstand.  We were working against a wall and I think with a spotter I could have done it, but by then my triceps were shot, so it's just as well that I watched the others. 

I'm pleasantly sore today and will definitely be going back next Tuesday, assuming Liz isn't on travel.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

No New News (and No New Gnus)

Just saying hi and telling you that I'm finally starting to believe Spring may actually come to the Mid-Atlantic States some day soon.  Beautiful today, with highs in the mid-50's.  That will seem cold next October, but seems downright tropical just now.

We had a family breakfast at Robbie's favorite new restaurant--IHOP. (Aim high, boy.  Aim high.)  Afterward, the Robster and I went on a "walk"--apostrophied because I'm the only one actually walking.  Robbie is either on his bike or being pulled in our large wagon.  Today he elected to ride the bike, and he rode it on a 3.75 mile loop without once complaining about the distance, even though his hands were getting cold.  Really proud of him.

Medically I feel fine.  I'm five days into Cycle Four of Revlimid, buoyed by the thought that this drug is doing the trick and knowing that its best effects normally come later in the treatment.

Also, I've been invited to speak at a Cancer Survivors' gathering in New Jersey this coming June.  Said invitation was proffered by the Lady Louise, my friend who first suggested this blog.  The theme of the gathering is "Laughter is the Best Medicine"; not sure why she thought of me.  [smiley emoticon].   I'm thinking of a talk whose theme is "Why You Should Blog and Why You Should Make it Funny".  I will also publish my consulting fee schedule.

Going to bed now.  Nighty-night.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vials of Blood for all my Friends! and Good News


Good visit today with Dr. Cheson, but more on that in a paragraph or two.

After going into work at 6:30 to get a little work done today, I left for Georgetown at 8:15.  Good traffic, good parking, got there at 10:15 for an 11:00 appointment.  I decided to walk the Georgetown campus for a while and do what any good son would do--I called my mother.  I know that's what good sons do, because I asked my brother Wilson, who happens to be a good son.  Mom and I caught up with each other, trading medical stories while I climbed the hills of G-town.

Got back to Lombardi with 10 minutes to spare.  Went in, signed in, got my vitals taken, and went back to the lab to get my two vials of blood drawn.  Went back to the waiting area feeling all smug.  That lasted until Jenny, the trials nurse, found me and dragged me back to the lab area to fill the other six vials that she needed (she told me to call her when I got there, but I forgot.)  So I ended up with symmetric bandages over matching left and right arm blood draws.

I got to talking yoga with the phlebotomist who drew my blood both times.  She said she was looking for some new exercise to lose weight, so I started singing yoga's praises.  Then I got yet another lesson in "have no assumptions".  She mentioned that when younger she used to be a weightlifter.  As will happen, we started talking about 'maxes', and I nonchalantly mentioned that while in college my max bench press was 305 pounds.  With no hint of condescension, she mentioned that she used to bench 350.  I believed her.

ANYway, the good news:  it appears that Revlimid is doing the trick.  The last marrow biopsy shows 'residual' CLL where a year ago my marrow was 50% involved.  Even three months ago it was at 5-10%  involved.  Dr. Bai, a physician working with Dr. Cheson, could barely find any of my lymph nodes, where last year they would have been obvious to a freshman pre-med student.  Of course the good Doctor himself was able to find a couple, but nothing like I've had.  So it looks like this is working.

Now remember, this isn't a cure.  There's not a cure.  But if we can get it into remission, then I buy time until a cure is found.  If/when it comes back again, we drive it into remission again.  It's a long term game I'm playing.  But so far it looks like this round we're making good progress.  If I was drinking during the week, I'd be drinking tonight.