Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Didn't make it to the Doctor Yesterday

Hi all,

Quick note to let you know I did not make it to Georgetown yesterday for my bone marrow biopsy.  Instead, I woke up with a crick in my neck that turned almost completely debilitating.  It took me about 45 minutes just to get dressed--I knew there was no way I was driving in DC traffic with that neck.  Several hundred mg of Ibuprofen and a day later, I have pretty much full motion back in my neck and could drive today, had my appointment been moved to today.  Instead, I'll wait for Jenny to let me know when my new appointment will be.  I'll keep you posted.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Milestone

As many of you might guess, and some of my long-term friends know beyond all doubt, I have an incredible capacity to sweat.  Don't know what it is; maybe a survival skill developed as a farm boy in South Louisiana.  Why is this bit of TMI pertinent you might (or might not) ask?  Well, this evening I attended my first Ashtanga yoga class at College Park Yoga here in Orlando, where  I'm spending the week for work. 

For those who don't know, Ashtanga yoga is named after the Hindu diety Lord Ashtang, the very sweaty cousin of Lord Vishnu.  OK, it's not.  But it is known as a style that emphasized raising "body heat" through a lot of movement.  Add to that the unairconditioned studio which had baked to a nice mid-nineties temperature and let the torrents flow.  If you don't like descriptions of large, sweaty men (easy, Meno), skip the next paragraph.

It got so bad halfway through the class, I had to flip my mat over.  The mat, which is supposed to be sticky, was so sweaty that I was slipping on it.  I was using hand towels to dry parts off in stolen moments between the poses.  When we finally finished after a series of poses on our backs, I literally had to mop up a pool of sweat off my mat.  I'm going back Wednesday night.

Welcome back to the perspiration-sensitive crowd.  Now the milestone:  if you look back to December 9th, you'll find the entry where I detailed taking my first Revlimid capsule.  Tonight, I take my last Revlimid capsule.  After this, we go into monitoring for a while to see what effect the drug had, to see if it's ready to go to Phase III of the trial process.  So here we go.

I have opened a bottle of Gatorade G2 Low Calorie Fruit Punch.  I am opening the Revlimid bottle.  The last capsule is in my hand.  I just took a picture of it which should appear as a seperate post in a few minutes.  This is what Revlimid looks like.  It's in my mouth.  I just swallowed it.  Now we're into monitoring.

Won't you join me?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What a Great Morning!

Do you believe is signs?  I'm starting to.   I had heard at class on Thursday there would be a sunrise yoga gathering this morning at the wharf in Leonardtown and resolved to attend same.  Although the morning was beautiful, I wasn't entirely in the mood when I started out.  As I turned out of our development onto the main highway, I noticed from the corner of my eye, standing in the field across the way, what I first thought was a vulture.  A second look revealed that this particular vulture had a pure white head and a large hooked beak.  It was a fully grown, mature bald eagle, just standing in the field about 20 yards off the road.  I'm not sure why, but I have for a long time had an affinity and what feels like a connection to these birds.  They are almost my totem.   I pulled over on the shoulder opposite the bird and watched.   He did not move, so I got out of the car to make sure he was alright, thinking I would call Natural Services if some yahoo had shot it.  Nope.  It saw me walking towards it, looked a little pissed off and indignant (bald eagles are good at that), and flapped away into some nearby pines.  I swear the tail looked about 2 1/2 feet across.

Got down to the wharf where a crowd was just beginning to gather. (The folks in the adjacent picture were not in the class, this is just a picture of the wharf I lifted from the web.  Also, you can't see the incredible view of Breton Bay that is afforded here.)   A great blue heron flew overhead, landed in the nearby mud flats, and began probing for breakfast.  Red-wing blackbirds declared the edges of their territories from the cat-tails.  People began to arrange their mats radially around the flagpole in the middle.  With practically the whole area to choose from, I of course put my mat in a spot where I would be looking into the sun.  My friend Tracy was teaching today, and there were about five other teachers moving around correcting postures and helping out.  The cost for the class was a donation to the local soup kitchen.  As we got closer and closer to the 7:30 start time, more and more people streamed in.  By the time all was said and done, there were over 65 people at the class.  We spilled out of the 'compass rose' you see in the picture; people filling the walkways leading up to the center.  There's no electricity at the wharf, so unlike most classes, there was no music.  Instead the background 'music' to Tracy's teaching was the songs of birds and the splash of fish jumping.  The temperature was perfect, there was a cool breeze blowing to keep the bugs down, the sky was blue with just a few puffies, and Tracy taught a really great class.  There were folks of all levels and ages, including several people for whom this was their first yoga experience.  After the class, I told Tracy that in some ways I felt sorry for the 'new folks', because I believe taken together this was the single best yoga experience I've ever had.

One more sign:  while waiting for class to start, I was talking to a fellow student when someone said, "Hey Tim, you have a passenger."  There was a beautiful orange and black butterfly that decided that where it needed to be was on my feet.  It kept flying away and returning, landing on my arch or my ankle over and over again.  It didn't leave until we finally started getting active on the mat.

It was a good morning.

That said, I have three more pills to take until I'm through with my current chemotherapy.  15 more milligrams of Revlimid.  When I'm done, that will have been 21 pills times 5 mg/pill times 6 cycles.  630 milligrams of Revlimid. That's a little over 2 hundredths of an ounce.  And it might just drive my CLL into remission.  Small miracles.  I go back in a couple of weeks for another (yawn) bone marrow biopsy, then we start monitoring.  Hopefully, I'll see another bald eagle on my way to the biopsy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I am well past 'mid-life' crisis age.  You will not see a Porsche in my driveway (though if my friend who recently bought the Carrera S would offer me for a ride, I'd wouldn't say no), you won't see any self-inflicted piercings, or any of the other accouterment of the middle year grasping.  I am, however, seriously considering a couple of tattoos.  With my 52nd birthday looming on the near horizon, I'm not worried about any later regrets.  I have two tattoos in mind.  I'm deciding whether or not to share what they might be, or just surprise you all later with the pictures. is the symbol 'Om'.
Yes, that 'Om'.  The stereotypical Om that everyone who makes fun of meditation or yoga always brings up.  But do you know what 'Om' symbolizes?  According to some, if you took every sound in the universe--the whimpering of the tiniest child, the evening song of the crickets, the explosions of a volcano, cries of ecstasy, wailings of lamentation,  the soundless roar of a supernova, the quiet of a mother's kiss on her new-born's brow--and blended them all together, all at once, the resulting sound would be 'Om'.  It is the sound that ties together all the elements of the universe.  It is the sound that ties you to me.  Over the last year it has helped me tremendously to think that I am tied to everything that way.   No matter what path my life takes, I am part of the Om--the Om that was there before me and the Om that will persist when I am gone.  Around my neck I've worn a silver pendant with the Sanskrit symbol for Om for well over a year now.  I think I may make it more permanent.

The second tattoo is more personal.  It involves something that is special to Robbie and me, a symbol is you will.  If and when I get that tattoo, I'll share it with you.  If Robbie wants to get the same tattoo when he's 18, I won't stand in his way (God willing, I'm still here to stand in his way.)

Thanks again for your thoughts, your prayers, and the positive energy you send my way.  It took this encounter with CLL to discover how blessed I truly am.  If you are reading this, even if we've never met,  you are precious to me. The light in me honors and salutes the light in you.

And Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Normie McMichael.  Thank you for everything, including your contribution to my sense of humor.  Thank you to my wife, Liz, mother of the wonderful part of my life, that above all else keeps this life worth living.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Multimedia message

Robbie riding his bike at the original Navy Test Pilot School building.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Multimedia message

Shopping for shorts at Penny's (click on the picture, blow it up, and look at his eyes.  Did you ever see a look that was more expressive of the thought "Daddy, you are a loon.")

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Starting Cycle Six, Seeing a Friend, and Boys' Day Out

Tuesday was my well-baby visit for Revlimid Cycle Six--the last Revlimid Cycle.  After being marked fit for duty by Dr. Cheson, we talked about next steps.  Apparently--as far as the trial goes--this is it.  We do 21 days of Revilimid then go into monitoring.  If my next bone marrow sample still shows CLL, we monitor.  It seems this drug can take a while to work.  One trial member finished with relatively little improvement.  He was tested for several months with no change.  Finally, Dr. C. was bringing the gent back in to determine next course of treatment when his tests came back "CLL totally gone".  He was all the sudden in full remission and has remained so for a year.  Caveat:  this guy was a Jesuit priest, so he may have had other factors working for him.

After my well-baby (and with Liz's full knowledge) I rendezvoused with Ms. C.,  a high school friend with whom I had reconnected through Facebook.  C. graduated a year behind me and we hung out periodically afterward.  While at the time I desperately wanted to call what we were doing "dating", it is probably more accurately described as "her letting me buy her dinner, but in an entirely platonic and non-mercenary way".  We corresponded for much of my freshman year at LSU, then drifted apart.  She did hold the record for quite some time for "most expensive meal I've ever bought a girl" and is still the "first girl who ever talked me into eating a raw oyster".  I didn't know.  I chewed.  I don't like to think about it.  

In the interim, she has finished college, finished law school, gone to work for a major corporation whose name you would recognize in a heartbeat, married what sounds like a cool guy, and now works as a lawyer and lobbyist for the aforementioned corporation.  The HQ of the corp. is just a few miles away from Georgetown, so after my doc visit I drove over and we had a late lunch at Panera.  It was great catching up and even greater that the conversation consisted of things other than 'remember when such and such..." (though some of that did happen).  We both agreed that social networking is fabulous and that we can't understand the great reluctance of some of our peers to take advantage of same.  We've lived in close proximity for fifteen years and only discovered it about two months ago.  Love that Facebook.   Anyway, we ate, we talked, we laughed, we promised to stay in touch.  I walked her back to the door of her building, where she gave me a quick hug before heading inside.  It was just like the old days.  [This is where if I used emoticons in the blog, I'd use a smiley.]

Anyway,  all continues to go well, but remembering that last year around this time I was saying similar things, I ain't getting cocky.  No part of me misses being fed through a tube in my nose and I'd just as soon avoid it.  I figure I've got two birthday parties coming to me this year, but I'm not bitching about the present I got last year and the 'present' I continue to enjoy today.