Some Good News…and Some Bad

Two weeks ago, just in time for Thanksgiving, I received the results of my bone marrow biopsy. The news was good. “Congratulations,” said my oncologist, “your bone marrow is normal.” And just today my bone marrow transplant doctor in Tucson called to say I was no longer a transplant candidate—news that I had been expecting but that was nonetheless good to hear. However, I didn’t write about the good news straight away. That’s because just a few days after hearing that I could return to my normal life, I found out that a friend had died. Continue reading

The Next Big Test

Tomorrow is the day. Just over four months ago, with my blood work coming back funkier than Sly and the Family Stone, I had a bone marrow biopsy. For the uninitiated, this is when a doctor takes a thick needle and jams it into your pelvic bone to collect some marrow within. Imagine what it feels like to be the cork on a wine bottle. Now imagine that the cork is solid bone underneath your skin. Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Transplant

I found out two weeks ago that I have six donor matches. Six, in the stem cell transplant world, is a lot. Many people are happy for just one, and some have to settle for partial matches. Essentially, my doctors can choose the fittest of the six, and the determinations are not much different from those made during a high school dodgeball game. Candace and Simone are smoking in the corner, so they’re out. Besides, they’re girls, and so is Nikki, so they’re not getting picked first. Obviously. (No, seriously. Male donors are preferred because if female donors have ever been pregnant, their babies can expose them to foreign genetic material—their partner’s—which complicates the grafting process.) Johnny is on the fast track for liver cirrhosis, so he’s not the best choice. That leaves Flynn, the tortured artist, or Ryan, the Olympic swimmer. We’ll go with Ryan, thank you.

So, with six good matches, you would think I’d be packing my bags for a Tucson winter with all the other snowbirds. You’d be wrong. Because…a funny thing happened on the way to the transplant. Continue reading

Update: Plan B

When I went to Tucson for my consultation a week and a half ago, the transplant doctor explained how he would look for a bone marrow match. It boils down to this: The lab would test my blood for 10 different protein markers in an effort to find a donor whose 10 protein markers match up with mine. Through years of transplant research, scientists have discovered that the best results (i.e., fewest complications and highest long-term survival rates) come from a sibling who is a 10 out of 10 match. Second best is an unrelated donor who is a 10/10 match. Third best is a sibling who is a 9 out of 10. After that, it gets a bit murky, but those are the top three. Yesterday, I found out that my brother is not a 10/10. As his older brother, I could’ve told them that—he’s more like a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day. Continue reading

Update: Treatment

After initially being told that UC Davis was the nearest medical center for a stem cell transplant, the plan changed 10 days ago to UCLA. Early last week, however, my insurance company told me that UCLA was not one of its “centers of excellence” and that therefore my benefits would not cover me to go there for treatment. Rather, the insurance company had approved it as a place to go for a second opinion. I asked them if they were requiring me to get a second opinion; they said no. My wife and I talked with our doctor about whether it was still a good idea to go to UCLA and get evaluated. “Not if you’re not going to get treated there,” she replied. This is because, wherever I get treated I will be getting evaluated and, in essence, receiving a second opinion. “Going to UCLA will just waste time.” Continue reading

Life on Hold

Photo by Mickewazowski

Photo by Micke Wazowski

Six weeks ago, my beautiful daughter Indra was born. Two weeks later, I got a sore throat. I connected these events. One doesn’t get a lot of sleep with a newborn, nor is there a chance for exercise or healthy eating. I went to urgent care and was treated for strep. The sore throat didn’t get better. And I developed weird symptoms. My heart would pound with the smallest effort. I started waking up with my pupils dilated; everything would look like it was zigzagging around, and it would take an hour for my vision to improve. Writing became difficult because everything was just so bright. Plus, I was just so worn out all the time.

Continue reading

Follow-Up: You Won’t Read All of This

Last month, I wrote that a powerful incentive for writers to write less is that readers don’t want to read very much. Specifically, I said that less is better because:

  • Most people don’t read—they skim.
  • Most people don’t pay attention for very long.

  • Writers are competing for readers’ attentions.

One of the strategies websites use to overcome their readers’ short attention spans and increase page views is to deliver articles in list format. Cracked.com, Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog all excel at getting people perusing Facebook and Twitter to click on links like “The 10 Types of People You Meet in Prison”. As it turns out, even featuring articles with such titillating titles as “6 Bizarre Uses for Mouthwash” doesn’t guarantee readers will get all the way to #6. Hootsuite performed an experiment, in which it took a post called “5 Content Marketing Tips We Learned From Our Best-Performing Content” and surreptitiously added a sixth “lesson” that explicitly asked readers not to share the post on social media.

Guess what happened. (Or you could just read about it…)

Poem: Back Roads

I don’t often write poetry. I’m hard on my work and I worry that my poems can be cloying and sappy. Then again, I myself am attracted to a bit of sentimentality in others’ poetry. I pulled this old piece out of a journal a little while back. It was something I wrote in college when I was feeling nostalgic for my coming of age in small-town America. Reading over the poem, however, I discovered that it didn’t really make sense. (“Isn’t that the case with most poetry?” you ask.) Continue reading

Have Your Cake and Eat Your Veggies Too

“These vegetables turned yellow,” the customer said, holding up a bag of unidentifiable produce.

I could hear her discussing the situation with a clerk as I strolled the aisles of Ubud’s premier organic vegetarian establishment, Down to Earth, peering over offerings of kombucha and cacao as I tried to choose between three varieties of hummus.

“Can I get a refund?”

“No.”

“But they turned yellow,” the customer replied, her face clouded with confusion. I have no idea what the original color of the vegetables was, but I’m guessing something other than yellow.

The clerk remained unmoved. It was a standoff, the tension only broken by the arrival of a shipment of almond butter. Continue reading