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Blogfather 007: “Remission Impossible”

In general I try to refrain from writing too much about myself, as opposed to about my thoughts on baseball, since despite my best efforts I have yet to convince the world that everything is all about me. However, having chronicled, just over a year ago, my surprise diagnosis of a low grade follicular lymphoma, it seems unfair to throw out a cliff-hanger without offering, well, if not a conclusion then at least a follow-up.

If you didn’t read the original article this sequel will make no sense. After all, who could possibly have appreciated all the subtle nuances in “Dumb & Dumber II” had they not seen the original masterpiece? That’s right: I am making Jim Carrey references to discuss lymphoma on a baseball site. The world has, in fact, come to that.

In any event, “My Lymph And Hard Times” is a rip-roaring comedy you won’t want to miss. So if you didn’t read it the first time around, please take a break and read it now and we’ll wait…{“No rush... My word she’s a slow reader” ... twiddles thumbs ...} OK good. Now we can proceed.

What baseball and lymphoma have in common is that they are stat based. Normal lymph nodes measure about 8mm in diameter and a year ago the largest of mine measured 23mm. According to Fangraphs that does not create a terribly good xFIP if “FIP” stands for “life expectancy,” but following 8 infusions of the antibody Rituxan that same measurement dropped to 14mm — which Fangraphs said was still below replacement level but moving in the right direction.

4 additional infusions later, followed by 4 months of waiting, I had another PET CT scan mid-May, and then trudged into the doctor’s office to hear the results.

It is a somewhat surreal experience to sit waiting for numbers that can, at a glance, foretell your entire future. If you see a 12 you’re happy and if you see a 30 you might die soon, so just relax and the doctor will be in shortly and would you care for a cup of coffee?

Before I could learn my fate, though, I had to have my blood pressure taken because literally every time you walk into that office they want to take your blood pressure. I swear if you leave your jacket and come back to retrieve it, they’re going to want to take your blood pressure before handing you the jacket.

After taking my blood pressure, the assistant asked me if I was on any blood pressure medication.

“No,” I answered.
“Has it ever been recommended?”
“No.”

He never actually told me the reading and I didn’t ask, opting instead just to pleasantly answer “No” to every question. I’m assuming the reading was really high and that he was alarmed. I wasn’t the least bit alarmed, since I was about to go in to find out if I was improving or if I should perhaps start making some initial inquiries as to whether there were still good seats available for the plot along the third base side of the cemetery. I might have bit a tad been anxious, ya think? But by all means don’t give me any actual information, just make vague inferences suggesting that I should probably be panicking. Don’t worry I was panicking, just not about that.

Anyhoo, on to the doctor’s office for the PET CT scan results. I waited for an amount of time that was somewhere between 5 minutes and the eternity it felt like, until my doctor strolled in. “How are you feeling?” he asked jovially. “Um, fine,” was all I could muster. “Are you surprised?” “I don’t know,” I replied. “That’s kind of what I’m waiting to find out.” That’s when he got to the results.

In moments like this, I always expect something like,

“Well, I have bad news and worse news….”
“What’s the bad news?”
“The bad news is that the tests show you have 48 hours to live.”
“Oh dear! Well, what’s the worse news?”
“I was supposed to call you yesterday.”

I am happy to report that this is not, however, the way the conversation went. The way it did go is that my doctor finally gave a number. That number, to my surprise and amazement, was “8”. As in, all my lymph nodes measured 8mm, otherwise known as “completely normal”. He handed me the report and my eyes shot straight to the bottom of the page for the overall summary: “No active malignancy. Complete response.”

That’s good, right? For one of the few times in my life I was too stunned to ask a bunch of questions to the man who always asked if I had any more questions and then always complained that I asked too many questions.

Now before cueing up “Celebration” and voting on who pies me, let’s be clear about one thing: non-Hodgkins lymphomas are not considered to be curable. If it’s in my DNA, in my stem cells, supposedly it is always lurking and should return someday perhaps with a renewed vigor. But let’s also be clear about something else: if you tell me I have a disease for which no one has ever been cured, my response is going to be, “So I’ll be the first, then? Cool!”

That being said, according to science my best avenue for success is to stave off the disease long enough that they find a cure (or an even better treatment than Rituxan, which is already a huge gain from “Sorry, we can’t really help you”). Or just beat the damn thing for no reason, kind of like Jeff Mathis bats .170 against the league and then hits the A’s for no reason.

In any event, without question the results I received were as good as you could possibly hope for so what the heck: tell Kool & The Gang to tune up the horn section and remember that I’m quite partial to lemon meringue.