Many have been asking about the situation with Dad and, honestly, I forget to whom I have told what. To assist in this rather cumbersome process, I am dragging out the old blog idea once again. This particular entry will remain at the top of those listed. Thereafter, the newest entries will be at the top (directly below this one).
In August of 2007 Dad was diagnosed as being severely anemic. This diagnosis was incorrect (good catch, Gene). Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed as having leukemia. We're still not sure if this was exactly right but it seems like the eventual diagnosis they landed on was a sort of lymphoma/myeloma hybrid. Whatever it ends up being called, it's basically a cancer that doesn't follow the rules. In the several months since, it has been treated with some chemo and a LOT of transfusions. In more recent months he has been getting two units of blood per week.
His treatment has been under the guidance of an oncologist here in Abilene and specialists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A few weeks ago he and Colleen had been there for several days of tests- some due to the fact that Dad had been experiencing a new development in the form of pain. The tests they ran showed nothing that would indicate the cancer was progressing in a way that would cause any pain. The day after they got back to Abilene, however, the pain had reached a level where Colleen texted me during church asking if I could help her get him to the hospital. We got him to the ER where they gave him morphine and sent him home. A few nights later he was still in pain and had grown weak to the point where he fell. Wednesday mprning Colleen and I got him up and to the hospital where he was admitted.
Though many think people go to the hospital to get better, Dad's condition merely spiralled downward. His kidneys were looking like they might be failing, he had double pneumonia, he was too weak to stand and Monday evening his oxygen saturation level was well below critical level. I truly did not think he would see Tuesday.
Tuesday dawned, however, with a new diagnosis. A blood culture had suggested he had Cryptococcus Neoformans and a spinal tap confirmed it. Essentially this is a fungus in his blood that had attacked everything- lungs, brain, kidneys, central nervous system- you name it. The doctors said this condition was most commonlyseen in people who had exposure to birds or bird droppings. Dad has no birds, is not a bird hunter, has no guano-centric hobbies... He did grow up on a farm and they had chickens so it could be that this fungus was basically dormant for years until the diminished immunity common in cancer patients allowed it to flourish.
Now a team of doctors including (but not limited to) oncologists, infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, nephrologists, neurologists and urologists are in a process of guiding dad through at least a few month of intense antibiotics to work on the fungus, breathing treatments to work on the pneumonia, IVs to work on the kidneys, transfusions to work on the cancer, etcetera. At least a few more weeks of this will be in the hospital and then a few months more will be on an outpatient basis.
I am not a doctor, of course, and I apologize for the gaps and errors in this narrative, but one comment that stuck out among the things the doctors said was that the first signs of success in this course of treatment would be from the neck up. Sadly, however, this seems to be the area of the least amount of progress. Dad is showing signs of improvement in his lungs, kidneys and general strength, but frankly, he is not exactly with us mentally. He has moments that are better than others but those moments are rare and short-lived. I have no idea how many days are ahead but suffice it to say they will be difficult.
Thanks for checking in. Updates will not be regular nor very intelligent but I'll try to let you know if there are at least any significant changes.