Monday, August 29, 2016

Roller Coaster Ride

This has been an up and down and up past 30 days. About a week after my first cycle of chemo treatments I was hospitalized for 13 days with a bad fungal pneumonia. By the time I was discharged we stayed a couple more days in the Rotary House Hotel, attached to MDA for daily monitoring and labs. I had a bone marrow aspiration on the 19th of August followed by our appointment with Dr. Kadia on Friday August 21st. The preliminary results of the bone marrow test revealed my blast count had dropped from 13% to 3% which was excellent news (3% is within the normal range). Also, my major blood counts started going up to better levels again.

By day 21 past the start of that first round of chemo my counts started improving and by day 28 my bone marrow was once again producing better blood cells. Today, day 35, my platelets were up to the normal range and my white and red cells were higher than anytime in the past 4 or 5 months.  Also today I started the second cycle of chemo treatments. This time the volume of chemo was reduced to 3 days IV and 5 days of concurrent injections. Since my counts are so much better starting this round of treatment we hope the side effects will be more tolerable and that pneumonia will not happen again.

This cycle will last a total of 5 consecutive days meaning Monday through Wednesday the IV chemo will be done out patient at MDA while the Thursday and Friday injections will not require a trip back to MDA except on Friday when we go back for more labs. So 4 of 5 days we will travel back and forth from home to MDA. Beyond this second cycle we still do not know what to expect. It is hoped I will continue and go back into full remission. My Doctor even said I am back in partial remission, now since one of my blood counts, platlets, has returned to normal, my bone marrow is normal and that the major IDH2 mutation was not present. Also the rapidly improving white and red cell counts leaves him very optimistic about my prognosis looking forward.

The roller coaster ride continues but the view is far better from on top than on the bottom.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Jean's Dining Room Table

Her Dining Room Table became a symbol of who she was. For most of my life I was honored to know Dorothy "Jean" Johnson. Much of our time together was spent enjoying holiday meals sitting around that old table. Jean could put out a spread and hundreds of us throughout the years sampled her many great dishes, my all time favorite was her famous "Golden Baked Potatoes". But more than the great meals we enjoyed around her dining room table at 3819 Grandview Ave. in Meridian, MS I enjoyed the family gatherings and being around "Grammy" Jean even more.

When Janine and I started dating back in 1964 Jean was always there to greet me at the door. Even when Janine and I were on the outs, as we often were back in the early days of our romance, Jean always believed in me when even I doubted myself. That is who she was. She chose me far before Janine ever agreed to be my wife. Not that I was her favorite like so many said throughout the years. Jean only had two favorites that I knew of, the one being her beloved husband, Dugan and the other her lord and savior Jesus Christ. Everyone else that she knew or was a part of her life was her favorite. Every daughter, every son-in-law, every grandchild or great-grand child were her favorites. That is who she was. Christlike in every since of the word is who Jean Johnson was.

That old dining room table of Jean's has been a fixture in our house for about eight years. We even moved it to our new house in Texas last year. It is massive when all ten leaves are installed much like it was in Meridian for so many holidays. We devoured more good food on that table than I could ever describe. My favorite story of how sweet Jean was to me was indirectly related to that table but was of a Thanksgiving dinner back in about 1972, I believe. Janine and I had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary the prior month and we were in Meridian for Thanksgiving holidays. Dugan, the man of the house, usually carved the turkey but he was hunting that year so the task fell to me. Jean carefully sharpened the big carving knife and left me to the chore, unsupervised. After about 15 minutes she returned to me as I was struggling through that poor old bird. She silently reached down and turned the turkey over to the correct right side up position and it was smooth sailing then. She never laughed at me or mocked me for not knowing what I was doing. Needless to say I was the butt of everyone's joke that year except for Jean. I also became known as the best up side down turkey carver in the world that year and became the master carver who always carved the turkey every year thereafter.

If that old dining room table could talk it would tell of how Jean Johnson was the crown jewel of the Johnson family. She was one who never gossiped when we all did, who never, ever uttered a disparaging word about anyone when we all did. She was as pure as snow and as Christlike as I ever knew. If there was no Bible to read and you wanted to know about Jesus just follow Jean for a few years and you would be a true believer. That is who she was.

No, I was not her favorite but she was my favorite. Thanks to Jean I am a better person and anyone who ever knew her is a better person, too.