Thursday, December 28, 2006

Not-so-cold season

My niece Allyson is three years old, an adorable force of nature. She also arrived at our recent family gathering in Florida with a cough. It is hard to get a three-year-old to cover her mouth when she hacks.

Indeed, the family affair was beset by sick people. My cousin had a cough (“Don’t worry, it’s the end of the cold!”). My other niece had the sniffles. My sister-in-law had pink eye, which my stepmother caught, along with the cold that was going around, which was
also caught by my brother after the gathering ended.

Here I was, the CLL patient, finding it hard to ignore Allyson when she looked at
me with her plaintive eyes and said “Watch TV with me.” A half-hour of SpongeBob later, I wondered how many germs I had contracted. Prudently, when Ally later coughed into the salad bowl at dinner and stuck her hand in to grab some lettuce, I decided to pass on greens for the evening.

It was hard to avoid breathing the same air as the family, so I took other measures in addition to avoiding food that had been sneezed at: Purell, which Marilyn carries with her at all times, became our frequent friend.

And so I have evidently survived the family sickfest as well as two plane flights that involved any number
of crying, coughing children, one of whom urinated on the seat in the opposite row. The boy’s father dabbed at it with some paper towels and it no doubt dried, ready to be filled by some hapless passenger the next time Continental used the plane. I remember the good old days of flying, when they actually cleaned the planes between uses, right down to replacing the paper things that were hung over the top of the headrests for sanitary reasons. You could fit into the seats, and they gave you three meal choices in coach. Things have now deteriorated to the point that I would not be surprised to see people boarding with babushkas and chickens. But I digress.

I am happy to be home and healthy, more or less. And the nodes have been cooperative of late; apparently my last treatment stalled them a bit better than I initially thought.

So Marilyn and I are expecting a happy new year, at least for now. It’s snowing in Sedona and we just put 225 auctions on eBay. I am listening to Ignaz Moscheles, who wrote some mean piano concertos. Life is good.

UPDATE: It's January 6 and Marilyn finally came down with the cold and has had it for several days. My father also has the cold and my nephew developed pink eye. This means leukemia boy was the only one not to come down with something. Go figure!


vance said...

I know the feeling. My wife's family used to want to kiss each other ON THE MOUTH! Not me! And the more we learn about family, the less any of us are inclined to want to do that anymore.

I have become more (Adrian) Monk-like. Or Howie Mandell. Shaking hands is really kinda nasty, if you think about it.

Then, at this time of year when everyone is sniffling and coughing, there is nothing more scary than climbing into a long, thin, sealed tube that recirculates the same air.

As a doctor, all these sick people come to me. I think, "Don't bring your illness to me! Just stay home and get over it." But then, I'm in the business of seeing sick folks, so what do I expect?

Fortunately, I see so many sick people that I must have built up a pretty strong immunity. I seldom actually catch anything. But, like you, I am fastdious about hand-washing, and I wish I had stock in Purell, too.

Unfortunately, CLL patients can lose whatever immunity they might have built up over the years, so they are at increased risk.

The good news, I guess, is that most of these illnesses are viral and self-limited. They will eventually go away.

Maybe you have said before, but are your immunoglobulin levels normal?

Jenny Lou said...

Welcome home David. Ah, the holidays. Full of coughing, sneezing, fever clad people. But, as you now know--that doesn't always spell disaster. Glad you are healthy for the New Year.

David Arenson said...

Thanks for the welcomes home.

As to my immunoglobulins, they have been dropping since diagnosis. My IGM was already low in 2003 -- it was 25 at diagnosis and is now 20 (40-230 being normal). My IGG is 810 (700-1600 is normal.) My IGA has dropped below normal for the first time and is now 67 (70-400 being normal). Dr. Hamblin has said that some people cope with low immunoglobulins better than others in terms of fighting off disease. I don't think I have bottomed out yet, alas.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr Hamblin. Many of my CLL patients have low immunoglobulin (Ig) levels, but only one requires treatment.

He was having recurrent bouts of pseudomonas pneumonia, a life-threatening bacterial infection. His IgG level was about 10, so we decided to give him regular doses of IVIG to keep his IgG level greater than 500. Since then, he has not had to be hospitalized for pneumonia.

Anonymous said...

Hi David-

This is my first time responding to one of your blogs. I just wanted to say thank you as always for your comments. I am a CLL caretaker and my wonderful husband is a CLL patient who just happens to be an airline pilot. I am worried all year long but as this is the flu season it takes a bit more out of me. Because of your blog he is taking my words just a little more seriously. I tell him to control what he can control and if that means using Purell then use it!

We enjoy your blogs and more often than not you hit home with our intellect and our hearts. Thank you for being there for all involved in the CLL world.

I wish you well now and througout this new year of 2007. Everyday is a gift - make the most of that gift and unwrap it.


Anonymous said...

Hi David:

Your blog entries, along with Chaya's Clltopics, have become my educational reading tools regarding CLL. Thank you. Also, I personally slid through the holidays with no colds. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. When I returned to work on the 2nd my office was plagued with numerous people in varying stages of illness! Guess what, I've got a cold.