Common Cold, Uncommon Response

Rachana had a fever of 101 a couple of days ago and we had a slightly nervous time driving to the clinic and then to the hospital. The last hospital stay being a life altering event caused some anxious moments when we were told to check-in the hospital to make sure the fever was nothing serious. So far all reports have been negative and the only thing the doctors could find was ‘Rhinovirus’, which is a common cold virus. Obviously this virus does not need any medical attention, but given that Rachana is again on active chemo cycles and has a very low blood counts, the doctors didn’t want to take any chances. We are hopeful that we’ll be back home in 1-2 days, once the doctors give an all-clear.

On the Leukemia front the news is not bad, but not great either. The biopsy done in March at the start of the maintenance phase showed Minimal Residual Disease (MRD), i.e. there are very small traces of ‘bad’ cells, although Rachana is technically still in remission. Our doctor was not surprised at the results and explained that we did take a 6 month break in her Leukemia treatment, and had stopped all chemo from October to March while she was in the ICU going through the recovery from the infection. The glass-half-full way to think about this is that she is still in remission. Now the focus is to quickly knock out the MRD in a few of months and go through this 2 year maintenance phase with no complications.

As if we didn’t have enough action already in our life, we decided to move to another house. Many of you know that my brother and sister live about an hour away from our house. After the last extended hospital stay, we started thinking of moving more closer to the family, primarily as a support mechanism for Rachana and the kids during my business travels. So, when a house on the same street as my brother’s place came on the market, we started thinking more seriously. A realtor friend recommend not to make a big financial decision when you are going through a major life event, but my decision making compass has lately been pointing consistently toward the ‘life is short’ direction. So we gave a sympathetic nod to the financial analyst part of our brains, rolled the dice and brought the home in May. It’s been great so far!

A few weeks ago we worked with a prosthetics team to make casts for her which will be used to make the prosthetics. She is now able to walk independently using a case and special boots, and we hope she can drop the cane once the prosthetics are ready and she gets a little used to them. Rachana’s recovery from the amputations will probably take longer than usual because we have restarted her chemo which beats the body down and does not give the amputations the optimal environment to recover quickly. Although the 2 years of maintenance chemo will be significantly less intense compared to the 1 year of initial treatment, these drugs nevertheless beat her down. Take this one factor, hemoglobin levels. Typical hemoglobin count for normal body function is between 12-14 and this primarily makes you feel energetic to go about your daily activities. During these 2 years of maintenance her hemoglobin will probably hover around 8-9 all the time, i.e. about 25-40% reduction in her energy levels. Now add nausea, nerve pain, and other factors affecting her. Imagine that for a minute! It’s like feeling sick/down all the time. I would have been a cry baby in these situations, but not her. If you get to meet her socially, you will see the ‘I’m doing good’ side of her. Her parents, our kids and I, i.e. people who live with her are perhaps the lucky ones who can actually see what she is tackling to be normal, the guts it takes to live a ‘normal’ life. In the past few months, I’ve learned this; Giving up is easy; life will give us a hundred reasons to do so. But living up is rewarding. The easy stuff is easily forgotten, but things that take effort are remembered and satisfying. The effort that Rachana is putting in will reward not just her, but a many of us around her.

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