Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Why Him, Not Me?

Originally uploaded by Marinade Dave.
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a malignancy that arises in either granulocytes or monocytes which are white blood cells that battle infectious agents throughout the body. AML is not inherited or contagious. It develops when there is a defect in the immature cells in the bone marrow.

The effects of AML are:

1) the uncontrolled, exaggerated growth and accumulation of cells called "leukemic blasts," which fail to function as normal blood cells, and

2) the blockade of the production of normal marrow cells, leading to a deficiency of red cells (anemia), and platelets (thrombocytopenia) and normal white cells (especially neutrophils, i.e. neutropenia) in the blood.

Acute myelogenous leukemia is the most common type of leukemia in adults, with an estimated 10,100 new cases of AML reported each year. Older people are more likely to develop AML than children. In fact, the risk for developing the disease increases about ten-fold from age 30 (1 case per 100,000) to age 70 (1 case per 10,000).

For years, my sister had loser men. Then along came Bud. A salt of the earth sort of guy. All around great guy. Loved by all. They've been together and happily married for quite some time now. In December of 2003, he fell ill. This is what he has. He went through a year of chemotherapy at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, traveling back and forth from Florida every month. He finished treatment in December of last year. The chemo forced him into remission and all seemed well and right on schedule. Last week he was tested and his red and white blood cell and platelet counts were too low. Too low, that, the doctors were quite alarmed. It didn't work, but without it, he wouldn't be here today. Since the chemo did not work, he is not eligible to take it again. This was a clinical trial for approval by the FDA with new types of drugs. The trial period is now over. They left for Houston on Sunday. There, the doctors will test him for leukemic blasts, which must have returned in order for his counts to be low, and to take bone marrow to test for a matching stem cell transplant donor. There are at least 2 suitable donors right now. His marrow will be killed through a massive dose of chemo, which is deadly in itself. Much stronger than the last procedure and highly toxic. If he survives this, and many don't, the doctors will proceed with the transplant. The greatest risk of the transplant procedure is the fear that the new donor cells will attack his organs. If this occurs, his organs will shut down. If it works, interestingly enough, his blood type will change forever to the donor's type. This is a risk he must take. He wouldn't survive without it anyway. He will be in total isolation for at least a month. They will have to move to Houston for a minimum of six months. All of his siblings have been tested as donors, but none are compatible. This is his last resort. It will either work or it won't. As it was when given chemo last year, his immune system will stop working and he will have to watch his diet and whom he comes into contact with. He is a very strong and brave man and has an incredible will to live.

We would all love to have him around for a long time. All I ask is that you have a kind thought or prayer for my brother-in-law, Bud Trexler and my sister, Maggie, who is also going through a very rough time right now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ah, San Diego...

Originally uploaded by Marinade Dave.
Recently, a friend of mine moved to the San Diego area, where his sister and her husband and children live. I had met them when they came to Orlando last year and we got to be pretty good friends. They are very, very nice people. They invited me to come out there when he moved and see what that part of the world is like. It's beautiful, to say the least and a wonderful gift from them.

We flew in to San Diego airport the day before Super Sunday and headed east on I-8 for the mountains. They have a ranch on North Peak, which is 9 miles south of Julian. I thought I would need an oxygen mask. We were 5,675 feet up. I was fine. No problem breathing at all. That night, I went outside and looked up at the sky. I saw stars that I never thought existed. Billions and billions of them, just like Carl Sagan said. The air was so crisp and clean. The Pleiades, or 'Seven Sisters' star cluster was so bright, I almost needed to wear sunglasses. I looked off to the east and the lights of a city were clearly visible. This was El Centro, 68 miles away. It looked about 5 miles from me. The surrounding areas were magnificent. Mountaintops, valleys, canyons, a lake and desert below us. The most gold ever mined in California came from Stonewall Peak, which is pictured here, a few miles from us. We were actually higher. You think of San Francisco and the "Forty-Niners," but, no, this one was the mother lode.

When the fires of 2003 rolled through, they lost their house and other structures. A local fireman saved the barn. They have three horses. They built their home atop the barn, incredibly well designed by them. These are very unique and talented people, resilient to a fault. The wood came from their land. They use as much as they can from their own resources without disturbing (and in harmony with) nature. They will rebuild their house.

Cold weather set in. Sleet, freezing rain, rain and snow. Watching the Super Bowl at 3:30 in the afternoon with friends from the area, staying warm by a fire. Good food and drink. What more could one want from life? Warmer weather?

Well, we came down the mountain Monday morning. The temperature was warming up and ice was falling off the trees. It was 36 when we left and 66 down below. Two hours later, we were eating lunch at the Poseidon restaurant in Del Mar, right on the Pacific ocean. Amazing. Freezing to soaking up the sun in no time at all. I should have left my jacket in the car. We went to Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the last Buick Invitational (which Tiger won,) the 2008 U.S. Open, and, where Scott Peterson was arrested. I have an actual Torrey Pine Cone. Ebay, anyone?

The remainder of my time was spent in Encinitas and surrounding communities, mostly along the coast. It's interesting to see how nature erodes the coastline. Homes that are worth millions of dollars are poised to one day drop into the sea, hundreds of feet below. Instead of row houses, like in Philadelphia, there are many homes stacked on top of each other, up and down hilltops. Many hilltops more inland from the sea have homes built around the top for a beautiful vista, overlooking valleys. This is expensive property and similar to lakefront property in Florida because of the exclusive nature of its location and panoramic views. The temperatures range from 50-70 degrees pretty much year round. On my final day there, we went to the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary in Point Loma, overlooking San Diego from the north. What a view. This is where many naval veterans would prefer to be buried, even more so than Arlington.

When it comes to the cost of living, yes, it can be more expensive than other areas. Housing, for sure. But, you can find seasonal items like 6 lbs. of navel oranges for a buck. 3 heads of lettuce for 99 cents. Gas ran about $2.10/gallon for reg. unleaded. I bought a disposable camera for $10.99 in Orlando and bought another one out there for $6.94. Same one. Taxes are higher, but, hey, so's the income. Everyone will find something to praise and complain about, no matter where they go.

Friends told me, before I went, that I would fall in love with the San Diego area. They were right.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Power Of War

Originally uploaded by Marinade Dave.
My brother says, "we have a rule to be within 3 minutes of our gear now. [They wear it most of the day, anyway.] We have to wear it due to the attacks. We're worried about the rocket airbursts more than anything because of the shrapnel. I've seen the damage it can do. Attached is a hummer that got blown all to shit. It was armored too. I collected some .50 cal rounds that exploded inside. Me thinks the poor guys didn't make it but I didn't find any human teeth."

Let's hope and pray there was no one in that vehicle when it was hit.