Wendy and I have just returned from beautiful Portland, Oregon and our visit with Dr. Druker. It went well. Very well. The leaves are turning in Oregon right now and it's downright gorgeous. Smatterings of reds, golds, yellows and oranges throughout the city and hills make this a beautiful time of year.
Dr. Druker works at OHSU and was responsible for some of the original research that brought about Gleevec, the drug that is currently keeping my leukemia in check. The main campus is situated amongst the trees atop a hill in southwest Portland. It has a grand view of the river and a good portion of downtown. If it had been clear, I'm pretty sure we could have seen all the way out to Mt. Hood. Alas, it was cloudy for our entire stay.
Wendy and I met with Dr. Druker's nurse, Carolyn for about 30 minutes. We went over my medical history, my current treatment status and the side effects I was experiencing. She was a pleasure to talk with and was very thorough. After this we were joined by my parents and Dr. Druker talked with us for about 2 hours. It was a very enlightening and uplifting experience.
Rather than rehash the entire conversation, here are some high points:
- His explanation of the difference and usefulness of the three tests for CML (CBC, FISH, and PCR) was the best, most clear presentation I have ever heard or seen. I feel like I actually understand the difference and what a doctor is looking for with each. I wish that I could have recorded this so that I could post it online for others.
- My current treatment regimen and response to Gleevec is what he would expect. He implied that I was being well taken care of by Dr. Coutre at Stanford.
- My fatigue and nausea are not where he would expect them to be for someone who has been on Gleevec for 4 months. He says they should have lessened by now. I returned the next day for a blood draw so that a "level test" could be done to see how much Gleevec was in my bloodstream 24 hours after having taken my pill. The results should be back within a couple of weeks.
- He recommended another bone marrow biopsy in December as a matter of course. It seems that there is some differentiation between doctors on this point. Some are satisfied with the FISH test result at 6 months, some like to be more cautious (or thorough, or paranoid depending on your viewpoint) and stab your bones with a giant needle. We'll see what transpires in December.
Oh, and did I mention that we get to make a baby?
Here's a video* I found that I think accurately depicts how I feel about that:
Can you sense my joy?
According to Dr. Druker, there's no real reason we can't have a child while I'm on Gleevec. There's a theoretical chance that it could cause a birth defect, but no real evidence exists that demonstrates that. He has several patients that have fathered children, all of them healthy. I can't express how ecstatic this makes me feel.
One request: Please do not ask myself or Wendy how things are going on this front. When we have good news, we'll spread it loudly, far and wide. Till then, no inquiries, please. Assume we're still "busy".
For the remainder of the trip we dabbled with a few sites around Portland. We drove along the Historic Columbia River Highway and saw Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls. On Saturday we went wine tasting in the Willamette Valley before seeing my parents off at the airport. Wendy and I also drove up to Mt. Hood all the way to Timberline Lodge. We would love to go back in the winter to stay and do some snowboarding here.
Did I mention that we get to have a baby? :-)
(* I made the clip from a longer video by a guy named Tony. Hopefully he doesn't mind that I shortened it. Here's the entire video if you're interested.)