Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ho Hum, Cancer Is Still Stable

Stable but not ho-hum, actually. Thursday, April 29, was the end of Cycle 28 of my pomalidomide (CC-4047) trial at Mayo Clinic. M-spike is still 1.0 g/dL, IgG is actually down 5%, and light chains are normal. That's great! The fly in the ointment is the neutrophil count, which is down to 730 cells per uL, where the reference range is 1700 to 7000. In theory, at least, this leaves me a little too vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections.


The trial protocol requires that the pomalidomide dosage be reduced if neutrophils fall below 1000. Last month, neutrophils were 940 per uL, but another CBC performed four days later at a local clinic showed a count of 1500. When that result was faxed to Mayo, the study was continued unchanged. This time the neutrophil count was even lower, but Dr L again suggested a re-test in four days, and by golly the count on Monday afternoon was 1700. Huh. No change in pomalidomide dosage for at least another month.

How can the neutrophil count change that much? More than double! I'm surprised that it can, actually, but:
  • Exercise can affect the count. Both Mayo doctors have mentioned this, and Dr LL, my primary care physician, explained that exercise pushes the neutrophils out of muscle tissue into the blood. Learning of this, I have done a few flights of stairs and a set of pushups before each of the Monday blood draws at the local clinic. On the other hand, I also did those exercises before last Thursday's blood draw at Mayo, and that time the count was the lowest ever.
  • Dr L explained that neutrophils do follow the body's daily circadian rhythm, and they are higher in the afternoon than in the morning. In both cases, the Thursday blood draw at Mayo was done at about 6:40 am soon after a 90-minute drive, and the Monday blood draw at the local clinic was done in the early afternoon. Perhaps this accounts for much of the gain in count.
  • Could food make a difference? Something in the stomach? I don't know a reason why food should affect the count, but results have been low on an empty stomach and high after two meals.
  • Do you suppose there is a difference in the way that the two laboratories count neutrophils? Of course there is a difference, there is always a difference, but I doubt it is enough to double the count.
Hand Infection:
  • Two months ago I whacked the back of my left hand against something and got an infection, either bacterial or fungal, and the hand eventually got quite warm, swollen, and painful.
  • Over time, three different doctors have prescribed four different antibiotics. Whether or not the antibiotics helped, the infection eventually started to turn around after getting steadily worse for more than five weeks. It's still getting better, very slowly.
  • I've babied that hand, keeping it extra warm and even applying a little heat for much of the time.
  • The last antibiotic ran out 10 days ago, and the infection is still slowly getting better even without it.
  • Here's what I think:
    • It's a fungal infection, because the speed of recovery didn't seem to change when the antibiotic ran out;
    • The speed of recovery is reduced by the shortage of neutrophils, which are important in battling either a fungal or a bacterial infection;
    • If I do nothing more, it will probably, gradually, heal itself. I hope; and
    • I sure am glad that I have nothing more serious to whine about!
Other Discussions with Dr L:
  • I asked which test, M-spike (serum protein electrophoresis) or IgG (immunoglobulins), was more accurate. She took the question to mean "which is a better indicator of tumor burden" I think, and responded that IgG is better when numbers are quite high, and M-spike when numbers are quite low. For me, she said, with IgG and M-spike both near 1000 mg/dL (1.0 g/dL), they may be equally good indicators.
  • Dr L is OK with my decision to NOT start taking Fosamax yet.
  • She also doesn't know what's going on with the hand, and seems pleased that Dr LL, my PCP, is taking care of it.
Some current test results:

Test    Feb 04    Mar 04    Apr 01    Apr 29     Remarks
M-spike g/dL 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 Best tumor measure
IgG mg/dL 1180 1130 1070 1010 Variation is normal
L FLC mg/dL 2.78 2.10 1.82 2.41 L Free light chains
Calcium mg/dL 9.8 10.1 9.8 9.7 Below 10.2 is best
Creat mg/dL 1.1 1.0 1.2 1.3 Kidney, normal
HGB g/dL 14.2 14.7 14.6 14.1 Hemoglobin, normal
RBC M/uL 4.00 4.17 4.39 4.21 Red cells, normal
WBC K/uL 3.8 3.4 3.3 3.3 White cells, low
ANC K/uL 1.22 1.29 0.94 0.73 Neutrophils, LOW!

Related links:

My Myeloma     A discussion of my myeloma, not very technical.
My Treatment History Not technical.
My Test Charts Graphic displays of several key test results over time.
My Test Result Table Best with a wide browser window. Somewhat technical.
My Supplement Regimen With links to where I buy them.

Sore left front paw:


  1. Don, I hope you do not mind a question. I am going to order some vitamins after my doc and I had a talk about neuropathy. He gave me a Rx for Metanx and I just wondered if you recommend those places you order vitamins from on your supplement list. Obviously, you probably do but I keep reading about how some vitamin brands do not meet good standards. Because you take so many supplements, did you do research or just liked the places you ordered from? Thank you. Rebecca Weber

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    Truthfully, I don't do much research on the quality of the supplements I take. I try to get supplements made by well-known companies, because they have something to lose if their quality is found wanting and their reputation is harmed. With some supplements I switch brands fairly often, and I purchase from the cheapest source I can find.