Saturday, July 19, 2008


We've been taught throughout our lives that hidden among the many afflictions we are required to endure, come many of the most choice blessings from our Heavenly Father.  As a family, this past year has brought its fair share of trying times as well as many great blessings.

When I started my journey with chemotherapy a year ago, one of the side effects I was told I might expect was mouth sores.  Even though it hasn't been a constant thing, I have had experience with mouth sores.  Usually in the form of canker sores, I even had one bout with a couple of sores in the middle of my tongue that were determined to be a form of herpes. The medicine prescribed,  famcyclovir, is a commonly prescribed treatment for genital herpes!! 

I was confident that when the chemo was completed this past May that even though limited in occurences, I wouldn't be having anymore treatment related mouth sores. WRONG!!  Just a few weeks after treatment was completed, I had a couple of cankers that got pretty bad just inside my lower lip.  In about a week they ran their course and went away.

Then all h--- broke loose.  Just as the previous ones were finishing healing, what  started as a sore when I bit my lip while chewing, developed into something more.

Editor's note:
images may be to intense for
 small children or those with queasy stomachs

This sore started small while I was away on business and got larger as the week went by. When it didn't get any better, Barry (my brother the dentist) suggested that he might have an application that might help it. On Monday the 14th I went and saw him.  He immediately determined that he couldn't do anything to help it, but was concerned about the amount of inflammation in my gums which he said was due to large amounts of bacteria in my mouth.  He did some minor cleaning (too much pain) and gave me some toothpaste and mouthwash that would help keep the bacteria levels down until I could get in and do a full cleaning.

That afternoon at the INSISTENCE of my wife, I called Dr. Shehadeh's office to see what they could do.  They told me that they could call in a prescription (famcyclovir) or I could come right in and they would look at it.  I chose to make a visit to the doctor.

After the usual blood draw for a CBC, I saw Mike Cole, the physician's assistant.  While talking with Mike, Dr. Shehadeh came in to look at it.  Mary brought in the lab results, and as they looked at them together, I heard an simultaneous GASP! from each of them.


The blood tests showed my white blood count to be 0.8 and my neutrophil level at 0.2.  Both of these levels are in the critically low range.  The "low of normal" level for the WBC is 3.6.  My temperature at the time was normal.  With such a low white blood count, they decided to give me an injection of Neulasta which is used to spur the growth of white blood cells in chemotherapy patients.  The catch with this injection is that the cost is approximately &6,000. After getting insurance approval, I got the shot.  All of a sudden the monster mouth sore, even though it hurt like h---, wasn't much of a concern.  I was sent home with a couple of prescriptions and instructions to call immediately if I had a temperature above 100 degrees. By the time I got the prescriptions filled and got home, my temperature was 101.4.  I immediately called the doctor who told me to go to LDS Hospital where I would be admitted that night.
It turns out that my condition had become neutropenic.  

Quoting from, "There are various types of cells in the blood.  The lowering of the white blood cells that fight infections is known as NEUTROPENIA.  It is the most important complication of chemotherapy.  It is almost always due to impairment of bone marrow to produce cells and normally occurs a few days to a few week after chemotherapy.
It is most severe in patients who receive aggressive treatments.

The signs and symptoms of Neutropenia depend on its severity.  However, patients with even mild forms can develop major problems.  Even in the most severe cases, it may have no signs at all, or it may cause fever and infection.  A fever in patients who have received chemotherapy must be taken seriously, requiring a complete evaluation.  Taking Tylenol or aspirin will only mask the infection and should be avoided.

One technical term of which cancer patients should be aware is "Febrile Neutropenia," which refers to having a fever while the white blood cell count is low.  Fever indicates the presence of an infection, which, in most cases originates from germs and bacteria that reside in the intestines or skin.

Febrile Neutropenia is a medical emergency and must be dealt with immediately.  Any temperature over 100.5 should be reported to the medical oncologist immediately.  Hours and minutes are critical."

The web site goes on to say:


I spent the next three days and four nights at LDS hospital, hooked up to an IV, sometimes getting as many as four antibiotics.  One night, my temperature started spiking so the doctor ordered a full blood culture and chest x-rays.  Fortunately, all of the tests done came back negative.  They were very concerned about new infections and particularly the onset of pneumonia.  As the treatments progressed, my WBC went from 0.8 on Monday to 1.9 on Friday, with the neutrophils going from 0.2 on Monday to 1.3 on Friday.  Neither level great yet, but rising and good enough to get me off the IV and home. By the way, my mouth still hurts like h---, but has turned the corner and is getting better.

You wouldn't normally think that intense mouth sores, four night hospital stays, $6,000.00 shots, blood draws, 24 hr/day IV's, high temperatures and the such would be considered a blessing.

I have been blessed. Blessed by the above. Blessed to have a loving wife, mother, children and grandchildren.  Blessed by medical technology that indeed saves lives.  Blessed to have great doctors and medical staff who really care and aren't afraid to show that they care.

Thanks, everyone for blessing mine and Sharon's lives.  We love and appreciate all that you are and do.

In closing and on a less serious note, here is what I look forward to every morning when getting ready for the day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Music, Back In "The Day"

We recently got a USB Turntable.  What is a USB Turntable? you ask.  Good question.  A USB Turntable allows you to play an album, with a USB connection to a computer and save it to an MP3 file, which can be listened to on the computer, ipod, MP3 or even saved on a CD.

Your next question may very well be "What is an album?"  Back in the day, when we wanted to have the music of our favorite artists and enjoy it at home, we purchased for about $5.00, an album, a 12" diameter piece of vinyl with grooves in it that you play on a phonograph.  They came in 45's (that's what they played on the radio)  which had one song on each side, and 33 rpm formats.  The 33 rpm or LPs had a whole album.                  

            800px-Vynil_record               Record Player

That's the way it was in back in the day.  Albums were eventually replaced by cassette tapes and then by CD's.

With the USB Turntable, it allows us to be able to enjoy once again all of the albums that we collected in the early days .  We have dozens that we have kept over the years and now can finally enjoy them again. (It's a good thing that I didn't store them at Grandma Packer's or they would now be in the landfill with my baseball card collection.)  Just kidding, Mom!!  (And yes, I still have issues regarding my baseball card collection)

Anyway, to get on with the story,  each album came in a cardboard cover, or jacket.  Inside the jacket, holding the album itself is a paper "sleeve" or dust cover that gives the album extra protection. 

While converting "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, I came upon the following printed on the dust cover.  I thought you might find it interesting and probably amusing. 

Here's How Records Give You More Of What You Want!

  • The Best For Less.  Records give you top quality for less money than any other recording form.
  • They Allow Selectivity Of Songs And Tracks.  With records it's easy to pick out the songs you want to play, or to play again a particular song or side.  All you have to do is lift the tone arm and place it where you want it.  You can't do this as easily with anything but a phonograph record.
  • They're The Top Quality In Sound.  Long-playing phonograph records look the same now as when they were introduced in 1948, but there's a world of difference.  Countless refinements and developments have been made to perfect the long-playing record's technical excellence and insure the best in sound reproduction and quality available in recorded form.
  • They'll Give You Hours Of Continuous And Uninterrupted Listening Pleasure.  Just stack them up on your automatic changer and relax.
  • They're Attractive, Informative And Easy To Store.  Record albums are never out of place.  Because of the aesthetic appeal of the jacket design, they're beautifully at home in any living room or library.  They've also got important information on the backs--about the artists, about the performances or about the program.  And because they're flat and not bulky, you can store hundreds in a minimum of space and still see every title.
  • It It's In Recorded Form, You Know It'll Be Available On Records.  Everything's on long-playing records these days...your favorite artists, shows, comedy, movie sound tracks, concerts, drama, documented history, educational name it.  This is not so with any other kind of recording.
  • They Make A Great Gift.  Everybody you know loves music.  And practically everyone owns a phonograph.  Records are a gift that says a lot to the person you're giving them to.  And they keep on remembering.

And Remember...It Always Happens First On Records

Ahhhh, the good old days.