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Of Savage Two-Year-Olds and (Kind of) Healthy Livers

Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Immunotherapies (IL-2, IL-15, PD-1s, etc.), MDX-1106, My Health Updates - 1 Comment


I wanted to report some good news we received this afternoon: My blood count numbers are still out of range of “normal,” but they’ve dropped significantly enough that the oncology team at Johns Hopkins feels confident in moving forward with the trial.

The AST blood count dropped much more precipitously than the ALT numbers. If you remember from my previous blog, the AST enzyme is not isolated in the liver alone but also the heart and skeletal muscles. Hence I am now prepared to pronounce myself, also per my last blog, Medical Genius.

Actually, I have no idea if my cockamamie theory about muscle damage being the cause of the spike has any value. Dr. Hammers, my primary oncologist, had another theory: “Do you have any two-year-olds in the house who may have been punching you in the liver while you sleep because they were angry at you for not taking them to the local park more often?”

“Uh, no,” I said, looking down at Josie, my two-year-old who has been angry lately that I haven’t take her to the park more often. I silently shook my fist at her rather than give her up to the authorities. She will have plenty of time for jail when she’s 18, I figure.

My AST count dropped down to 51, a remarkable drop from 254. My ALT count did not drop as much, going from 91 to 69. The low range for both is 0 and the high range for the two is 37 and 40, respectively. So both counts are still beyond the “high” threshold, but the downward trend is obvious. Dr. Hammers told me to come in Thursday to make up for the transfusion that was canceled last week, noting that we’d have to review the labwork prior to the infusion (as we do every time) but unless something funny appeared we’d be shooting up the drug faster than Robert Downey Jr and Patrick Kennedy at a Kurt Cobain conference.

I want to thank everybody for the encouraging words these past few weeks. They’ve been stressful – first with the melanoma scare and now with the hepatitis. (I still officially have hepatitis, which is simply inflamed liver, but it’s not something that we’re worried about at this time and provided the numbers keep dropping it will disappear.) Dena and I had been worried about the melanoma, but once the oncology team confirmed that we would not be evicted from the MDX-1106 trial even if it were melanoma, our stress dropped. The doctors said they could cut out any malignancies. And then came the news of the potential autoimmune hepatitis. Dena and I were both stressed even more than before, as the treatment would have been a steroidal immunosuppressant – not only would we have been kicked out of the trial, I would have been undermining my immune system, which is critical to beating back the cancer.

Now that we’re in the clear, I’m going to go fill a large lemonade pitcher with bourbon and drink it down under the evening sun on my deck. Clearly my liver is bullet-proof.


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