Monday, June 02, 2008

coming out fighting

Last week was all about the itch, this all-over-body relentless itch, which left me powerless to resist the myopic pleasure of scratching. No sooner would the relief (and guilt) of satisfying the intense itch on my forearms wash over me when the skin on my chest would grab the baton and start its own sizzling temptation. I know, I know, the more you scratch, the more you itch, and round and round you go. The nurses said I simply needed to break the cycle with soothing cremes. But topical anti-itch potions were proving futile and a slowly worsening rash creeping up my arms had me worried. When all of a sudden, my toes were struck by intense and mysterious burning pain (started in the shower of all places), we called the hospital again. Because hands and feet are two of the places Graft versus Host Disease likes to originally manifest itself, they asked me to come in.

They still weren't too worried about my rashy arms, claiming that the kind of rash it was (bumpy, itchy) was not characteristic of GVH. And the itching was more likely a fun side effect of one of the medications I'm taking than of GVH either. (which med? how could we ever know?) But my red toes and aching feet, in combination with the above, plus a not-perfect GI tract, led to the diagnosis of mild GVH, the disease I had felt trained to fear and do everything in my power to avoid.

What's this now? "A little GVH is a good thing"? Apparently, although it is indicative that my graft or donor cells are attacking my own body mistaking the natives for invaders themselves, it proves that my graft is active, kicking butt and taking names. I imagine a little cowboys and Indians battle going on in my pelvic bone (where I visualize my marrow cells hanging out most often though their offspring are actually coursing through my entire bloodstream). The graft cells are of course the westward moving cowboys walking with bowlegged machismo, attacking peaceful Indian campsites just to prove their virility and claim their new frontier. Leave my Indians alone, dumb cowboys! Can't we all just get along?

This is, of course, an inane metaphor because "a little GVH is a good thing". A little Trail of Tears- not such a good thing.

Another good thing is that the four additional medications given to me to deal with these symptoms have succeeded in virtually eradicating all my previous discomfort. I feel very good in body and spirit.


Jaci said...

yippee! glad to hear that your itch is satiated... there are few things more irritating than an itch that refuses to be calmed.
...and just in time to enjoy a relaxing birthday!!!! in case everyone didn't already know, Erica's birthday is in TWO DAYS on the 4th! :) creeping up the hill, Beek... no you're not over it yet!
i love you *WING!*

artineh said...

Who would have thought?! a little GVH a good thing. Well I'm glad you got a little dose of that then.

And I definitely remembered that your "first" "original" birthday is in two days! Woo hoo, we're getting old(er)!


artineh said...

ooh, and I forgot to tell you, my friend/colleague Alice just finished the San Diego marathon yesterday after raising over $3000 for LLS (though I could never fathom running a whole marathon, you know I was one of her biggest fans/supporters). She came to work with HUGE blisters and purplish black big toes. Go Alice!

Chris said...

Hi Erica,

Glad to hear that a little GvH has shown up. Some is most definitely preferable to none. Try to envision the whole "trail of tears" thing with the leukemia as the "Indians" and the metaphor is more apt I think.

I'm sure your transplant team gave you some steroid creams to help with the itching. You might want to look into some over the counter creams to help out. Dermatology at MDA recommended Cerave cream as a way to keep moisturized and cut down of itching. Especially in spots where steroids can thin the skin out too much.

Keep it up your doing great!

Abby Wood said...

Wow. I didn't even think GVH when your toes started burning. Did you? So, congrats are in order I suppose? Glad the meds are working, Lone Ranger... or should I say Moctezuma?

I can't quit you,

Pfaffster said...

A mild case of GVH--ok. Another good thing? OBAMAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

Corey said...

Happy old-birthday! And congrats on the GVH, though it sounds SO unfair that now that you're getting your immune system back, you have to start suppressing it. Thpthttt.

Between the itching going away, your birthday, and Obama(!!!)--what a great week!

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Oops, meant to say Happy Birthday! Now, to hunt down your address so I can send you a card. (Alex Do). Cheerio!

Anna said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE!!!!!!Hope it's a good one.
I Love you!