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2 October 2014 / erikduval

Good Blood Snowflake

Today was a Good Day. I had my blood checked at the hospital, as my current chemo is a bit more demanding on my body. Turns out I have Good Blood. Which means no need for transfusions, and a full week clear of medical stuff until I go back in for my next and final round of this type of chemo. Yey!

One thing you obsess a bit over during treatment is how your chances evolve. At the start, I had a 70% chance that my type of cancer (T-cell, Not Otherwise Specified) would react to chemo. If it did, I had a 70% chance of becoming fully healthy again. That made a 70*70=49% chance overall. Elementary statistics. (Well, not really, because I guess that, occasionally, some people with non-chemo-responsive T-cell actually do get cured. But that’s a detail. Not for them, I’m sure. But for what I’m trying to explain here…)

So, of course, as my treatment evolves, I try to re-assess probabilities all the time. My lymphomas did react to chemo. Good, chances go up. I wasn’t in complete remission after 4, 6 or 8 sessions of CHOP. Oops, my chances go down. I now do two sessions of DHAP and will have another PET scan in about three weeks from now. If that PET scan is clear, i.e. I’m in remission, my chances go up again. But how much exactly? If there is less activity visible than before, have my chances gone up because of the DHAP? If so, how much?

Trying to work out these probabilities, I sometimes had the feeling that doctors weren’t always ready to give clear answers. Maybe they worried I wouldn’t understand. Hey, I’m a professor of computer science. I can do basic math! Or that I couldn’t cope with it. Hey, I’m an adult. I know we probably all will die. I’d like to know a bit more if a bit more can be known. It’s my life, it’s data about me. I want to live in truth, not in ignorance.

But today, I think I realise what the real issue may be: it’s like my Great Friend Wayne and I used to say… We’re all snowflakes, we’re all different, we’re all of us unique. Turns out that very few people have my type of lymphoma, and my type of treatment. Like really very few. Like so few that statistics doesn’t really apply. As one of my doctors said, it becomes more a matter of “feeling and experience” than hard science.

I always valued being unique. I still do. But unique and statistics don’t go well together. Oh, well.

Let’s just say that I’m confident (most of the time) that I will make it. Confident. Not certain. But I can definitely work with confident.


Thinking about the title for this post, I remembered a movie that really impressed me when it came out: “Mauvais Sang“. It impressed me for all the reasons that mostly French movies seem to be able to impress me: it was “difficult”, a bit depressing, very poetic, and I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. Maybe you should put it on your “to see” list… Or you can watch the clip below…

3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. fvanassche / Oct 3 2014 2:03 pm

    Nice to hear you have “Good Blood”.

  2. svetlana / Oct 6 2014 10:01 pm

    Erik, you are really unique, you’ll do it! You’ll overcome I am sure.

  3. Alastair Dunning / Oct 7 2014 9:03 am

    As ever, thanks for the updates Erik – it’s weirdly fascinating to know what you are going through. Keep confident !

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