Deciding to undergo a bone marrow transplant is not an easy decision. My radio show producer Dave “ThirdWaveDave” Logan wrestled with it for months, weighing the options. Should he continue with the chemo regimen he was on, taking the very expensive and experimental drug Tasigna? A therapy to which his body likely would eventually develop an immunity? And if so, how long would it be before that happened? His oncologist told him to expect a year, at most. Dave desperately wanted to be here to vote on November 6th. For him, it was imperative that he cast his ballot against Obama.
And if he opted for a transplant? Dave’s odds were 30 to 50% he’d live through the election.
Dave was managing fairly well with Tasigna. But “fairly well” is a relative term. There were many days when he felt downright miserable, with fatigue, light headedness, nausea, aching joints, hot flashes, and worse. There were many days when he would look to me to provide him with a diversion from his travails. ”I’m fine” he’d curtly reply when I asked how he was feeling. That was my cue to move on to other topics. Not one to dwell on his woes, Dave never wanted to set the table for a pity party, and he wouldn’t let anyone else do it either.
There were days when he felt pretty good, well enough to head to the Clubhouse for morning coffee, the newspaper and a blueberry muffin, or hike into the hill behind his home to explore its beauty. He loved it. The centuries old oak trees, the birds, the wild turkeys that roamed free — all of it. When he felt really well, he’d bring along his camera and tripod to capture the beauty, and once even snapped a photo of himself, phone up to his ear, talking to me about the wood’s peaceful serenity. He remotely tripped the shutter, and produced the photo you see below. Patriot that he is, he brought along a flag, just because…
Dave was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in late February 2007. It was Sunday, and I was at the radio station, prepping for my two-hour radio show. At that point, Dave and I had known each other for about a year. From the beginning, he was my most loyal radio show listener. He’d be in the “chatroom” before anyone else, without fail. If he was going to miss a show, he’d email to tell me why. His keen interest in my work eventually led us to work together, but on that Sunday, I still hadn’t heard from my show producer.
My concern grew as the day went on. Dave wasn’t answering my calls. With just three hours to go before air time, my phone finally rang. It was Dave, calling from a hospital. He had driven himself there at 3 a.m. the night before when an excruciating pain in his left side became intolerable. Turns out it was his spleen, enlarged nearly to the point of rupture. Had he waited any longer the doctors told him, he likely would have died. He was admitted inpatient, and after a battery of tests and immediate medical attention, the attending physician was pretty sure he knew what was ailing Dave. Leukemia.
The diagnosis was later confirmed with further tests: Chronic Myelogenous or Myeloid Leukemia (CML), a condition brought about when two of the body’s chromosomes swap off and translocate, causing one to trade and attach to another chromosome that isn’t its pair. In this case, the “Philadelphia chromosome” a piece of chromosome 9, attached itself to chromosome 22.
Without getting too technical, this simply means that the two parts — or mismatched chromosomes — now worked together to form a new genetic message. In this case, the message went to the bone marrow, and like the sorcerer’s apprentice with the spellbound water-making broom that wouldn’t stop making water, the chromosomes also wouldn’t stop producing white blood cells, literally flooding Dave’s marrow and bloodstream with myeloid or white blood cells that crowded out everything else — red blood cells, platelets, and other blood components that keep us healthy.
CML is often divided into three phases based on clinical characteristics and laboratory findings. In the absence of medical intervention, CML typically begins in the chronic phase, and over the course of several years progresses to an accelerated phase and ultimately to a blast crisis. Dave’s doctors told him that though his leukemia was still in the chronic phase, his condition was borderline acute. Dave had no way of knowing how long this genetic abnormality had been progressing. He had been feeling unusually tired and achy for a few months, and noticed black and blue bruises where he hadn’t bumped himself, but attributed it to other events taking place in his life. (You can find more information about the Philadelphia Chromosome here.)
How this translocation occurs in some people is still a mystery. Some researchers suspect it is an inherited genetic defect that may or may not affect a person born with it. What triggers the swap is not yet known. For several years Dave lived next to a grid of high-power electric lines. Some suspect that might have something to do with it, while others look upon that as junk science. Still, researchers have yet to isolate the factor that flips the chromosomal switch.
How Dave and I met was pure serendipity. The circumstances were related to the National Football League’s 2006 Superbowl halftime program.
Dave was irked that the NFL did not acknowledge our fighting military in Iraq with an appropriate recognition and tribute. He felt they deserved it, had earned it, and he intended to let the top levels of the NFL know just exactly how offended he was at their decision to ignore our fighting men and women during war-time:
“*Not one mention of our military personnel. Al Michaels did make a comment in passing when he welcomed our military viewing audience. But nothing was done on the field, no thanks, no appreciation, no tributes–nothing.
“I decided someone was going to explain this to me, and that “someone” was going to be the NFL.”
At the same time, I had very recently interviewed Hewitt on my radio show about his then newly published book “Blog”, a look at the blogging phenomenon and the impact bloggers were having on the nation’s political conversation. While reading Hewitt’s column, I noticed a linked item he had included about a blogger’s efforts to chastise the NFL’s snub of our fighting military in Iraq. Having done several shows about our military, I clicked to the site — ThirdWaveDave’s site — and after reading the post, I wrote Dave an email thanking him for his effort. He responded with a reply, and thus began a relationship that eventually grew into a long-distance friendship and working partnership.
Dave had every intention of chronicling his bone marrow – or stem cell – transplant experience for his readers and for others who might also be contemplating or preparing for the same procedure. He wrote on his blog last April:
Most of you know that my health problem back in ’07 was diagnosed as a rare form of leukemia (CML). Long story short–I was approved for a BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT not long ago and I will be chronicling it on this blog. This little procedure will have me in the University of California Davis Cancer Center for a month, maybe longer. Here’s my plan for the time I’m in the hospital:
They have WiFi. A plus for what I’m planning. I would like to track the process from beginning to end, using my words and video. Now I will be in bad shape during the procedure. Also, I will be in an isolation room. The first week starts off with liberal doses of a chemotherapy cocktail, which will bring my immune system down to nearly non-functioning. Then I get the bone marrow transplant, and that’s where the real fun begins. Well, I will be feeling rather poorly at this point. That is, if I even survive the process.
My intentions are to write about the process and to do a short video of me talking about it. A couple things here: One, this is good for me since I won’t be without something to do, a goal to keep me occupied. Two, others with similar conditions, or one of their loved ones, can get a peek into what this transplant process entails. Three, outside of my birth, this will be the single most important event in my life… or death. I want to keep a record of it with the hope that maybe someone else will benefit from my presentation. I hope I can grind it out on those days when I’m doing badly. I’ll just have to see what I’m made of, I suppose.
Dave opened a YouTube account and practiced videotaping and uploading to his new channel. He was ready. And so on May 4th, Dave left for the hospital with camera and tripod in his “go” bag, ready to document the experience.
But once there and undergoing the “liberal doses of a chemotherapy cocktail, which will bring my immune system down to nearly non-functioning”, Dave didn’t feel like doing much at all. He had his laptop with him, but barely eked out a post. He felt miserable. The transplant procedure on the 6th day was a piece of cake compared to having his immune system “scrubbed down to bare wood”, as he put it. And as the days passed, he gradually regained his strength and appetite, and on June 5th he returned home to a sterile environment made so by his roommate and caregiver Rhonda. A visiting nurse checked on him a couple of times a week, and things slowly seemed to be going in the right direction. Dave even managed to walk with Rhonda to the Clubhouse to vote in the California primary.
Two weeks later he was back at UC Davis Cancer Center for dehydration, a dangerous condition in Dave’s situation. They plumped him up with IVs and two days later he was able to return home.
By June 25th, Dave was in distress again. He phoned me one evening, confused, slurring, and generally in a daze. He had forgotten things we had discussed. The following day he was readmitted to the hospital, suffering from kidney failure.
That set in motion the “chamber of horrors” he dreaded. He’s been hospitalized since, with added complications that have placed him in the intensive care unit on a ventilator and other additional life support measures, including dialysis almost every day.
Fast forward to today, Sunday, August 5th. I’ve been checking in with his nurse every day to leave Dave messages of encouragement. He’s in and out of consciousness while his body continues its battle to live. A family member keeps me informed, but lately the report is the same every day: he’s in tough shape, very weak, has withdrawn, sleeps most of the time. No change. The nurses convey my messages to him, and I hope they provide him with some comfort and encouragement. But I don’t know…
Seventy-seven months have gone by since I wrote an email to a stranger with the curious name of “ThirdWaveDave”. Thousands of hours on the telephone spent talking about our country and the people who are out to destroy it; about the day-to-day political BS emanating out of Washington and the mouths of various politicians; the tea party movement; Obama’s hidden past and agenda to “transform” America; the corrupt lapdog media; the economy, conservatism and the Constitution… literally hundreds of things that are crucially important to us. We never ran out of topics to discuss. Instead, we ran out of time…
Seventy-seven months in which we have discovered and shared many common interests — a fascination with the JFK assassination and its cover-up; the corrupt world of gambling, casinos and card rooms; American and World history; our love of the military; movies; books; blog writing; technology; interesting people to interview and so much more.
Seventy-seven months of daily exchanges, speed dial calls to each other with “Did you hear what Rush just said?” or “I can’t believe Cavuto just said that!” Our shared disdain of newsroom characters, especially a certain bloviator who leads the cable news ratings, and … well, so much more.
Dave hasn’t been able to communicate for the past five weeks. I don’t know if we’ll ever talk to each other again. He was aware — and apprehensive — that the transplant could “go sideways” as he put it, putting him in a “chamber of horrors”.
His condition seems to be weakening with each day. As one nurse put it, “He takes a tiny step forward, and then slides two steps back.” We thought we were losing him a week ago Friday. The doctors didn’t think he would make it through the night. But he did. And he continues tonight to press on, despite all odds.
One day last week after he awoke from a coma, the ICU doc asked him if he wanted to continue to fight. Dave nodded yes. His medical team is doing all they can to save him.
We hope for a miracle.
I want to publicly thank Dave’s oncologist, Dr. Paul Kaesberg, of whom Dave has spoken highly and for whom he has tremendous respect.
And to Dr. Carol Richman, his transplant physician and Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Program at UC Davis. Dave told me several times of his complete confidence in his medical team led by the exceptional Dr. Richman.
And to the nurses and hospital staff at UC Davis Cancer/Medical Center — especially the ICU team — who have been such compassionate and attentive caregivers to Dave as he battles for life. They’ve been so kind and patient to those of us who have called in asking them to convey to Dave our messages of love and hope.
Dave’s roommate Rhonda has made a collage of cards and notes and photos that friends and family have sent TWD. It hangs with Dave’s American flag on a wall within his sight line. If you would like to add to that collage, send Dave a card or note to:
Wm. David Logan, Patient
UC Davis Cancer Center
2315 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95817
God bless you all. And most of all, God bless our friend and fellow patriot Third Wave Dave. May He hold him in His hand and heal him. Amen.