Thursday, August 6, 2009

Meanwhile, back on the HIV front . . .

If I had teeth, they would have been clenched tight when I clicked on the email I received from Dr. B1 early Wednesday morning.

Results from last Friday's biopsy were promised by Wednesday and I wasn't eager to get any bad tidings from my doctor. But even as I opened the email and read the words "Good news," my reaction fell short of unbridled joy.

Dr. B1 was telling me the best news I could have possibly expected to hear, but there was a cloud beneath that silver lining.

The night before, while poking around in my online medical records at Kaiser's member website, I saw that my latest HIV lab results were available. I clicked on that email and scrolled through the numbers. They didn't look good.

As I've been grappling with this cancer offensive, it looked as if my HIV had been running amok. According to the lab results posted online, my CD4 count had taken a deep nose dive, plummeting to 80 from more than 400 just seven months earlier.

I nervously clicked out of the lab results and sent a message to HIV provider: "My HIV numbers don't look very good," I wrote. "What do you think?"

The next day brought the good news about the biopsy, but my HIV situation weighed heavily on my mind.

Later that morning, my HIV doctor sent a reply to my email: "Your HIV is perfect," he wrote. "The HIV viral load is less than 48 copies, indicating complete suppression of the virus by the medications. Your overall 'infection fighting cell' number (WBC) remains slightly below your baseline, likely due to a residual effect of the chemotherapy. This is normal. It is not by any means at a critically low level. Because of your lower WBC numbers, your absolute T cell number is lower. However, the percentage of T cells (19 percent) is virtually unchanged from the values in January (18 percent).

"In other words," my HIV doc concluded, "your HIV is exactly the same, still doing great."

The lesson here is to let my doctor interpret my lab results before I leap to any conclusions.

So with HIV laying low, and cancer apparently having flown the coop, I can concentrate on my recovery while watching the undetectables, to paraphrase that doctor of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Costello.

It may still be some time before I can shed my trach and G-tube and talk and eat and drink through my mouth again —and there remains a possibility that the damage caused by cancer and radiation will be permanent— but I've come this far and I'm prepared to go the distance.


  1. Paul -- Keep on dancing. -- Marvin

  2. Love reading this blog my friend... sounds like the worst is behind you. ~Nathan