01. The Other Luke

As you probably know this weekend marks the return of a classic battle between good and evil to the silver screen: The evil force of Darth Vader vs. the young and mighty Luke Skywalker.

But there is another battle starting this weekend, starring another Luke, that I wanted to let you all know about: the young and mighty Eran Thomson vs. Luke-emia.

It’s true, as some of you have already heard, last week I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. Now don’t freak out. I feel good and I know I can beat this thing. I just wanted to let those of you who didn’t know, know. I start chemotherapy today and I figure all the good vibes people can send me the better.

What follows is a more detailed explanation of my particular type of the disease and, I hope answers to many of your questions.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) is one of four types of the disease. And I’m told that if you have to have Luke, CML is the one to have. Lucky me. By the way, the odds of having CML are about 1 in 1,000,000,000. I’ll be buying lottery tickets often. There are about 7 types of CML, my kind is BCR/ABLE, not the Philadelphia chromosome type for those of you who wanted to know. Originally this was thought to be worse, but my Doctor says that’s no longer true.

The only known cure for CML is a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). So you know me, I was like, “bring it on and let’s get this shit over with.” But they said, not so fast kiddo. Here’s what’s happening: Starting today I will attempt to lower my white blood cell count via chemotherapy. The drug I start taking this afternoon is called Alfa-Interferon, it is a “mild” treatment. An injection taken three times a week, after this week I should be able to shoot up myself. Soon I’ll be able to go out in public, grip a rubber tube in my teeth and shoot up in the park. “No officer, it’s my medicine…really.”

In 85% of cases the drug causes remission, of those 40% will see no trace of the BCR/ABLE chromosome. That’s when I can stop taking the drug. In most cases, after a period of about 6 years on average, the cancer comes back and that’s when a BMT is performed. So, this means that I get to play junkie indefinitely, and schedule my BMT for Someday.

Frustrating indeed, but what these figures don’t take into consideration is my good health, age etc. So I’m confident with your support I can kick Luke’s ass. Maybe, just maybe so bad it won’t ever come back.

For those of you imagining me laid up with my ass hanging out of hospital gown, emaciated, paling and bald, forget it. I feel good and I intend to stay that way. (This was diagnosed during a routine physical by the way, other than minor fatigue, I felt/feel fine when I went in for my checkup) I have lost a lot of weight, not that I needed to, but I’m happy to report that while my pants are looser, I’ve got abs! I’m planning on a six-pack by June.

The Alfa-Interferon makes some people sick, flu-like symptoms are common. Notice I said “some people.” But the doctors tell me any hair loss will probably be hereditary. The bottom line is this: CML is something I’m going to have to deal with, it’s a part of me now, much like diabetics who rely on insulin, but it’s not going to stop me.

I will say it’s having a profound effect on how I look at my world, my life and my friends. Thank you so much for you support and good vibes. You’re friendships are my most treasured possessions. That and my ticket to Star Wars Episode 1, the Phantom Menace opening night.

I don’t know what happens to Luke Skywalker in the movie, but I can promise you Luke-emia gets his ass kicked.

Best wishes,
– ET

From: Abram Rosenthal
To: Eran Thomson
Subject: Skywalking
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 23:58:50 -0400

Hi Eran:  Maybe it’s not so strange, but all through my workout this AM out in the field, while I was doing my own run, stretch, sit-ups and push ups I was thinking about you and your new found companion Luke, and wondering if you’d be offended by my suggesting the name and the parallels with Star Wars.  Here you were on my e-mail on the same wavelength.  Perhaps the connections are warranted, when you consider the images of interstellar/intercellular travel, forces of good/evil, and how both aspects war in us all, both as matters of  identity and  possibly inheritance..  I carried the metaphorical thought so far as to question my own darkness as father/vader perhaps being causal in the deep personal challenges you are being forced to reckon with now.  White blood cells and multitudinous stars, floating across my stream of consciousness.  My deepest wish hoping for your unified, intuitive, and integral capacity for good to emerge to face this challenge and vanquish the enemy, which is in actuality our self, in conflict with our higher Self.  And so, here I see already the positive spirit and great attitude in your e-mail notification to all your friends. And I know you are going to do it, are already doing it.  I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind my coming down for a visit June 2-6?  I’d be leaving the day of your birthday, in the AM leaving you plenty time to party with pals.  Let me know ASAP as I should book it to get a cheap fare I found.  I really need to see you.  Susan longs to see you too, but for right now it’d just be me.  Maybe later we can get you up here to Me and Vt to your folks’ country, now that we’re all bridged into better communication over your poor sufferin’ body..  Many people are thinking of you.  More later.  For now I wish you a life free of side effects.  Love, Dad.

 

From:  “Alan Julich”
To: “Eran Thomson”
Subject: Re: The other Luke
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 12:05:41 -0400

Thanks for the information.  The good vibes are flowing your way right now. They’ll keep on flowing.  My wife does earth chants, etc with her women friends – I’ll get them started on you.  You’re the man.  Alan

 

From: Amanda Nowinski
To: Eran Thomson
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 09:10:52 -0800

I can’t believe that you have the “other luke” — I’m a witch and i will burn many candles for you!  I’ve got one going as we speak…you’re a tough-ass, so you’ll pull through this, I’ve no doubt.

Have you been writing much? I haven’t talked to you in years — Ryan forwarded me the email you sent out. I’d like to keep in touch with you.

Love,

Amanda

From: “Amy Sczerba”
To: Eran Thomson
Subject: Re: The other Luke
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 09:13:57 PDT

*CHEER* Yea! I’m so glad you’re keeping your positive, upbeat attitude. I really admire that about you. I know firsthand it takes an immense amount of strength to go what you’re going through. I’m very proud to call you my friend and honored you feel the same about me.

Dr. Scott Lilly is the heme/onc attending I told you about. His pager number is 970-5572. I have a few things here at the house for you, information, etc, nothing I’m sure you don’t already have, but I collected them anyway.

Hopefully I’ll see you soon.

Love *Z

From: Chad Nelsen
To: “Eran Thomson”
Subject: May the force be with you
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 09:29:29 -0700

Eran-

Wow. I am sorry to hear the bad news. However, your attitude about CML and life in general kicks ass!

From here on out, I will be focussing all of my positive (we need a Heli-ski opening on Friday) energy your way. Keep up the positive attitude and beat this thing! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Perhaps a little summer visit/surf trip to Laguna is just what the doctor ordered, you’re welcome anytime.

Su amigo,

Chad

From: Chad Nelsen <cnelsen@surfrider.org
To: “Eran Thomson”
Subject: May the force be with you
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 09:29:29 -0700

Eran-

Wow. I am sorry to hear the bad news. However, your attitude about CML and life in general kicks ass!

From here on out, I will be focussing all of my positive (we need a Heli-ski opening on Friday) energy your way. Keep up the positive attitude and beat this thing! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Perhaps a little summer visit/surf trip to Laguna is just what the doctor ordered, you’re welcome anytime.

Su amigo,
Chad

From: Christy Parrish
To: “Eran Thomson
Subject: The other Luke Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 17:24:29 -0400

I got your news today and while I am unhappy to hear it – It sounds like you have the right attitude.  You have all the support, love and well wishes I possess.  I have already been typed and am in the National Marrow Donor Bank.

Wimpy Joe will be soon – but you won’t need it.  We have been planning a trip out to Chapel Hill.  Memorial Day weekend works for us for the same reason it probably works for everyone in Chapel Hill to be somewhere else. Will you be in town?  I’m taking an informal survey.

I REALLY LOVED your Mother’s Day card!  Motherhood definitely does NOT look good on me – unless you find weebles attractive.  If Memorial Day Weekend doesn’t work – tell us a weekend you will be around SOON – I’m running out of time (I can’t travel after a certain point).

Take care – and May The Force Be With You!!

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