Archive for October, 2009

Transfusions are spooky?

This past Thursday I went into the doctor’s office to get my weekly blood test; the numbers revealed that my bone marrow had yet to bounce back, and that my platelet level in particular was even lower than last time, being 5 thousand parts per million where the low normal is 130 thousand parts per million. So Thursday was another transfusion day. This time they gave me two units of platelets, and one unit of blood, along with benadryl, tylonal, and one other that I’m forgetting, to help my body accept the new material. However, the big side effect of benadryl is that it knocks you out.  I was at the doctor’s for a total of seven hours that day, from 9am to 4pm, and after the first three in the waiting room (waiting for the platelets and blood to be ready; I understand that these things take time, but sometimes I wonder if they actually have to go get a downer, get his blood, and filter it after they learn they need the stuff), I slept like a baby. Well, a drugged baby, but a baby nonetheless. Now I feel good; I’ve gotten my blood counts lifted out of the basement, and I’m confident that in another week or so my bone marrow will kick in (next week will make it three weeks since I’ve been off Gleevec). One thing I’ve learned from this most recent experience: blood is warmer than platelets. When platelets go into you, your arm feels icy cold, but when blood goes in, it feels nice and warm, like the heat from a comfortably crackling fire, except that the heat comes from within your body instead of without. I would know, I had ’em back to back.

And that’s all for now. Happy Halloween! Oh, wow, this is a post on Halloween, isn’t it? Custom dictates that anything being remotely affiliated with the holiday should be somehow spooky…and to answer the question posed by the title of this post, no; no they are not. To remedy this situation, here’s a REAL LIFE ghost story.

Once upon a time, when I was young (that makes me sound so old!), I woke up. Then I got out of bed, but didn’t make it, and went downstairs. When I came back up, the bed was made perfectly; my dad was at work, and my mother had been with me the whole time! Whoooooo! My sister was there, but knowing her, the last thing she would do is make a bed, much less mine. Or maybe she wasn’t born yet, I don’t remember. Spooky! A scary old house cleaning ghost! Oooh!



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Male vs Female Brain

In response to my cousin Megan’s link to the BBC’s Male vs Female Brain Test, I have posted my results, as well as another link to the test, in case others would like to take it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/add_user.shtml

Chris DeLuca’s personal brain score:

Average score for MEN who’ve taken this survey:

Average score for WOMEN who’ve taken this survey:

Your score for each task

Part 1
This task tested your ability to identify the angle of a line by matching it with its twin. This is a spatial task, which looks at how you picture space.Your score: 18 out of 20
Average score for men: 15.1 out of 20
Average score for women: 13.3 out of 20

What does your result suggest?

If you scored 0 – 12: You have more of a female brain. Scientists believe that people with a female brain find it more difficult to judge the slope of a line because they’re not wired for spatial tasks. In past studies, 65 per cent of people who scored in this range were women.

If you scored 13 – 17: You found this test neither hard nor easy. This suggests your brain has male and female traits when it comes to spatial ability.

If you scored 18 – 20: You have more of a male brain. On average, men outperform women in this task and those with more mathematical knowledge tend to score quite high as well. In past studies, 60 per cent of the people in this range were men.

Interestingly, men’s testosterone levels fluctuate through the seasons and studies have shown that men’s scores are lower in the spring, when their testosterone levels are at their lowest.

Spot the difference
This task tested your ability to identify which objects changed position. You lost points, if you incorrectly identified objects.Your score: 57%
Average score for men: 39%
Average score for women: 46%

What does your score suggest?

If you scored between 0 – 33%: You may have more of a male brain. Scientists say men tend to under perform in this task. The corpus callosum, the part of the brain that links the right and left hemispheres, is a fifth larger in women. This means women can process visual and other signals at the same time more easily than men. There is also a theory that oestrogen levels in women give them an added advantage in spatial memory.

If you scored between 34 – 66%: You may have a balanced female-male brain.

If you scored between 67 – 100%: Those with a female-type brain generally score in this range. Your ability to remember where objects are may serve as an advantage to you when you’re trying to find your way around places. You’re more capable of recalling landmarks to get from one place to another.

Part 2
You said your right thumb was on top when you clasped your hands together.

Right thumb on top: This suggests the left half of your brain is dominant. Many studies have tried to establish whether there is a relationship between handedness and brain dominance. Some scientists believe that if you are left brain dominant, you would be more verbal and analytical.

Left thumb on top: This suggests the right half of your brain is dominant. Some studies theorise that as a right brain dominant person, you may excel in visual, spatial and intuitive processes.

However, these theories are debatable and leave much to be said about the small percentage of people who are ambidextrous.

Part 3
Emotions and Systems
This task looked at whether you prefer to empathise or systemise.Empathising

Your empathy score is: 13 out of 20
Average score for men: 7.9 out of 20
Average score for women: 10.6 out of 20

What does your result suggest?

Empathisers are better at accurately judging other people’s emotions and responding appropriately. If you scored 15 and above, you are very empathic and would be an ideal person to comfort people in a time of crisis. Women in general are better at empathising.

Your systemising score is: 10 out of 20
Average score for men: 12.5 out of 20
Average score for women: 8.0 out of 20

What does your result suggest?

Systemisers prefer to investigate how systems work. A system can be a road map, flat pack furniture, or a mathematical equation – anything that follows a set of rules. A score of 15 and above suggests you’re good at analysing or building systems. Men in general are better at systemising.

Scientists are keen to learn more about people who score high or low on both tests. They want to find out whether or not empathising and systemising are linked. Is a possible to make yourself more empathic?

This task tested your ability to judge people’s emotions.Your score: 6 out of 10
Average score for men: 6.6 out of 10
Average score for women: 6.6 out of 10

What does your result suggest?

If you scored 0 – 3: Do you think you’re good at judging how another person is feeling? Your score suggests this doesn’t come to you quite so naturally.

If you scored 4 – 6: Your result suggests you have a balanced female-male brain and find it neither easy nor difficult to judge people’s emotions.

If you scored 7 – 10: Your result suggests you are a good empathiser, sensitive to other people’s emotions. Women generally fall into this category.

Professor Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge says that people usually perform better than they expect to on this test.

Part 4
We asked you to measure your ring and index fingers. Your ratios came to:Right Hand: 1.07
Left Hand: 0.92

Average ratio for men: 0.982
Average ratio for women: 0.991

It’s thought that your ratio is governed by the amount of testosterone you were exposed to in your mother’s womb. The ratio of the length of your index finger to the length of your ring finger is set for life by as early as three months after conception. Even during puberty, when we experience intensive hormonal changes, the ratio stays the same.

Men generally have a ring finger that is longer than their index finger, which gives them a lower ratio than women, whose ring and index fingers are usually of equal length.

Studies have found that men and women with lots of brothers generally have more masculine finger ratios.

Part 5
This task looked at how you rate the attractiveness of a series of faces. The images you looked at were digitally altered to create slight differences in masculinity.

Your choices suggest you prefer more feminine faces.

Highly masculinised male faces possess more extreme testosterone markers such as a long, broad and lower jaw, as well as more pronounced brow ridges and cheekbones.

Interestingly, women’s preferences are said to vary across the menstrual phase. A more masculine face is preferred during the 9 days prior to ovulation, when conception is most likely.

A typical ‘attractive’ female face possesses features such as a shorter, narrower, lower jaw, fuller lips and larger eyes than an average face.

Part 6
3D shapes
This task tested your ability to mentally rotate 3D shapes.
Your score: 9 out of 12
Average score for men: 8.2 out of 12
Average score for women: 7.1 out of 12

What does your result suggest?

If you scored 0 – 6: Do you find yourself having to physically rotate a map to point in the direction in which you’re travelling? This might explain why you scored in the lower range in the 3D shapes test. Twice as many women as men score in this category. Previous studies suggest that those with a female-type brain or with an arts background fall into this range.

If you scored 7 – 9: In past studies, 50 per cent of the people who scored in this range were women and 50 per cent were men.

If you scored 10 – 12: Are you an engineer or do you have a science background? People with these skills tend to score in this range. Past studies have concluded that people in this range have a more male brain.

This task looked at your verbal fluency.Your score: you associated 8 words with grey and you named 6 words that mean happy. We are assuming that all the words you entered are correct. 14 words total.

Average score for men: 11.4 words total
Average score for women: 12.4 words total

What does your result suggest?

If you produced 1 – 5 words: You are more of the strong, silent type with a male brain. You probably find it easier to express yourself in non-verbal ways, preferring action rather than words.

If you produced 6 – 10 words: Most people in this range have a female-type brain.

Women are said to use both sides of the brain when doing verbal tasks while men mainly use their left side. Studies have shown that girls develop vocabulary faster than boys. This difference in brain power is caused by levels of pre-natal testosterone.

This task asked you how you would divide money.If you had to split £50 with someone, you said you would demand £25

So far on the Sex ID test, men have demanded 51.6% (£25.80) of the pot and women have demanded 51.0% (£25.50), on average.

What does your response suggest?

Sex differences are small in this task. Demanding less than 60% of the pot (ie £30) is more typically female. Demanding more than 65% of the pot (ie £32.50) is more typically male.

Scientists believe that people with lower testosterone levels tend to take fewer risks so they are probably more willing to keep less for themselves. Those with higher testosterone levels tend to drive a harder bargain and are less compromising.

Men’s testosterone levels fluctuate over the seasons and are at their lowest levels during the springtime. This is said to influence their bargaining power.

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Left vs Right Brain Test

I just took an online test to determine which side of the brain you favor, right or left. Here are my results:

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 9(9)
Right Brain Dominance: 9(9)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

What does this mean? Here’s the breakdown:

Left Hemisphere Style Right Hemisphere Style

  • Responds to verbal instructions
  • Problem solves by logically and sequentially looking at the parts of things
  • Looks at differences
  • Is planned and structured
  • Prefers established, certain information
  • Prefers talking and writing
  • Prefers multiple choice tests
  • Controls feelings
  • Prefers ranked authority structures

  • Responds to demonstrated instructions
  • Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns and configurations
  • Looks at similarities
  • Is fluid and spontaneous
  • Prefers elusive, uncertain information
  • Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
  • Prefers open ended questions
  • Free with feelings
  • Prefers collegial authority structures

  • Is a splitter: distinction important
  • Is logical, sees cause and effect

  • Is a lumper: connectedness important
  • Is analogic, sees correspondences, resemblances
Draws on previously accumulated, organized information Draws on unbounded qualitative patterns that are not organized into sequences, but that cluster around images

Brains are cool! Take the test for yourself; it only takes two minutes.

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So remember that screenshot I posted of a cartoon I said I was going to finish in a week a month ago? Well, I finally finished it. All two minutes of it. Here it is, and let me know what you think! Thanks.

Also, on a leukemic note, I have discovered the reason my platelet and neutrophil levels were so low was that 400 mg of Gleevec was too high a dose for my body, and hence the stuff zapped my bone marrow so it is currently not making much of anything. My reds, whites, platelets, neutrophils, and a half score of others are all really low. However, not to worry, as I’m currently off Gleevec for three weeks to let my bone marrow bounce back, and in the mean time I’m getting weekly infusions of platelets. After three weeks the docs will put me on a reduced dose, which shouldn’t toast my bones, and I’ll be able to be cancer-free and have normal blood! Until then, check out my little cartoon.

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Gleevec’s out

Good news! I got the first half of my test results back this Tuesday (the bone marrow test), and they show I have no blast cells in my marrow, which means I am still in chronic phase, and not accelerated or blast phase. This diagnosis has many advantages, chief among them being not having to rush to get a bone marrow transplant, probably from my sister, which is an operation we can both live without. What the test showed was that the Gleevec had worked in that it put the leukemia into remission, but it also did a number on my bone marrow, frying it to the point where it’s not making any platelets or neutrophils. Basically, the drug whacked out my immune system and made it a lot easier for me to bleed, and keep bleeding. Hence, I am have been taken off Gleevec, and am currently waiting on the second half of the test results (the bone chip biopsy) to determine which new drug I will be put on. These results should be in by tomorrow, at which point I will also be going in for a blood test to check my platelet levels, and I suppose if need be, pump me with more. So until that time, I am not on any medication, which for those wondering, will not cause the cancer to leap back with a vengeance; chronic phase is called that because it is very slow moving, and a few days off the drug won’t really do much. And that’s the word for now. Eat good and sleep well!

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Drum subbing

Good news! I have unearthed a video of me playing with one of my favorite bands of all time, The Candy Apples. Never heard of them? Now you have. I was introduced to their music back in 2005 by my college roommate Andy McCarthy, who is part of the band (guitar and vocals). The two videos below are taken from a live broadcast of Thursday Nite Live, which is Hofstra University’s very own sketch comedy show that I was the head writer of in college. This show was taped in October 2008, the fall after I graduated, so it was pretty awesome to go back and play. The reason why I got to play with them was that their regular drummer, Steve Beck, had another gig with another band, The Gypsy West (another great band), and couldn’t make the show. So five days prior I was asked, immediately said yes, and spent the three days preceding the show practicing the songs after work. There’s the story. If you like the music, let me know and I’ll send you their albums. Keep it funky!

From The Inside Out

Autumn Bound & The ’50s Song

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The warmest of hellos! Some of you may have heard about my experiences last night, but for those who haven’t, and those who haven’t heard enough, I give you this explanation.

As I mentioned in my post Bleeding and other things, my platelets have been low as a result of my medication. This condition is supposed to clear up in a month or two, however at the time of my last doctor’s visit, they were still low. The normal is between 130 and 200 thousand parts per million, and mine were hovering around 55 thousand. This was lower than my doctor would like, but the number was not unheard of at that point in treatment, so he decided to wait and see if they went up. Flash forward two weeks, and I’m bruising a lot. I had little marker dots all over my legs, indicating broken blood vessels, my lips were constantly breaking, and I had various other black and blues all over my body. So, in my infinite wisdom, I figured everything was cool. Then I kept bleeding, and I figured I’d better call the doctor.

Hackensack Hospital has a special number to call for questions, which are answered promptly by a nurse.  I called this number, told the nurse that I was bruising, and he told me, in his infinite wisdom, to be careful. So I went around being careful, but I was still bruising and bleeding from the nose and lips (which, if you’ve never seen, is highly attractive). I called again, and this time I got an appointment for a week later to check my blood, specifically for platelet levels. Flash forward to last night.

I go in at 1:30 pm, and they hit me with a finger stick, which is this little needle they zap into your finger and then message out a tiny vial of blood. I said hi to all the nurses, we’re friendly now, and went to go wait in the waiting room. Surprisingly, I wasn’t there long before the head nurse called me. I knew something was up because she asked me how I was feeling. As a rule, you should always be on your guard if someone in the health care profession asks you how you’re feeling.

The nurse told me that the blood test showed that my platelets were very, very low. 7 thousand parts per million, to be exact (when the normal minimum is 130k). Also, my neutrophils, which are white blood cells that resist infectious diseases, were also very low – 10 thousand parts per million when the normal is at least 50 thousand. These levels were dangerously low, so I needed immediate platelet infusion, but first I had to get my blood taken again, this time from my arm. After waiting another hour or so (luckily I had brought Fahrenheit 451 to read), another nurse came in and hooked me up to an IV. Only the first time she tried, the vein in my hand didn’t behave, so after stabbing me a couple of times, she switched to my wrist, which thankfully worked. Despite stabbing me, she was very nice, and we talked a lot about topics that I cannot for some reason recall. But we talked about them by God!

They didn’t hit me with the platelets right away, instead pumping me with saline solution, which is almost identical to the body’s natural fluids, and is used to keep the vein clear. While this was happening, the head nurse came back in. She explained that Goldberg really did not like the numbers. If my platelets and neutrophils were as low as they were at this stage in the treatment, then something was wrong, and the Gleevec had “failed me.” Basically, the side effects were unacceptable, and I was going to be switched to a different medication. However, they had to do another bone marrow test to figure out what the problem with the low counts was; either it was a side effect of the Gleevec that my body could not normalize, there was some other problem separate from the drug and the cancer, or I had reached accelerated or blast phase of the disease. My blood did not indicate the advanced phase, but they needed to check the marrow to make sure, because in that unlikely event, I’d pretty much have to go in for an immediate bone marrow transplant (which would suck, by the way).

For those with good memories, the bone marrow biopsy involves jamming a giant needle into my ass bone, so needless to say I was less than thrilled at having this procedure done to me again when I wasn’t even expecting the IV. I don’t know what it is about my ass that makes doctors want to stick needles into it; perhaps there’s a bulls-eye I am unaware of. Again I lay in the fetal position (for better access to the bone, I suppose), mooning everyone and holding the nurses hand as a dude got inside my bones. Again the nurse wiped my ass, and again I got a glass of apple juice.  At that point it was almost six o’ clock.

The nurse gave me benadryl and tylenol so the platelet’s antibodies wouldn’t kick my ass, and started feeding me platelets (not literally; through the IV). An hour later I was done and went home, but not before  I started a miscommunication with my mom in which she thought I was actually admitted to the hospital, and not just having to stay there for an extended period. This resulted her getting me food, changes of clothing, and calling everyone she knew to tell them where I was (except I wasn’t). For anyone still operating under that misconception, please be aware of reality.

I get half of the test results this Tuesday, and the other half in a week or so, and at that point I will change medications, which hopefully my body will tolerate better (In the mean time I’m still on Gleevec). I did call my sister to let her know that the hospital will call her and send her a DNA kit (essentially just a toothbrush) to find out if she’s a good genetic match for a transplant. This is the unlikely worst case scenario, but like doctors and boyscouts always say, you have to be prepared.  I really don’t think I’ll need the transplant, though; I mean, I feel good, and its only been a little over a month since my last test, which showed clean marrow. I also just have a good feeling.

Now I am resting at home, and feeling good. I’ve listened to a lot of p-funk to keep things on the groove – The Motor Booty Affair, Mothership Connection, and Back in the Day: The Best of Bootsy – in addition to the Spinal Tap soundtrack. All is well. I will keep everyone posted as things develop. Until then, may butts and needles never meet – amen.

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