The Wrens’ Charles Bissell posts update on cancer condition, is in remission
The Wrens have a long-in-the-works album on the way, but in sadder news, Charles Bissell revealed earlier this year that he's battling cancer. He's now posted an update on Facebook about his condition, which reveals that he's in remission:
Just wrote all this and realized I pretty much could've just said that in short, after undergoing treatment since March, I'm officially in remission. But for all 'both' of you into my standard aversion to brevity...
After tossing out the cancer news firecracker last spring, I haven't really posted about it. But I've gotten so many nice messages etc., from friends & family checking in - and via the music stuff, from people I don't even really know - that I figured maybe I should update things. Plus, I crossed a good milestone last week, so the timing favored a follow-up.
In sum...uh, this is multiple myeloma (just in case this is itself news). Since March I've been on a clinical trial testing one of the new breed of near-miracle drugs (given in conjunction with one of the currently standard three-drug regimens). Treatments are in four-week cycles (three on, one off), so I'm on Cycle #7, and it's all going great. While not always a total hoot, side effects are, in comparison to what you'd think of as traditional old-school chemo-y stuff, honestly nothing to complain about.
But better, as of the start of this current cycle, my m-spike, which is basically a measure of the plasma cell (white blood cell type) that's gone bonkers, officially hit zero. So unofficially, I'm in remission. Remission. Even I can see what a weird fucking word that is to use casually. I'd be remiss-ion if I didn't mention my m-spike.
Anyway, I'll probably do another cycle or two, followed by what they term 'home maintenance', a stepped-down treatment of fewer drugs, self-administered at home, w/ no weekly trip the Mount (that's Sinai, the hospital). Maybe there'll be the hilariously euphemistically named 'stem cell transplant' (they harvested a few trillion in July. Or was it billion? I lost count. But come on...'harvest'?). Or maybe not. It's something we're meeting to discuss in a few weeks but it does feel like the transplant is becoming less of a default option as the drug treatments improve. After that, who knows - I take up parkour! [high-fives self].
Actually from there, it is sorta anyone's guess. I'm probably poorly walking the line between shooting for casually factual and sounding overly dramatic, but until recently, it was something of a given that myeloma would come back (relapse) followed by more treatment (to remission) and that cycle of relapse & remission would shorten & repeat over a few years usually to an ugly end. But in the last few years especially, chemo's like the one I'm on the trial for are are game-changing a myeloma prognosis, so although it's impossible to say, I'm optimistically thinking in terms of years, as in many. So in that sense, while still not curable, it is becoming more & more treatable and they're even cautiously talking possible cure stuff. In fact really, because it plays havoc with the immune system, infections & pneumonia are almost a bigger immediate concern now. So if we meet, don't be offended when I don't kiss open-mouth or I slather my already-gloved hand with a disinfecting agent (like fire) after we shake.
So..that's where it's at. And although it's definitely been an odd year (or two or...), overall, all going good. In fact, it's funny how easily the whole thing changes from 'oh hell' to just another schedule-y part of your routine ("oh, Fridays, I can't, I'm in the hospital"), which is good in the sense of a coping mechanism (read at times: denial, admittedly). And sad-lariously for me specifically, also good in the sense that as the at-home parent/'musician', those Friday appts. create an illusion I fully subscribe to that I have a trad 'job', wherein I pack a bag lunch and pretend I'm commuting to work in Manhattan with everyone else, where I'll good-naturedly trot out a weekly var. of the same joke to my long-suffering co-workers & bosses (the nursing staff, largely) of stocking the IV with strong coffee.
But that falling into routine is also less good in that it becomes harder to maintain the perspective shift that comes with initial diagnosis: one of some vague enlightenment, of "seeing things as they truly are", of what's important vs what's not, how short it all is or can be, and how each of us can (and honestly, not to be a downer, but 'will') receive news, or catastrophe or death blows from which we or loved ones are not, to be blunt, going to recover...all of that can all start to slip back into routine too, of grousing about minor crap and annoyances, which almost amounts to making a deliberate effort not to keep the larger lesson in mind. Trying to fight that.
Anyway, thanks again for all the messages & kind words, it honestly means a great deal, and forewarned, I vow to see more of you in-person this year...
Here's to hoping Charles' condition continues to improve.