Friday, November 09, 2007

day +80

On Wednesday, Megan, the genetic counselor for Dr. Kenneth Offit, called in order to tell me that there's no genetic test for lymphoma at the moment, but that I could sign up for a research study instead. A month or two before transplantation, I contacted Dr. Offit's office at Sloan-Kettering expressing my interest in participating in a genetic screening that would assess the risk for any potential offspring for developing lymphoma, especially Hodgkin's Disease. February 26, 2008 was the scheduled appointment date. However, according to Megan such a test exists for other cancers but not for lymphoma at the moment. The fact that my grandmother (my father's mother and my only surviving grandparent), who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2004 and then, treated surgically in 2005 but who in the past week we've learned has had a reoccurrence, doesn't change my eligibility for a genetic test.

Interestingly, there's a question if I'd be eligible for even the research study now, because my blood isn't my own anymore but my donor's. Megan said she'd ask Dr. Offit for clarification. My cheeks cells, however, retain my own DNA so they might work. Saliva, on the other hand, may not be as accurate a source as blood or cheek cells.

I took this opportunity on the phone to ask Megan about the availability of a genetic test that assesses the risk of offspring developing congenital birth defects. Their office doesn't offer such an exam, but she did tell me that they could provide me with a list of prenatal geneticists, who do perform such tests in NYC. Why would I be interested in this, you may ask? It relates to my eldest sister, Dawn, who is 23 years old but who was born with a number of congenital defects that have made her unable to care for herself and therefore, lead a normal life. Though this alone has nothing to do with the cancer, as I've expressed in past posts I've grown increasingly wary of having any biological children (if as I hope I'm so fortunate to life long enough for this a matter of interest) due to a personal concern that there may be a genetic predisposition to a physical and/or mental ailment but more importantly, that after years of treatments my sperm may not be fit for safe, healthy reproduction. Indeed, the sample of my sperm that is cyropreserved in the sperm bank was deposited in 2005 after I received ABVD during 2003-2004. I don't know if these sperm are fit for reproduction, but I guess that's where the prenatal geneticist would come in. I imagine that if both I and my future wife (if I'm so fortunate to get married) were interested in biological children, then a prenatal geneticist could examine the health of the cyropreserved sperm. But if in the end, biological children aren't a safe option, then I at least am very open to the possibility of adoption. I know this talk about genetic testing and children is very premature (I'm only at day +80!) but it's something that one thinks about which is why I listened to the NPR story, Black Families Adopting from Overseas, today with interest.

Yesterday afternoon I called the Yankees inquiring about the sale of tickets to next year's All-Star weekend at Yankee Stadium. Since deposits can be made for the 2008 season ticket packages now, I wondered if tickets for the All-Star weekend (July 13-15) were available as well but it turns out that individual tickets for both the regular season and the All-Star weekend aren't available yet.

Last night I finished The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian, an extraordinary book that I bought at the University of Chicago bookstore (knowing that it was published by The University of Chicago Press) a couple of days before I returned home. This fascinating book enveloped my attention during these past few days. Indeed, I felt like I was transported to another world that is so bizarre and unfamiliar yet alluring. Looking at page after page is like taking a trip to the most distant regions of the cosmos. The Deep is full of amazing color photographs of strange, rare and never before seen species that thrive in the dark deep sea miles beneath the oceans' surface amidst unimaginably high pressure, no sunlight, and frigid waters. Moreover, this book is interspersed with insightful commentary by oceanographers and other marine experts, who share their knowledge about these remarkable creatures, the nature of the deep sea itself, and the deep sea's intricate relationship to the overall well-being of life on both land and in shallower depths of the sea. In reading, I learned more about chemosynthesis, hydrothermal vents, bioluminescence, and the monstrous Mid-Atlantic Ridge, for example.

One can't helped but be both marveled and humbled by the fascinating beauty and diversity in the deep sea (and moreover, Earth itself) that are detailed in The Deep. Here are just some of the mind-blowing facts that I learned:

  • With an average depth of 3,800 meters (about 2.4 miles), the oceans offer 99% of the space where life can develop on Earth. Therefore, they're the biggest habitats.
  • The oceans are vast habitats. The deep sea covers over two-thirds of this planet's surface and comprises about 99% of its volume.
  • Current estimates about the number of species [in the deep sea] yet to be discovered vary between 10 and 30 million. By comparison, the number of known species populating the planet today, whether terrestrial, aerial, or marine, is estimated at about 1.4 million.
  • Currently, only about 5% of the seafloor has been mapped with any reasonable degree of detail.
  • The deep sea is mapped more poorly than Mars or the far side of the Moon.
  • 99% of deep-sea animals create their own light. Bioluminescence is without a doubt the most widely used mode of communication on the planet.
  • The Himalayas, the Alps, and the Rocky Mountains are all dwarfed by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an enormous range of mountains that divide the deep Atlantic from north to south.
This hidden deep-sea environment dwarfs all other earthly habitats combined. It is the ultimate reservoir from which life everywhere draws sustenance - Robert D. Ballard

From the point of view of evolution, man is a success. But the most remarkable success of all this evolution, isn't it precisely the extraordinary cycle that leads him back to his origins, to the depths of the seas for which his blood is nostalgic? - Jacques Piccard

On the Discovery Channel about one week ago, the series' episode, Planet Earth: Deep Oceans, examined the very creatures and their biosphere that are reviewed in The Deep.

When Barnum Took Manhattan A very interesting read! I know how Madison Square Garden received its name now.

Rising Demand for Oil Provokes New Energy Crisis

Small Town Mourns a Running Marvel

Exercise on the Brain

Molten Rock Causing Ground to Rise at Yellowstone

It's been quite chilly recently, but Sunday looks like it will hit the low 50s, so it may be the best day yet for me to take another of my adventurous walks. I'm continuing to press forward. . . .


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