Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Induction Treatment, Day 20

Almost half way there! The results of last week's bone marrow biopsy showed traces of residual leukemia, so I started a second round of 5 days of chemotherapy today. This is very common, and should not be seen as a sign that I'm not doing well. In fact, Dr. Forte and the oncology nurse said that I responded very well to treatment so far. Despite the secondary complications I had, some would even say that I "sailed through." This is not how I would describe it, given my extremely low energy levels, a fairly painful tooth infection, and the side effects from 12 days of 2 very strong antibiotics. But, compared to most, I'm told I did great, given how sick I was when I first came here on October 19th. Lots of leukemia patients have trouble with fevers, infections and bleeding when their bone marrow crashes, creating a domino effect with all sorts of serious problems, usually resulting in a stay in Intensive Care. So, all in all, I'm in pretty good shape.

I will be getting Idarubicin for 2 of the 5 days, and Cytarabine, or Ara-C, in a 24/7 continuous drip for all 5 days -- a little less than the 3/7 protocol for these same drugs that I received a couple of weeks ago. In about a week, the full effect of this second crash will begin and I'll again be at high risk for problems. But no one expects this second round to be any worse than the first, and now that my tooth infection is under control and I'm off the antibiotics, I should be fine. Then it's a matter of waiting for my blood levels to return to non-threatening levels.

Since it's the middle of flu season, we're being extra cautious. Dr. Forte is very protective of me, and he wants to treat me completely so that we can someday say that I've been cured. That's one reason he is treating me again with chemo. He said that because I was in such good health to begin with -- well, except for that whole metastatic cancer detour that distracted me on and off for the last few years -- there's no reason not to treat me with the tried and true protocol for AML, type M4 eos. The inversion 16 chromosome (the upside down gene on chromosome #16) will help in determining how much more treatment I will need in the months and years to come.

So, it's back to one day at a time. Dr. Forte said that my earliest departure date would be around December 6 or 7, assuming all goes well and my blood counts recover normally. I'm sad that I'll be here for my favorite holiday, but I should be home to Sadie, the goofy kitty, in time for our first Christmas together.

There are bright spots. I'll have peace of mind, with this second round of chemo, that we've done the most we can to do kill as much leukemia as possible before I go home. Any stray abnormal cells will be killed off during the 6-8 month consolidation phase of 3 days of Ara-C over 5 days once a month. Another bright spot is that you have all remembered me, here in the blue room. Lots of times when people go out on leave or disappear for medical reasons, it's easy to forget them because they're out of sight, out of mind. Or, the sick person reminds people of their own worse fears. I'm here to tell you that your worse fear is really not your worse fear. Things can always be worse. There's always a sliver lining to everything, even if you can't see it at first. My worse fear used to be, not cancer, but chemotherapy. Been there, done that. Actually, still doing that. Then my worse fear was dying of cancer. I just refuse to accept that as a possibility -- not after the war I've been through and am still fighting. As humans, we are always revising our worse fears, as we get older and we start collecting challenges to overcome. But I choose now to focus on my biggest blessings. It's way more fun and lots more rewarding. Besides, it's the season for counting blessings. Thank you all for your continued support and prayers.



1 comment:

  1. "There's always a sliver lining to everything, even if you can't see it at first." Indeed, I couldn't agree with you more.... and it's that foundation of strength, a dash of faith, and the ability to laugh that puts everything in perspective.

    I've said it a million times, but I'll say it again, you are hands down the mostest of the most...I love you ~Art


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