Thursday, January 14, 2010

Consolidation Treatment: One Down, Three to Go

It’s hard to believe, but there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. I had no idea I would be so busy on disability. On days when I don’t feel sick, there are doctor’s appointments or errands to run in preparation for my next hospital admission. Wednesday and today I went for blood work, fully packed and ready for anything. My counts are dropping, but not so low that I had to be admitted. I had a transfusion of platelets before leaving the hospital on Wednesday, so that’s one less thing to worry about over the next few days. Now if my white cells, red cells and neutrophils would just hang in there, I won’t have to go back into isolation. I'll go back for a re-check on Monday, and if I still feel well, I might be out of the danger zone for the rest of the month till my next treatment at the beginning of February.

I consulted with my biochemist, Nicholas Abrishamian of Chester, NJ, who tweaked my supplements so that I can boost my immune system, detoxify my liver from all the chemotherapy, and help me to stay as strong as possible. He believes that with the right vitamins, herbs, enzymes and other supplements, I can avoid, or at least minimize, getting sick when my counts drop the week after chemo. Dr. Forte has no objection to anything I've presented to him so far in terms of supplements and homeopathic remedies. He said today, "Researchers and doctors have to find a way to learn from each other," and I can't agree with him more.

My first round of consolidation treatment last week was not only punctuated with days of feeling awful, but it also included an experiment with the synthetic form of medical marijuana, Marinol (generic, Dronabinol). Marinol has been around for years, but its efficacy is questioned by many doctors, including Dr. Forte. Since I was still nauseous after taking the usual anti-nausea drugs, we decided to try Marinol for a day. It did nothing for my nausea or pain. The sleepiness and groggy feeling it gave me may have taken my mind off my symptoms, but it wasn’t strong enough to knock me out, keeping me from accomplishing anything productive. Spending the day in limbo just made me weaker and incredibly bored, longing for 9 p.m. when I could ask for an Ambien.

I was very encouraged to hear that New Jersey will join 14 other states in allowing the use of medical marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions. The NJ Assembly and Senate passed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act earlier this week. Now patients with HIV, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Crohn’s disease and other chronic or terminal illnesses, will have an option for pain management that many people believe is long overdue. My treatment will end in April or May, before the new law will be implemented, but by the end of this year, many people will be able to take advantage of this alternative. I’m told that patients who need medical marijuana for pain will not feel stoned, they will just get relief from their pain. If my experience with the synthetic Marinol is any indication, I’m sure that’s true. (I didn’t even get the munchies.) If it were otherwise, I suspect we would have heard reports from the 14 states that have already enacted similar laws. If we notice happier seniors in our nursing homes, it’s not because they’re high, it’s because they’re in less pain. Having another way to manage pain is a step forward. No one should have to suffer.



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