Chemo Four: Turn the Corner

Like someone once told me, it’s all in the mosh-up. Certainly that was true for Tuesday pasts’ Chemo session, Number Four. My white blood cell count had moved up from .666 to 1.08, so Four was a clear “go”.

The Witches Brew for Four included all drugs below save for the bone drug, which I’ll get again at Five.

Saline Drip

The Drugs

Aloxi 250 mcg
Decadron 10 mg
Benadryl 50 mg
Pepcid 20 mg
Ativan (syringe)
Paclitaxel (Taxol)
Once a month: Zoledronic Acid (Zometa)

Since we found evidence of cancer in breast, lymph, lung and bone, its a safe bet that this protocol covers the mosh-up. These drugs do what they do and they do a good job.  Side affects notwithstanding, for nausea at home here I’ve been prescribed promethazine (mixed in a creme by our pharmacy at the hospital which happens to be a very cool old-timey compounding pharmacy), and Ativan — one of those ultimate does a lot of different thing type pills which happens to work wonders on nausea, at least for me. My appetite is increasing, which is great because sine 3/30 I’ve dropped 25 lbs. and don’t particularly want to drop any more. My sister-in-law dropped 47 during her chemo and she didn’t have it to lose.  The only other side effect this week has been the beginning of hair loss — more is coming out as I brush or if I run my hands through my hair…I have a lot of hair so this could take a week or so.

Amazingly, Chemo 4 was as smooth a treatment as I’ve had yet. Everything dripped in properly, no nausea due to the proximity of the Ativan to the chemo drugs and everything else protected the tissue it was supposed to protect. I’m at the point now where I can actually taste the drugs, and the saline. I’m trying too, to be conscious of what they do when they’re taken into my tissues and short of hallucinating I think I can report proprioceptive sensations, especially with the Benadryl — that is some fine old technology and it does a hell of a job at what its supposed to do.

I guess my favorite of the lot is the Zometa, the bone drug. Its used to prevent complications of cancer that has spread to the bone, and is a bone hardener. It pulls serum calcium out, so I have to take extra — OsCal is doing a good job twice a day. After the first session, in about seven days, I felt stronger — almost like five or ten years ago stronger. I come up for my second session with that drug next week and my poor scapula (both of which have cancerous lesions) and T4 (also affected) are looking forward to it.

In cases like mine, the word “cure” has no meaning, because when a lobulized cancer metastizises like this you don’t know where its at and it can show up years later in places you never dreamed. You perhaps can go “disease-free” as a linguistic symbol, assuming you kill all the cancer cells, but that’s about it. The tumors themselves are sources of new problems, pieces break off and cause embolisms, they put pressure on places they are not supposed to, and there is always the risk of throwing a clot, etc. Chemo, at this point, in spite of the bad rap it gets (it is a rough treatment) actually can make you feel better. And for systemic problems, it’s the only way to go. Surgery really can’t address much here at this point.

It rained like the blazes during the infusion session, but I was comfy in the corner LazyBoy, with my heating pad. There weren’t too many people there yesterday, actually, in comparision to some past weeks. One man came in with what was clearly pretty bad lung cancer although they sent him for a CAT scan, so I’m not sure they were sure. I was sure, after reading and watching for a while, and listening to that signature cough, it’s hard to miss. His GP had given him some Ambien and apparently he wasn’t doing well with it, so it was suggested that he just take an extra half-Xanax before sleep. I was dozing in and out, listening to all of it, just watching him roll his oxygen canister back and forth and argue with his sports bedecked OU wife, who was crying in frustration. The best friend was there too, offering driving and moral support. They sent him off finally to be scanned, and things quieted down, with three of us snoozing in the back corner of the room.  It must be really hard for some families. This is all a very big problem, and unless a cancer is caught early, and I mean really early, there isn’t much our current medical science is prepared to do at this point to take care of it.

Today, I’m a bit tired, as I was yesterday, but feel amazingly well in comparision to the way I felt four weeks ago. While I can do it, I’m going to study the problems and observe what’s done at the Drip Factory here, and see if there’s a way to present some of this information, tying some pieces together. This disease, such as it is, moves into mega-nightmare status the minute “in  situ” ceases to have meaning. We just aren’t prepared to treat a whole invaded body — and the actual cause of death is often a blow-by of something caused by the tumor and not the tumor itself, or in the case of non-tumorous lesions, other problems. At least now we have PETs and MRIs to give us information about where the cancer has gotten to…the CAT didn’t pick up the bone metastises, for example, but both the oncologist and I knew they had to be there because in this type of breast cancer (esp. with the inflamed breast) 41 percent of women have them…and yep he didn’t blink an eyelash when the results came back.

On the good part of all this, the inflamed breast has quieted down, shrunk almost back to normal, has lost a lot of the edema and orangeskin look, and otherwise is better. The neck tumor has shrunk as well to the naked eye, which, after just three weeks, is an accomplishment.

I’m breathing better, although will probably want another thorocentesis session before too much longer, and just hope I can get through sessions five and six without too much drama. We will be taking two weeks off, then doing session seven through twelve.


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