First Chemo

I’m sure that many of you reading this blog have experience with cancer as either a patient or family member, and the scenes we describe are old news. Let me just say that I have the greatest respect for all who travel this road. We see courage displayed on a daily basis at the Seattle Cancer Care Clinic. Most touching to me are the children, accompanied by their parents, facing an illness that threatens all the promise of their futures. Yesterday in the infusion wing a young boy (or perhaps a girl – hard to tell from the bald head), just 4 or 5 years old, happily paddled down the hall to the restroom, followed by his mom pushing the IV pole. As with virtually everyone we meet here, there are no complaints or self-pity, just getting on with the business of fighting cancer.

John has managed his first 2 days of the pre-stem cell harvest chemo regimen quite well. He was at the clinic for 14 hours on Monday, with a constant drip of drugs flowing through the Hickman catheter into his bloodstream. He gained 8 pounds over the course of the day from this onslaught of fluids, yet still managed to walk back to the apartment at day’s end. He is on a 24-hour hydration program through Thursday, so a portable pump accompanies him when he leaves the clinic. Maintenance of the pump and fluids at home falls to yours truly, and while these new responsibilities are a little nerve-wracking, so far I’ve done no damage to his lifeline.

Yesterday and today are shorter, easier infusion days, with just a 4-hour dose of one of the chemo drugs. We were done by 3 pm yesterday, walked home, and John fell asleep for the rest of the day, evening, and through the night, taking brief breaks to eat, pee, change the pump fluid, and swallow some more pills. He feels relatively chipper this morning, and even started to leave for the clinic two hours early until I reminded him of his appointment time.

So far no nausea, but we are warned that chemo takes a few days to really hit the system. We expect that by the end of the week and through the weekend, his blood counts will drop significantly and he will be pretty wiped out. He should start to rebound early next week.

John starts his growth factor shots tomorrow; their job is to drive his stem cells out into the peripheral blood stream prior to harvest. When all the forces come together, i.e. a big rebound in his blood counts and the movement of stem cells, he will go to aphoresis and the actual stem cell collection. As always, his numbers are monitored on a daily basis to determine the optimal time for harvest. Does this sound familiar to the orchardists who are reading?

So on we go, one day at a time to use an overworked motto. Thanks again to all of you who take a moment to send a cheery note, whether online or via snail mail. Your support is very sustaining.

Happy Birthday to Ike – 26 years yesterday.

Marilyn

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