Finally, the fun begins

Pushing Idarubicin

It’s only a 20 cc injection of Idarubicin (pushed over the course of 15 minutes), but it certainly is potent stuff (note the gloves and blue apron—the nurse also had matching blue goggles, but she preferred not to have her photo taken). I will have two more of these over the next two days and then ready myself for the next round of fun. (By “fun” I mean a clearing out of my bone marrow (and other rapidly growing cells), which will require blood transfusions, becoming neutropenic, staying in the hospital (which they are hoping to keep at a minimum by starting me on antibiotics early and a white blood cell booster called Neulasta—both next week), and other inadvertent side effects—not that I can lose any more hair, but the nausea and sleepless nights I could probably do without.)

The good news in all of this is that this will be my final round of chemotherapy. As long as my bone marrow behaves and continues to not translocate chromosomes 17 and 15 in the retinoic acid receptor gene, I should be able to go about my business in a month or so. Of course, I think I will always have a little corner in my mind that will always wonder why, if my body got it wrong before, won’t it get it wrong again. I guess it’s a price we pay for being ever evolving creatures.

Chemo postponed

Blood tests revealed a drop in my white blood cell and neutrophil counts over the weekend. So, they are waiting to start the consolidation until those numbers bump back up (perhaps on Wednesday). I suppose if they continue to go down, there will be much furling of brows and scratching of chins since, in theory, I should be well on my way to increased bone marrow activity. On the other hand, apparently this is not much to be worried about, just another lesson in patience, another “bump in the road.” However, when told not to worry as many times as we have been told, it’s hard not to start wondering if they are just saying it as opposed to really meaning it. But, in the end, not worrying is the best thing to do… I mean, we all like to keep our sanity, right?

Looking at the bright side, today will sort of be a free day. No harsh drugs coursing through my body = feeling pretty good. So, on that note, I’ll leave you with another image of the lovely things around me that gently nudge me away from worry.


(Judging by all the floral pictures I’ve taken, it’s probably a good thing I’m not going through this in the dead of winter.)

On having tubes

I think I’m allowed to gripe a little (obviously, since this is my blog, I can gripe all I want, but there remains a fine balance of not turning away those who wish to follow this journey with me by griping all the time — that can get old).

There are certain things about having cancer that can really put a damper on activities that one normally enjoys (OK, that’s a bit of an understatement). Take for instance, bathing. For the past three months I have not had a complete soak in the tub. Sure, I can sit and splash and sort of soak. But, as one nurse referred to bathing with a hickman, “It’s like taking a bird bath.” To get an idea of what I’m up against every time I try to get clean, here’s a photo:

(Word of warning – it’s not a pretty picture, but nothing about having tubes sticking out of your body is pretty).

Hickman Line

There are obvious advantages to having direct access to one’s blood stream. For one, every time I have blood work drawn (two or three times a week), I don’t have to get pricked. The same goes for medications, I.V.s and blood transfusions. Pain medication is especially effective when administered this way. I found that out real fast when given Demerol and Dilaudid at different points during my hospitalizations… “Ummm, I’ll have some more of that, please.” (Just kidding). But, that’s about it.

Ah, but to be able to submerge myself to the neck and take a nice long soak… I believe that will be the first thing I’ll do when this is all over with.

Crash course in home health care

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much of a difference it makes having someone by your side to help go through all the tough stuff in life. But, I feel it bears repeating. Virginia has been a wonder and has taken on so many different roles over the past couple of months that to list them all would be a feat in and of itself. And, all of this she has accepted without complaint… including all of the stuff she has to do just to keep me maintained. She cleans and flushes my two ports every day. She’s been trained to change my dressing once a week. And, now, she’s just learned how to give me an injection (I know full well, I’d not be able to do it to myself). We hope this is just a temporary assignment, but since my white blood cell count is still sluggish in its increase, my oncologist ordered some injections of G-CSF to help stimulate the bone marrow into producing more white blood cells. So, lucky Virginia gets to add another skill to her repertoire.

I tell myself that if push came to shove I could probably do these things if I had to, but upon further reflection, I really doubt it. So thank you, my dear, for everything—for making this crazy time in our lives that much easier to go through. Like our friend Tim said, “you should get combat pay for this one.”

On a different note…

I received a couple of Bio-Domes from a colleague whose son (I think) designs and sells them. They are the perfect chemo cap for the summer (or spring and fall, too). Thank you!

Bio-Dome (aka Chemo Cap)