Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chemo Ahead

The other day, I noticed a man wearing a fundraiser T-shirt with an imprint of a traffic warning sign that read "Cure Ahead" instead of "Curve Ahead." Very clever. As I'm finishing my tenth and final week of Arsenic Trioxide, I've been thinking about what lies ahead on my path to complete remission. My curve this fall is the chemo that will lead me to being cured.

My schedule:
  • 8/25: complete the ten week Arsenic Trioxide portion of my consolidation treatment
  • Two weeks recovery
  • 9/12: Begin the chemotherapy portion of my consolidation treatment. The objective is to kill any lingering bone marrow cells that have the chromosome abnormality that causes the production of tumorous white blood cells
  • 9/12, 9/13, 9/14: Receive a daily injection of Daunarubicin, an anthracycline chemotherapy similar to the Idarubicin I received in the hospital during the induction phase of my treatment
  • 9/12 - 9/19: Daily oral doses of ATRA, which causes migraines until my body acclimates to it
  • 9/15: Receive an injection of Neulastin. This drug will spur my bone marrow to produce blood cells sooner, so that my immune system and energy level will be compromised for a shorter time period. It is like the Neuopogen I received in the hospital that caused SEVERE leg pain
  • 9/22: Nadir (lowest energy level/blood counts)
  • 9/30: My energy level and immune system should be back by this date
  • 10/10 - 10/31: Repeat the above cycle
  • 10/14: My close friend, Kelly, arrives to help us out for a few days
  • 11/1: Celebrate another milestone in my treatment, and admire the view from the far side of the curve
  • Post 11/1: The final phase, maintenance, begins. this consists of 15 days of ATRA every three months for 2 years. I'll deal with those headaches (literally, not figuratively) once I'm through with these two rounds of Daunarubicin 

We met with Dr. Goldberg yesterday to discuss the details of my treatment this fall. He assured us the Daunarubicin will be much easier on my body than the Idarubicin was on my body during the induction phase in April and May. That is fantastic. The hospital was not fun.

It's hard for me to look back at the Idarubicin and not view chemotherapy in general as a horrendous experience. During that month, I had: rib pain; massive headaches from the ATRA; my face so swollen I could barely see; blood in my right eye that colored my eye red and my vision red; hives all over my legs and arms; fevers of up to 103.7; blood pressure as high as 189/147; low blood oxygen level which necessitated a breathing tube over my nose; thrombosis (clotting) in my liver; blood in my lungs which might have been pneumonia; stomach pains, acid reflux, and lesions in my mouth from the Idarubicin; insomnia; lethargy; and panic attacks (seriously, how could I not be having panic attacks?). And then the leg pain from the Neupogen as a kick in the rear once I had made it through the hospital's exit door.

I have to keep reminding myself these chemo rounds should be easy compared to that. A survivor friend told me they are a cake walk versus the initial round. As I may have mentioned before, I love cake, chocolate cake.

Speaking of cake, the lab drew my blood for another PCR test to see if I'm still in remission. We should get the results by Friday. Hopefully we will be eating celebration chocolate cake this weekend.