chemo update

The first chemo treatment was today and we drove over to join in the festivities. We had planned to get there about 10:30 but on the way over Mark called and said they had just started and the place was jammed full so it would be better if we got there a bit later. As luck would have it Nancy knew of a Quilt shop a few miles away from the hospital so………… We got there about 15 minutes before the treatment ended and found him sitting comfortably in a lounge chair but wrapped in blankets. The office was kind of cool but they had told him the treatment made some people feel cold. Nancy had heard that before and immediately started making a special chemo treatment quilt to be ready for the first treatment. So he quickly exchanged the office blankets for the custom made. How perfect was that!

The doctor’s staged Joey’s Hodgekin’s as stage 3 B. The B means symptomatic. His own Oncologist said he would have staged it at 2 but it’s right on the border between 2 and 3. I don’t know if staging is based on cell count or location but it sounds a bit subjective. The doctor estimated that the cancer first appeared about 6 months ago. He has a mass in the chest area about the size of a lemon which sounds bad but is small enough that no radiation will be required. I talked to my neighbor who had both chemo and radiation 40 years ago and his mass was the size of a grapefruit. I don’t know if the citrus scale is a Florida thing or what. The really good news was that the bone marrow test result came back and was totally clean. No doubt inclusion in the bone marrow would have been an additional complexity. They must have also test his genetic material and pronounced his genes ok. Hell, I could have told him that.

It turns out that we had some bad info regarding the chemical sequencing. All four chemicals are administered at each visit, not 2/2 as we thought. On this first visit they did a test to see how he would react to one of the chemicals – the “B” in ABVD. Apparently some people have a bad reaction to it so they need to deal with that potential complication in advance and adjust accordingly. He had no adverse reaction which makes life easier. As to the process itself,they connect a bag of fluid to the chest port and to that, inject the 4 chemicals in a timed sequence along with 2 injections of an anti-nausea medicine. They started the treatment at 10:30 and it was completed by 1 PM. Basically you just sit there in a nice lounge chair and kill the time watching TV, reading or doing whatever it is you do to kill time.

We left the treatment center and headed for a local restaurant for lunch. Joey order the biggest cheeseburger I’ve seen in quite some time. This beauty was a least 6” thick – a real double hander – and loaded with cheese and grilled onions. If he has a bad case of heart burn later today, I’m not sure it will be as a result of the chemo.

We did learn an interesting set of facts regarding chemo. The well known, notorious side affects are the loss of hair (head only), sores in the mouth, and nausea. It turns out that your body generates new, fast growing cells at the hair follicles, inside your mouth, and in the lining of the stomach. Since the chemo is designed to attack the fastest growing cells, it gets both the cancer and these other fast growing cells. Also, because of the loss of blood cells, both red and white, he has to be very careful to avoid things that would open cuts and invite infection. For example, no shaving with a razor; no flossing; good shoes, not flip flops.

So now we just keep our fingers crossed and hope the side affects are minimal. I think with the special food Nancy is loading him up with and the quilt…………………

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