Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marginalia From a Spiral Bound Notebook, Found in a Park in the City of Bellona

Mr Stevie's treatments have come close to putting her in hospital.

Two weeks ago she got her first dose of chemotherapy drugs. That day, Tuesday, she was upbeat. Wednesday she began vomiting, and didn't stop until Saturday morning. Nothing she drank would stay down. Eating was right out. Each day she went for radiation therapy. By Friday I almost had to carry her from the car to the facility doors.

The original idea had been for two doses of chemotherapy over the course of the six week regimen, with weekly intravenous hydration in between. By Saturday morning she had undergone four hydration treatments just to keep her out of the emergency room. The chemotherapist was astounded that the reaction - which she had expected to be strong in a not-good way - was so strong so early in the treatment. On the Friday, once she was hydrated, they gave her an intravenous anti-nausea drug. Ten minutes after getting it she was violently ill. She stabilized over the weekend (when she got no treatments) but was back to throwing up on Monday.

Last week the radiological oncologist came to the conclusion that she was having a bad reaction to the drugs they give her to protect her salivary glands during the radiation treatments. Without it she may loose her salivary glands to the curative regimen1 but she may not survive the course of treatment if they continue giving it to her.

This week began with her having a small rash over her chemotherapy port. This is the device they embeded in her chest, in front of her shoulder, so she could get needle-stuck for a month and a half without her veins collapsing. By Wednesday the doctors had her on a course of anti-biotics and anti-fungals2 and the rash was three times larger. By Thursday the radological oncologist was warning that the chemotherapist wouldn't use the port unless the rash cleared up, and on Friday the vascular surgeon who put the damned thing in decided to take it out and put one in on the other side. They will put this off until the last minute to avoid a second infection taking hold on the site of the new port before she gets her second round of chemotherapy on the 29th of December, so Mrs Stevie has another operation to look forward to on Boxing Day.

Yesterday she remarked that her throat is closing up. This was expected, and signals the onset of a time in which she will have to take all her nourishment through a tube directly into her stomach. To say that she isn't looking forward to that time would be a collossal understatement, and I am left wondering how she is supposed to take the painkillers she has been prescribed if she cannot swallow the capsules. I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to grind them up a-la Doctor House.

The next time you say to yourself "I just can't catch a break here", think of Mrs Stevie, who is working on arriving at a scientifically rigid definition of the term by experiement.

  1. Yes, I know oncologists don't talk about "cures", only percentages of populations free of cancer after 5 years, but you know what I mean
  2. Fungal infections are quite common during chemotherapy I'm now told


Anonymous said...

Here is the hope that this is worst it will get, and that the treatments will be sucessful.

You and the Mrs are in my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

What Jrs said. Hang in there. I sincerely hope next year is better than this one ended.

My brother-in-law is undergoing much the same treatment at the moment. He lost half his teeth though (had to get them pulled), and is currently in hospital due to various reactions and complications. At least the health system is slightly less insane than yours seems to be.

All the best to you both.