Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chemo Cycle 5

I began my new chemo regimen yesterday. I had blood drawn, a clinic visit with my doctor, and then waited a few hours until the orders and drugs were available to me in the chemo center. They used to be able to hit my vein on the first try every time, but after 2 years of treatment, my veins aren't what they used to be. It took three tries to get a good IV going. I think this is a common problem, the longer you're treated, the harder it gets to treat. The IV elapse time was the shortest of any past treatments, about two hours. I will have another treatment this coming Wednesday. Yesterday's treatment and the one this coming Wednesday are considered a cycle for this drug, Gemcitabine (aka Gemzar). Since this an adjunctive treatment, my doctor wants me to have 4 cycles. There will be a one week break between each of the four cycles. Also, my white blood cell counts are low, so I began Neupogen shots again today. I'll have another one tomorrow. Future shots will be based on future blood cell counts which are taken prior to each chemo cycle. I was a bit tired today, but was not running any fever. I'm really hoping this chemo is tolerable. My next scans will be in mid September. So, I have two months of waiting to see if things are looking up or not.

Ruth left a comment for me yesterday on this blog. I don't know how to contact you, but please feel free to e-mail me with your e-mail address if you feel like corresponding. It sounds like we're in a very similar boat. For me, the ability to eat anywhere close to normal is the hardest part. On top of no appetite and jaw pain when chewing, it takes about an hour to consume a simple meal of soft foods. Plus, I have to concentrate on the eating so that I don't choke. That means no talking while eating and eating alone in a reclining position most of the time. I'm considering the value of a feeding tube, but I hate the thought of something unnatural like that in my body. I also feel like it would be a sign that the cancer is winning. My speaking is compromised, but not terrible at this point. People can understand me, but to me, it just doesn't sound like me. This may sound completely corny, but as President Bill Clinton once said, "I feel your pain." And, I mean it.

Head and Neck (H&N) cancer represents 3% of all cancers. As such, it doesn't get much attention or funding. The war on terrorism and cutbacks by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have left funding for H&N cancer flat at best over the past few years. I've decided recently to make a donation to fund H&N research at my cancer center. It will not be a large donation, I don’t have that type of wealth, but I hope it will be meaningful and send the message of thanks to the hard work and dedication of a talented group of people attaching a debilitating disease. The amount is something that I'm comfortable with given the unknowns in my future and that of my family.

Take care everyone and once again thanks for sticking through this with me.

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