Monday, March 3, 2008

If It's Not One Thing . . .

It's ten others.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration.

But you know, you'd think having cancer would be enough to be getting on with. Chemo, radiation, that's what you need to kill it, right? That makes (math is not my strong suit) exactly two things to think about. Or four, if you want to count each chemo drug of our protocol separately. And all that stuff is done in hospitals, under medical supervision, so I shouldn't have to worry about anything but driving Jake to his appointments.

Yeah, right.

Let's count the things done at home this week.

1. Septra: taken twice a day on Mondays and Tuesdays. It's an antibiotic to prevent pneumocystis, a tricky infection that preys on the immune compromised. It's so hard to treat that they want to make sure he doesn't get it in the first place.

2. Diflucan: another antibiotic, prescribed by Dr. Million on Tuesday to treat thrush, a yeast infection in his mouth. It's a side effect of the radiation. Antibiotics for 10 days should help.

3. Miralax: a laxative. Vincristine is hard on lots of body parts.

4. IV fluids: once a day, Thursday through Sunday. To keep him hydrated while his body is weakening from the cumulative effects of more than a month of radiation.

5. Neupogen: to help his white blood cells rebound quicker after inpatient chemo. An injection in the arm (given by me) once a day until his counts have come up.

6. Food, food, and more food. Whatever Jacob wants, whenever he wants it. Anything that might tempt him to eat in spite of the fact that he can't taste much--anything to keep his weight from falling further.

So that's only six. Not bad, considering what he could be taking (pain meds, for one thing). But today we added one more thing to worry about:

7. Neuropathy: weakening of the muscles in the hands and feet due to the Vincristine that he gets weekly. It's one of the most serious side effects of the Vincristine and one we were hoping to avoid. But no--here we are only 8 weeks into our 42 weeks and the doctor was concerned enough today to skip our weekly dose. Jake was glad not to get chemo today, but instead he met with a physical therapist and came home with a bunch of exercises to strengthen his hands and feet.

It's not a huge deal, except that it feels like it. Part of me worries that skipping the Vincristine this early will give the tumor a chance to come charging back. Part of me thinks it's just not fair to have to worry about one more thing at this point.

But worries come with the territory and I've never been under the illusion that life is fair. Life just is, and this is ours right now.

It reminded me of something an oncologist told Jake in the second week of his treatment: "If it were just about killing cancer, we could do that in a heartbeat--just give you a large dose of arsenic. But as that would kill the rest of you . . . well, we just have to find the balance between killing the cancer and keeping the rest of you alive."

Now we're starting to feel the difficulties of that balance. I'm just grateful every day that our difficulties are so minor. And that Jake takes everything so well.

I wonder where he learned that?

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