Thursday, June 26, 2008

Starting chemotherapy

After my blood work this morning, my doctor moved things forward with treatment since the counts have not improved, and in fact now my white blood cells are in very dangerous territory. We expected to start treatment today anyway so it wasn’t much of a surprise.

So today I started on the chemotherapy drug Azacytidine (goes under the brand name Vidaza). It’s administered subcutaneously into fatty parts of your body. For me they picked my belly fat, since it's the fattest part on me haha :) The treatment consists of 7 continuous days of injections (2 injections per day), and each 7-day treatment is called a cycle. After the first cycle the plan is to wait a few weeks, then start another cycle. They’re planning at least 3 cycles for now. It’s administered at the Swedish Cancer Care center, and if you haven’t been, it’s a pretty nice place all things considered. My nurse's name is Kevin, and he's super friendly. The private waiting room (where we spent about 3 hours today, ugh) had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown and their nice bamboo garden terrace. There is also a kitchenette nearby with free sandwiches and drinks. Since some chemo treatments are administered via IV drip and can take several hours to complete, they’ve fully decked the place out with DVD players, nice chairs and lots of stuff to do. It was pretty nice.

Anyway, in addition to the Azacytidine chemo drug, I’m also taking a small cocktail of other drugs to help combat the side-effects of the chemo, including anti-nausea drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, and steroids. (Also I’m not taking the AMG531 treatment like we had planned, for those keeping track, as it turns out the SCCA for some reason doesn’t have the right kind of authorization needed to administer it since it’s still in clinical trial.) According to the doctors none of the drugs, including the Azacytidine, should have any negative impact on the success rate of the upcoming transplant, so that’s good. The doctor also mentioned that the steroids might actually help increase my blood counts as well as the chemo. Typical of my software programming nature, I asked how we’d know which drug was responsible for increasing blood counts if we were doing more than one at a time and he super-quickly responded “it doesn’t matter. I don’t care which one works, we need your blood counts up now. It doesn’t matter.”

The good news is that it feels like a small relief to finally get started on some kind of treatment, even though the treatment is somewhat toxic, just to see if it helps pull me out of this funk. Also good news is that after all the drugs and chemo treatment I had today, I feel great, and am not feeling any side effects so far.

Finally, all the doctors are now more serious in repeatedly warning me against going out into crowds due to the risk of infection. One doctor even recommended against going out to all restaurants and grocery stores! While I’m definitely going to be cautious, I’m not sure it’s best for my mental well-being to avoid all kinds of activity around people. I will probably work from home for a bit, at least for tomorrow and the next week, until we finish the first treatment cycle. I’m kinda bummed about that and may come in for a few hours anyway (as long as Nat keeps all the crumbs off my desk haha), but the doctors I've talked to have said please work from home if you can.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening! Oh, and attached are some pictures from the Swedish Cancer Care center where I’ll be going every day for the chemo treatment (you can see Johanna munching away on a free sandwich!)


1 comment:

'cine said...

Hi Steve, I have randomly come across your blog and although a total stranger, I couldn't pass it without wishing you well! (I hope you don't mind.) Take care of yourself and smiles to your family. Francine :)