Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Kirk's first day of chemo began on a Saturday morning, and it surprised me to learn that chemotherapy actually occurs on the weekend as well. I later learned that chemotherapy takes place no matter what . . holidays, weekends, a global disaster. Chemo goes on.
Kirk slept through that first day while the nurse gave me a book of what to expect when you are expecting your whole life to crumble because your husband is receiving chemo for a cancer you have yet learned how to pronounce properly. It was huge and overwhelming. I cried, she patted my knee, and the entire process took about two hours. Kirk does not remember anything about that appointment to this day.
Kirk began with only Velcade/Dex. This is a very important detail for anyone with the t 4;14 because new studies are showing that Velcade can overcome the high risk status of t 4;14. A round of chemo is two weeks on and ten days off. Kirk underwent a total of five rounds of chemo prior to stem cell transplant.
Beginning values 4120 M protein 4330.0 IGA
December 22 3915.0 M protein 3670.0 IGA
January 4 4080.0 M protein 4084.0 IGA
I find it necessary to stop here for a moment and reflect on the scare these values gave Kirk and I initially. It appeared to us that the cancer was not reacting to the chemotherapy. In actuality, we learned that MM can build a resistance to treatment and this was happening in Kirk's body quite rapidly. So the big gun of chemo for MM was not working for my husband, but that is when our doctor added Revlimid to the mix and Kirk's numbers dropped almost by half in February.
I would like to add one more note in this pause from numbers for all the caregivers to a MM patient. Always insist that the nurse give your loved one the Dex (steroid) SLOWLY into their IV because if it is given too quickly it can cause a pain to shoot up from the backside. It was described to us like fire ants in the pants, and Kirk told me that this is an accurate description. So, always ask the nurse for a nice and slow injection.
January 22 2270.0 M protein 2270.0 IGA
February 12 1185.0 M protein 1860.0 IGA
March 8 1125.0 M protein 1650.0 IGA
March 23 .937 M protein 1310.0 IGA
If there is one thing I have learned this past year about MM, it is that things can look bleak one minute, but right themselves out the next. Keep your hope alive no matter what the circumstances. We felt such despair when Kirk was not responding to treatment, and then such relief when the Revlimid began working its magic. It was the good news we desperately needed to continue to move along in high spirits.
And move along we did throughout that winter of treatment, fatigue, minor paralysis in Kirk's hands and feet from the Velcade, and sleepless nights caused by the surge of energy only Dex can bring on in the body. Kirk was blessed with only these minor side affects from the chemo, and we were surprised at how much we were able to do and enjoy in the midst of treatment. It was a part of our life, not the entirety of our life at that time.
We continued to move forward by traveling to some of our favorite winter destinations and enjoying the energy and happiness our son brought to our daily existence. And as good fortune had it, the easy routine of the chemotherapy sessions did make us feel stronger and more in charge of things we did not have any control over in our lives. We would arrive at the hospital fifteen minutes early and pick up a cup of gourmet coffee and the most delicious cupcakes from Cheryl's Cookies, and we would enjoy the precious time away from our son and the restaurant just talking with each other about anything not related to cancer. We did a lot of talking that winter, and a lot of hugging, and a lot of crying, and a lot of laughing. But mostly, it was the winter we did a lot of loving. And that in itself was a blessing.