Monday, February 4, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 2

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. 

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"Man performs and engenders so much more than he can
or should have to bear.  
That's how he finds that he can bear anything. " 
—William Faulkner

On Tuesday January 29th I had blood tests done; in addition, a nurse gave me a brief lecture on a procedure called an access port (sometimes called "Port-a Cath), which is the gateway for the chemotherapy treatments. I will have outpatient surgery next week to insert the access port; and the day after my chemo treatments begin, on February 12th.

The chemo drugs are oxaliplatin and fluorouracil, each which come with a long list of possible side effects—some of them serious and requiring a trip to the emergency ward. The side effects are chiefly a result of the way such drugs work; although the drugs today are better than in the past in targeting cancerous cells—essentially disrupting the replicating process—the drugs can't really distinguish between cancerous cells (abnormal) and healthy cells. A cell is a cell, each with DNA and RNA genetic codes. Both healthy and abnormal cells are killed with the expectation that newer healthy cells will eventually grow.

Such explains why common side effects include mouth sores, hair loss and sensitivity to cold and sunlight. I will have to be vigilant against extreme temperatures, avoiding both direct sunlight and cold, wearing sunblock to avoid sun exposure to my hands, face, neck and keep my mouth covered in winter against cold air. I will also have to avoid drinking cold drinks. Such is the price to pay, so to speak, in my battle against cancer. It's a personal war, and in many ways I am alone.

Perhaps in the future, researchers will find a way to target only cancerous cells and not touch normal healthy cells—and thus reducing the more serious side effects. So, for now I am accepting that such is the way chemo now works, imperfect but better than the alternative of doing nothing.

The first session will take longer, approximately five hours; subsequent sessions will be shorter. There is a complete protocol involved with cancer treatment; and I am very impressed with the high degree of professionalism of the medical team at the hospital. They are doing the best they can in making individuals feel comfortable in treating a disease that has the potential to debilitate and kill. Cancer is no respecter of persons; it is the true Egalitarian, a democrat dressed in black. A unwelcome guest.