Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dancing with the "Red Devil"

The list of chemicals being introduced into my body is long and mostly unpronounceable. Perhaps that’s why they just say, “chemo.” The idea behind this attempt to turn my body into a toxic wasteland is to reduce the leukemia cells (which would otherwise turn my body to a corpse) into own wasteland and eliminate it out through the urine.  I’m sure you could come up with a great tag line with that image. I prefer something elegantly simple, like, “Piss off, leukemia.” Pardon the coarse language, but this is war – war for my own life, quite literally.

Chemotherapy is a complicated balancing act of putting no-kidding toxic chemicals designed to destroy specific kinds of cells into your body without killing too many of the good cells.  The side effects are many and if you’ve watched any movie dealing with the ravages of cancer of any kind, you’ve seen the side effects – nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, etc. So, there are other drugs introduced to counter the side-effects and still more drugs to counter effects of the cancer itself, so there’s a lot of stuff going on inside this finely-tuned machine we walk around in every day and otherwise take for granted. 

Better life through chemistry! And to think, up to this point in my life, I was happy with caffeine and the occasional aspirin.

Cancer – and leukemia is simply a cancer of the blood – is a failure of said body’s finely-tuned immune system.  It’s likely that we all walk around with some degree of mutated cells that if left unchecked or uncontrolled by our immune system, grows uncontrolled.  That’s what happened to me. I don’t smoke, I have a glass of wine or cocktail once every blue moon or so, I eat well and I exercise several times a week. I’ll never be a Calvin Klein underwear model, nor am I the model for the food pyramid and anyone who knows me knows I have a thing for dark chocolate – especially when there’s a Godiva key lime truffle involved – but seriously, I’m pretty healthy all round. This was a result of something totally unforeseen. Up to this point in my life, I was the visitor, not the visited. These things typically happened to someone else, not me. Well, it happened to me and while I’m not reveling in the sudden change of events, neither am I throwing a pity party.

I am going to dance with the Red Devil.

The “Red Devil” is also known as Idarubicin.  It’s one of the two major chemicals being injected into a catheter running into a vein just below my left bicep running up over my heart called a “PICC” line. I wrote about it yesterday if you want to go back to it.  Today, the second of three doses of 24 ml of the red fluid was slowly injected into that port.  It’s a surreal thing as the nurse is dressed in a hazardous material gown and times the push.  As the clear line turns the reddish-orange color with the approaching poison, I know that it’s going to attack the rogue cells in the marrow of my bones that will otherwise take me out like yesterday’s garbage.  I also know that I stand a chance of feeling very ill because of the battle going on inside of me. I challenged the doctor about this when he told me I needed to be admitted right away because nearly half of my marrow was filled with cancerous cells.  It didn’t matter that I felt perfectly fine. In less than a month, I would feel deathly ill, and in another two, I could be dead. Swallow that pill! But starting the battle with the rogue cells with the chemical weapons of mass chemical destruction was the dance I must enter into in order to survive.

So, although if you saw me on the dance floor, you’d know I would never be chosen for “Dancing with the Stars.” No, you’d likely think I was a candidate for epilepsy rather than cancer, but I’m dancing with the Red Devil like my life depends on it…because it really does. And thankfully, I have none of the side effects so far that were presented to me. I continue to be optimistic and upbeat thanks to the many well wishes and kind words from all over the world (literally).

The Red Devil has one more number on my dance card tomorrow at 2:00 pm along with another slow dance with a drug called Cetarabine. We’re getting to know each other over a seven-day period. It’s my leash of sorts and it comes with me on an IV pole everywhere like a little lost dog.  I’ve been taking him on walks up and down the hallways to find that elusive fire hydrant so he can do his business, but I’m the only one who gets it!

Thanks to everyone for all the support, kind words, and encouragement! Keep the positive coming.