Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chemo #7, Medical School

My blood counts were good enough to get chemo today. I think my new strategy of getting the white blood cell booster shot (G-CSF) after, rather than before chemo, is working. This is the first time in weeks that I haven’t failed the blood test and had to get a shot to artificially boost my counts enough to get chemo.

Now that I’ve cut out all those side effect drugs, I’m awake and alert during chemo whereas before, I was knocked out for an hour and a half and didn’t know what was going on. Now I’m writing down how long each drip takes and can see what dosage the nurses are giving me.

One nurse saw me taking notes and asked me why I was recording everything. She asked if I planned to write a book someday. I guess she’s not used to her patients taking such an interest in their treatment. I told her I was studious during my pregnancies as well, and those were not life-and-death situations. I’m trying to keep myself alive as long as possible, so I feel I should know as much as I can about my treatment.

One of the side effect drugs I cut out was magnesium sulfate. At the hospital in Sydney, they said I didn’t need it. My doctor said it was to prevent peripheral neuropathy, a tingling sensation in the fingers and toes, which is a side effect of the chemo. I searched the Internet and found no convincing connection between neuropathy and magnesium sulfate, so I asked my nurse about it. She said a new article had come out showing that magnesium sulfate reduces the risk of neuropathy. I asked her for the article and read it. The study cited in that article is about an entirely different drug from the one I’m getting.

Is this nurse confused about the chemo drugs? Or maybe she assumes the chemo drug in the study and my chemo drug will react the same way with magnesium sulfate?

The article was in an oncology journal and full of medical terms, so I had to decipher it as best I could. This should be my new job: a cancer researcher. I should try to learn the medical terminology and the basics of the human body and how it works. So I bought a little model of the human body with the circulatory, digestive, and other systems displayed in a 3D model. I got it for me and Josie. We can put ourselves through medical school together.

It comes down to this: I now have the most important job I’ve ever had -- that of saving my own life. The doctors will do the best they can, but I won’t leave it to them. As I’ve always said, they have hundreds, thousands of patients to think about. I have only one. They might have more medical knowledge than I do, but I have something they don’t have – a personal, vested interest in making sure this patient lives as long as possible.

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