Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pills, Pokes, and Side Effects

On Sunday, two days after Chemo, Steve found out that he had to take a shot called Leukine several times a week to help create new bone marrow and new white blood cells.  We didn't realize the side effects from taking the Leukine would be worse than the side effects from the Chemo alone.  It only took 35 minutes after the first Leukine injection before Steve was hunched over in a fetal position on the ground, writhing in pain from a tight chest, pounding heart, throbbing head and intense flu-like symptoms.  This medication, meant to help him, was reducing him to a feeble, weakened man, crying out for relief for over two hours straight. Seeing my husband like this is almost unbearable.  I was helpless to help him.  Nothing I could do would alleviate his pain or discomfort.  Dr. Liao told me that the side effects should get better with each injection, but when he got his second dose on Tuesday Steve experienced the same side effects again, struggling hard to weather the two hour storm until the symptoms subsided and he could get his bearings again.  He was fearful of more injections, not knowing how long he could endure this torture.

Steve has been unable to get a good night's sleep for the past three days.  It is hard to know whether the symptoms he is experiencing are a result of the Chemo, the injections, or a side effect of a medication he is taking to help ease the Chemo side effects.  Presently he is taking 4 different oral medications on a regular basis:  two medications for nausea (Ondansetron/Zopran and Prochlorperazine/Compazine), one medication for anxiety (Lorazepam/Adavan), and a newly prescribed sleep medication (Ambien). 

We saw Dr. Liao this afternoon to get his third injection of Leukine but were relieved to find out the Dr. Liao wanted to switch Steve to a different medication to build up his white blood cell count.  Steve was given a new drug today called Neupogen.  We waited in Dr. Liao's office to see if the side effects would be as troublesome as the Leukine and were grateful to find that the new drug was much more tolerable.  When I asked Steve to rate the discomfort on a scale of 1-10, he said that the Neupogen was a 3 whereas the Leukine was an 8.  He still experiences an increased heart rate, flu like symptoms and his head still pounds, but at least it is bearable.

Dr. Liao got the results of Steve's white blood cell count back and was very concerned.  He told us a normal count would be between 4-10, well today Steve was a 1.2.  Dr. Liao said this was dangerously low.  He said Steve would have to go back on antibiotics (Cephalexin) because Steve is obviously fighting something, it just might be beneath the surface and we cannot see it fully yet.  Steve was not happy to hear he would have to add 4 more pills to his daily regime, but at this point, he has no choice.  If this is an infection he is fighting and if the infection starts to grow, he would not have enough white blood cells to fight it and it would be "very bad."  Dr. Liao told us in a very somber voice, "This is serious." 

In addition to that, two days ago we noticed that Steve's leg was becoming red again in the skin around the incision and drain.  After receiving the bag of I.V. fluids on Sunday, Steve's leg began to swell again, measuring a full 3 centimeters bigger above his knee in his right leg than his left.  It appeared we had gone backwards again in the healing process.  Did the Chemotherapy compromise his healing?  Did the I.V. fluids flood his leg with more than the drain could hold?  Steve's surgeon, Dr. Kim, saw Steve yesterday and discovered that the JP drain tubing was plugged and he helped to clear out the jam.  This could have led to more swelling and have contributed to the increase in lymph fluid.  Presently Steve is up to about 40-50 milliliters/day of fluid compared to under 10 milliliters before the Chemo.  We have another appointment with Dr. Kim on Friday, but Dr. Liao does not want him to remove the drain just yet.  Doing that may mean that Steve's leg would continue to swell and we would be right back square one again.  Infection would delay chemotherapy again and that would not be good.  Steve's treatment is dependent on him being healthy and free from infection.

We already feel emotionally weakened and exhausted from our month long ordeal.  We have many more months ahead.  Please pray for Steve's white cell count to come back up, for any infection that might be present in his body to be gone, pray that Steve is protected from any illness or disease, and that he is able to get some sleep so he is strong. 

Outside my window it is dark and I can hear the rain pound against the glass window panes -- a good metaphor for our present situation.  I am reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23:  "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  God has been with us each step of the way.  He never fails us and he holds us tight, reminding us of his unending love and promises.  One day, the rain will stop and the dark clouds will pass. Until then, we trust in our Creator and Savior for strength, health, and life. He is our Source and we trust in him alone.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Michelle,

    Thank you for keeping us updated. I'm believing with you for a full recovery. I am praying for Steve and know that somehow, some way God will show His glory through this difficult situation.