Chemical Cocktails Revisited

The grayness has set in and the raindrops are falling.  I knew the glorious weather of last week wouldn’t hold, but at least a few of the hummingbirds are still coming by. They do seem to come more on gray days.

I switched to the new drug routine yesterday and am waiting for the new adventures to begin. Nothing like the whiff of an illness or a change in drug routines to make you monitor every body process you’ve got going on.

The Popsicle Report:  Unfortunately, a Popsicle is no longer part of the routine.

The new drug, Taxol, isn’t as likely to induce mouth sores, so no need for the sweet treat to cool the mouth during infusion. I suppose I could put on a pathetic face and ask for one anyway (surely the nurses wouldn’t deny me?).  Or I could just live vicariously through my children.  My daughter got a Popsicle last week after her flu shot (orange).  I could probably drag my son in for a shot and a Popsicle, but he’s less willing to cooperate when it comes to needles, at least needles that are poked into him. When my husband jokingly offered him the chance to give me the Neupogen shot last week, his eyes got really big with interest.  “Can I give you the shot, Mom?”

No. No. And no.

Instead of the Popsicle, I get to plunge my hands in a bucket of ice during the infusion.  The main side effects of Taxol are neuropathy (burning, tingling, etc.) in the fingers and toes, and possibly bone/joint/muscle pain.  The principle behind the bucket of ice is the same as with the Popsicle — cool the area likely to be affected and you might diminish the side effects.

Isn’t science amazing.

The infusion procedure is similar to the Adriamycin — check in, check the blood count, and proceed as long as the numbers look OK.  My white and red cells are holding steady, though a little below normal.  The Taxol isn’t supposed to be as hard on the bone marrow as the other drugs, so I may be able to stop the injections of Neupogen, and the nurses say we don’t worry about the red cells unless I get to a point that walking across a room leaves me winded.

Next comes the happy drug, the dexamethasone, and then my chemical cocktail — a mixture of 25 ml of Benadryl and 50 ml of Zantac.  These are designed to forestall any allergic reaction to the Taxol.  Even though the Zantac is primarily used for stomach problems, it also acts as an antihistamine.  And Benadryl just knocks you out. (Stories abound of parents using the stuff to manage their children on long car trips.)  Then the nurse sat with me for 10-15 minutes to see if there would be a reaction. Since it didn’t happen on the first round, it’s not likely to happen in later rounds.

I can attest to the soporific effects of Benadryl. I dozed during most of the infusion (about an hour, longer than the previous ones), and needed a nap when I got home. The energy of the happy drug isn’t enough to counteract the sleepiness, but the dexamethasone does last longer.  It makes for a bit of a roller coaster though:  Up, crash, up.

I visited again with the naturopath last week.  He’s the one who suggested the bucket of ice, and he’s added a few things to compensate for the Taxol.  He’s put me on a Vitamin D supplement (5,000 IU daily) since I’m low.  Given the climate here, that’s not surprising and there’s ongoing research looking into the connections between Vit. D levels and breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, both of which occur at higher rates in the Pacific NW.

He’s recommended substituting melatonin for the Ativan I’ve been taking at night, but I’ll have to taper the Ativan, not just go cold turkey.  I continue with the fish oil, CoQ10, and probiotic supplement. He also added L-glutamine, a gritty sort of powder to be taken twice a day, mixed in something palatable.  Glutamine supports the immune system, can help prevent neuropathy, and supposedly helps build muscle strength.  Some body builders incorporate it into their routine.  Next time you see me, I might just look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, before he became plastic.

And then there’s a jar of something called Amla Plex, an Ayurvedic concoction of Indian gooseberry and a variety of herbs that support the immune system.  Vile-looking stuff it is.  Mushy. Black.  To be spread on toast or (gulp!) eaten by the spoonful.  It doesn’t smell too bad, though, so maybe its appearance is deceiving.  I haven’t tried it yet.

And he also recommended beets.  My liver enzymes were a bit whacked out a few weeks ago.  He tells me beets are great for cleansing the liver.  Got a dirty liver?  Eat beets.

We also had an interesting discussion about that list of carcinogens I found last week.  I asked him why some elements showed up on the list but don’t appear as risk factors for a disease.  He speculated that there are powerful business/financial forces that interfere (gee, no surprise there), and used BPA as an example.  That’s the plastic softener that’s currently under fire in the U.S. and has been recently banned in Canada.  It’s used in everything from baby bottles to, as he described it, the linings of the bags that my chemotherapy drugs come in.  So I may actually be getting a (bonus?!) cancer-causing agent with my infusions.

Yep, isn’t science amazing.

Here’s hoping the cancer-inducing agents will cancel each other out…

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