Well we are settled back in at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. I have lots to share, so I will try to break it down into two emails toady... this one has all the technical medical stuff, and the other one will have more the personal stuff.
We have had a lot of information to soak up in the last two days, all sorts of things we have never thought about... or ever wanted to think about. We have an entire binder with new information to carry around to help us remember: types of drugs, side effects to expect, tips on dealing with the side effects, support groups to contact, tests to expect, doctors and nurses to call, names to remember, the list goes on.
We arrived back here Tuesday April 27th for a meeting with our oncologist to hear about what “our” plan is. We were told that Charlotte will have “conventional chemotherapy followed by dose intensified chemotherapy with stem cell support.” So what does that mean exactly?
First we will go through some tests, checking her kidneys and hearing, taking numerous blood tests, a lumbar puncture to make sure there are no other cancer cells (in her spine) that they did not see. A permanent (Hickman) line will be put into her chest so that chemo drugs can be administered and blood be drawn without having to poke her each time. Charlotte’s treatments will go in 2 phases, Induction and Consolidation. During the Induction phase she will receive three cycles of chemo. Each cycle consists of four standard chemotherapy drugs, which will be administered to her over a period of three days with one of them being administered twice more during the cycle. Each cycle will be 21 days total if all goes well. During this time she will also have her stem cells harvested by a process called apheresis. Let me quote what the doctor’s hand out says about this.
“The apheresis procedure is similar to donating blood, except when the blood is slowly removed from the body, it is routed through a machine that is able to remove some of the new healthy cells (the peripheral blood stem cells) and return the remainder of blood into back in to the body. The process is not painful, but will require 4-6 hours to complete the procedure each time it is done. The cells collected will be stored and reinfused later during treatment. This harvest will be repeated again after the second and third cycles of chemotherapy.”
The Consolidation phase will also have three cycles and consist of two intense chemo drugs. These drugs will hit her a lot harder so they plan for the cycles to be around 28 days (or more) to allow her blood counts more time to recover. During this phase they will reinfuse her stem cells to help speed the recovery of her blood counts.
We were given pages of information to read and sign with our consent to start this treatment. That was tough, especially on Rob, how could we read all the horrible side effects that go with each one of these drugs and then sign up for them all at once? But I guess this is the very best that we can to at this point in time, we pray that the future will hold better methods.