FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2008 10:30 AM, CST
Good morning, everyone!
I hope y'all had a great Christmas and your stomachs are recuperating as much as mine seems to be. I think I ate myself stupid yesterday, and then topped it all off with haystack, peanut butter balls, and beer. Tums, anyone??
I'm starting to get very nervous about my upcoming chemo. I know what to expect, but the side effects will depend on how my body reacts to the drugs they will give me. This blog will be the first in my 'series' of descriptions about the drugs that they will use. I am going to use my own knowledge from my education, as well as answers from my doctors, to explain things as best I can. I will try to keep it short and simple as possible--as I know not everyone has medical knowledge, I will try to explain things as I go and give you some of what I think is important information.
Here is the very quick and dirty on the thing we know as cancer:
Cancer is what happens when normal cells in your body begin to grow uncontrolled. Your body has a few ways to make sure that this doesn't happen. Normally, cells in your body are 'pre-programmed' to stop growing when they reach a certain size, local number, or density. When this is bypassed, your immune system recognizes this and goes into attack mode, causing the rebel cells to self-destruct. Only when your immune system is unable to recognize these cells as abnormal does the growth get out of hand, and you then have yourself some good old cancerous cells. Cancer cells have ways of 'hiding' themselves from your immune system.
The first drug in the ABVD series is called Adriamycin--its actual drug name is doxorubicin (dox-oh-REW-beh-sin). It is what is called a cytotoxic anthracycline--'cytotoxic' means that it kills cells, and 'anthracycline' means that it is basically an organic molecule, and that it's main molecular parts are arranged in a circular-type structure.
What this drug specifially does is it damages DNA. DNA is really only important to cells that have to multiply--otherwise is is basically dormant as the cell goes on about it's life being a cell. Several types of cells are classified as 'rapidly multiplying:' cells of the intestines that renew themselves about every three days, taste buds that may stick around for a few weeks, hair cells that make you have to get a haircut every month, and cancer cells.
Doxorubicin has several side effects: reversible hair loss, darkening of the nail beds, itching, nausea and vomiting, allergic reaction, low white blood cell counts (which are the infection-fighters), heart damage, leukemia, liver damage. If the IV is not placed correctly and this drug leaks into tissue surrounding the vein, it will damage the tissue and cause a lot of pain. The degree to which this drug will affect me depends largely on how my body is able to process and deal with it. It's benefit at this time outweighs the risks we are taking: it kills cancer cells. Period.
So I will leave with that. I think this post will be the longest one because now everyone has the background info! I know it's probably all quite boring, but you don't really have to read it all, now do you? :)
The picture is a shot of what normal white blood cells look like vs. the cancerous ones (not mine). I found that on the National Cancer Institute's website (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/hodgkin/page2). Check it out, very informative.