Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2008 02:19 PM, CST
Good afternoon, all!

I still don't have much to update. I feel a thousand times better than I did a month ago. Right now I'm trying to get the motivation to finish up my physics. It's difficult for me to concentrate on that stuff--I'm not really into mechanical physics (which is what I'm taking). I'm really into biophysics because that stuff makes a lot more sense to me, but I couldn't get into that class. It's full of pre-med and pre-pharmacy students!

I would like to start this post off with some statistics that I found on the Lymphoma Info Network website (

'The American Cancer Society estimates that 7,880 cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma (4,330 men and 3,550 women) will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2004, less than 1% of all cancer diagnoses. Approximately 131,279 members of the U.S. population are living with Hodgkin's lymphoma. 85-90% of Hodgkin's occurs in adults, 10 to 15% in children. It is more common, though, in 2 age groups: early adulthood (age 15-40, usually 25-30) and late adulthood (after age 55). Hodgkin's is rare before 5 years of age.

Unfortunately 1,320 people are expected to pass away of the disease this year. Because of advances in treatment, the number of patients who succumb to Hodgkin's has fallen more than 60% since the early 1970s.'

Does this put things into perspective for me? Maybe. Does this make more people aware of a disease process that may not be well known? I hope so. Modern medicine has made leaps and bounds from even just 50 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. While I doubt that we will ever find a cure-all for cancer, what we can do is make better treatments available, and have more understanding of the treatments we are currently using. There is still a lot we don't know. What more people absolutely need to be aware of is that cancer does not just strike the elderly and the infirm. It also strikes the young and healthy, with both encouraging and devastating consequences. If my experience with cancer shows us anything, I hope that is shows us to pay attention to what your body tells you. Be in tune to yourself, and don't ignore the signs your body is giving you in it's attempt to tell you something is wrong--no matter how subtle.

So, the next drug in the ABVD series is vinblastine (vin-BLASS-teen). What is interesting about this drug is that while the other two are derived from, well, molds, vinblastine is actually an extract from the periwinkle plant! For those of you who think that our modern medicines are more Frankenstien than nature, let me tell you that most of our medications come from plants and fungi that we see every day. For example, the main ingredient in aspirin--salicylic acid--actually comes from the bark of the black willow tree! But, I'm way off topic here.

The way vinblastine works against cancer is it stops a specific stage in the cell's reproductive cycle. So yet again, it doesn't actually kill the cell itself, but stops it from dividing to reproduce. Vinblastine is actually the drug that is most potent against Hodgkin's lymphoma, even by itself. Using it with the other three drugs increases its usefulness as well as its potency.

Some of the side effects include: hair loss, low white blood cell count, anemia, constipation, anorexia, weight loss, vomiting, intestinal blockage due to its paralysis, mouth sores, neurologic dysfunction such a numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, high blood pressure, and sometimes heart attack. The hair loss is not always total, and many people have had their hair regrow while they are still undergoing treatment. However, with the other drugs that we will be using, I probably won't be so lucky! It seems that low white blood cell count is the major side effect of this drug, and it is both dosage-dependent and dose-limiting (meaning that my doctors may lower the dose or stop the drug altogether if my WBC count becomes too low).

Well, I suppose it's back to the wonderful world of physics. I continue to look forward to seeing who has been by to sign my guestbook, and I thank you all for your support!

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