First Round Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy

I started radiation and chemotherapy as soon as we got back from the wedding.  The library staff at work was very supportive at this stage--as long as they thought my work wasn't affected.  During the first weeks while I was doing radiation and my chemotherapy doses were still low, I would drive the couple of blocks to the clinic during my lunch hour for the radiation treatment.  For the chemotherapy sessions that sometimes lasted most of the day I took a sick day.  This was about the time when the government began requiring companies to give leave time for employees to take care of family memebers so Kendall was able to take the time off from work to drive me there. 

The treatments were not as bad as I expected at first;  my hair didn't fall out and, other than the time I took for treatments, my work and home routines were little affected.  The initial shock of discovering I had cancer wore off and during the first phase of treatment the family even began to experience some hope and guarded optimism, though that would soon change.

By November I fininshed the radiation portion of my treatment and Dr. Sharma increased the dosage of Taxol®, my primary chemotherapy agent, and added Carboplatin®, another powerful agent, to the mix.  The higher levels of chemo soon began to leave their characteristic effects: I fainted one day at work and was put on Neupogen, and later blood tansfusions, to build up my white blood count; and, my hair began to fall out.  The dietary supplement ENSURE was prescribed to counter the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and it
Christmas 1995
Christmas 1995, Richardson Public Library
made me swell up like a balloom.  I threatened to stop, but Dr. Sharma insisted I should put on some fat now because I would need the stored up energy later.  Perhaps he was right, but I have never again gotten back to my normal size. 

The Catch-22 world of the cancer patient began to catch up with us for the more intensive chemo took most of my hair, but as a worker in the Children's department of the library I had to maintain an image that did not include a bald pate. Dr. Sharma prescribed a prosthesis (a fancy name for a wig) but the insurance alleged it was not medically necessary and would not pay for it (and it cost over $500!) Keeping your job is not an insurance consideration--but without a job I would not be able to keep insurance. Welcome to cancer. 

The other burden of chemotherapy is constant nausea and throwning up every morning. The combination would not let me forget what was happening to me and robbed me of the ability to think clearly. There is an effective medicine for nausea, Zofran, but it is extremely expensive: around $20 a pill and a patient suffering from nausea would take one every eight hours, so doctors don't like to prescribe it.  I tried severl other medications, but when they proved little better than nothing, Dr. Sharma did not hesitate to prescribe Zofran. It is not quite a silver bullet, but it allowed me function normally.


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