Wednesday, April 14, 2010

But now that you're one of us....

I (Amy) was able to come to VGH with Mom when she was transferred and help settle her in. She received a Patient Education Manual full of helpful information about Leukemia and how things work on the ward. I haven't read through all of it yet, I got as far as the first paragraph on the introduction page:

"You probably never expected to get an education manual from the Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant Program. But now that you are one of us...."

Now that you're one of us-but I don't want to be "one of us"! How do I get out of this club!!

Over the last few days though I've been able to process what this new "normal" will look like. I've heard words like "recovery" and I've been encouraged. Often the word cancer is associated with death or at the very least suffering. I'm learning that this is no longer true. With all of the research that is being done and new treatments being worked out, cancer is very treatable and even beatable.

Having a diagnosis means having more information. I've been needing information to be able to process. I want to know what the road ahead will look like. So Mom's diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) has led to more information and further understanding. I understand that Mom will most likely make a full recovery. The chemotherapy should send her leukemia into remission. I understand more about what her chemotherapy will look like.

Let me share some of my new understanding with you.

Mom will be taking three chemotherapy drugs along with other supportive drugs.
The chemotherapy drugs are daunorubicin, vincristine and L-asparaginase as well as a hormone called prednisone. Mom started the daunorubicin today and will take it for three days. The vincristine also started today, she will take it once a week for the next four weeks. She will take the L-asparaginase from April 30 to May 11.
For those of you who don't need more details feel free to skip this next paragraph, I will describe what the drugs are and what they are doing. Daunorubicin is an antitumor antibiotic that interacts directly with the DNA in the nucleus of cells, interfering with cell survival. Vincristine is a drug that prevents cells from dividing, it interferes with structures in the cell that are needed to permit cells to divide which can limit the growth of leukemia cells. L-asparaginase is an enzyme that prevents cells from dividing. Prednisone is a synthetic hormone which, when administered in large doses can kill leukemia cells.

One other important thing you need to know is that the chemotherapy will kill all of Mom's white blood cells. She will have to stay in the hospital until her white blood cell count is back in the normal ranges-about 10-20 days. After that her chemotherapy will be given to her as an outpatient.

Maybe it's not so bad to be "one of us". This is a very supportive group. Although I still would not wish to be here, I'd rather be part of a group than to have to go through this alone. The hospital staff are great, they are very thorough. Mom continues in good spirits. She is at peace and continues to trust God for the journey He is leading her on.

We have also really appreciated the support of all of our friends and family. Thank you for your care and your prayers!



  1. I really appreciated the update Amy. I too have been on-line, but only to wonder what path is being taken for treatment. It's nice to have the spelling to:) Smootch your mom for me.

  2. Thanks for letting us know what your days are full of. It sounds like quite a learning curve for everyone. We are very glad to hear that you are in such a supportive place. Praying that these drugs work as effectively as possible, with the least amount of side effects possible. Much love... the Jelsmas