Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It Must be Myeloma Wednesday!

Today's Wednesday, so like every Wednesday from now until November 2012, I can be found enjoying my weekly chemotherapy treatments at the local hospital's Cancer Center.

My primary care is provided at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS) and the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy (MIRT) in Little Rock, AR - four hours south from my home in Southwest MO.     Having gone through MIRT's Total Therapy IV protocol from November 2008 through 2009, I'm now in the 'Maintenance' phase of treatment at my local hospital In Branson, MO. I return to Little Rock every 4 months for testing, evaluation and Dr.'s appointments. I also think that they use me for Bone Marrow Biopsy new-technician training!  : ()

Today was weekly chemo session #16 of a projected total of 156 treatments over the next 2.5 years or so. To date, I am tolerating everything rather well. This phase is certainly easier than the induction rounds of high-dose chemo, the two autologous stem cell transplants, four kypholpasties (surgery to repair damaged vertebrae), and consolidation chemo treatments which I underwent in Little Rock. 

For those of you that are curious and unfamiliar with a chemo session, my Big Wednesday Maintenance Chemo Treatments run like this:

> 1. I drive the 40 minutes to the Cancer Center in Branson.
> 2. I grab an infusion chair whenever they call my name. Sometimes there's a wait, sometimes not. A $50 bill gets me a seat by the window and a  bottle of wine. Should one choose red or white when receiving platelets?
> 3. I give the RN/ONC (whomever drew the short straw) my weekly lab/chemo orders and we discuss the day's game plan. They are fantastic oncology nurses, though they haven't seen a lot of MM patients. I chose UAMS in Little Rock because of their vast experience with MM. My Branson nurses ask great questions and tolerate mine with non-condescending smiles. I am very fortunate on all fronts.
> 4. We start an IV. I chose not to have a 'port' implanted for the 156 infusions. I alternate arms from week to week and, so far, I've had no problems with veins failing.
> 5. We take my vital signs (temp., blood pressure,pulse oxygen levels, IQ).
> 6. We collect the blood work and send it to the lab. Once a month I send serum and urine samples back to Little Rock, once a month we draw an expanded panel of blood tests and once every three months I get an infusion of Zometa, a bisphosphonate (say that fast 3 times) that helps combat some of the bone issues present with MM. Also, once a month, we take pokes at a pinata in the shape of a cancerous myeloma cell. You should see the mad scramble when Oxycodone and Jelly Beans rain over the infusion center floor!
> 7.  I wait anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours (you know how it is!) for the lab reports to come back. Each chair has a fold-down TV, but I usually hop on my netbook and catch up with e-mail, read blogs, steal passwords, manipulate my test results, etc. Ok! Ok! Sometimes I watch TV, but only educational programs. What do you mean that 'Ice Road Truckers', 'Three Stooges Marathons' and 'Seinfeld' reruns aren't educational. 
> 8. The results finally come in and the Branson nurse calls a nurse in Arkansas to report the lab results (she also sends results via fax). We either get the 'greenlight' to administer 1.9mg of Velcade or the 'redlight' to not administer the chemo! So far  we've had 16 straight green lights.
> 9. The local nurse gives me a complete copy of my lab results and I enter them into my nerdy Excel spreadsheet to see where I'm at in the program. Anybody seen my pocket protector?
> 10. With the go-ahead, the RN/ONC orders the magic bag of myeloma-busting Velcade and when it arrives, they give it to me in a 6 second IV push. That's right - six seconds of chemo! Trust me, I am not complaining! Of course, the dexamethasone I took earlier in the day has already whacked me out and I rattle on like a banshee and keep making trips to the refrigerator for the 'free' snacks and drinks. It's great to get a free Diet Dr. Pepper when you've been billed several hundred thousand dollars for treatment.   
> 11. Then they run saline through my IV for 15 minutes or so, announce to hospital security that Sean Murray will soon be off the property and the threat levels can return to normal, and I'm on my way home or to Burger King to screw up my blood chemistry even further!

So that's what I do every Wednesday afternoon. At least it keeps me off the streets!

Stay well! 


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