Okay, I have. Flipped out. I am angry at the world. Why? Because the amazing toxic cocktail of chemo drugs that shrunk my baby’s tumors comes with a nasty little side effect. And nobody told me until Wednesday.
There is a family of chemo drugs that includes Etoposide, one of the drugs that Wes received, that can cause Secondary Leukemia. Sure, you’ve heard of Leukemia. And you’ve heard of my little fighter Wes. So you probably think, oh, no problem, if he gets that he’ll beat it. Secondary Leukemia has a poor prognosis. It’s not like “normal” leukemia. Which still f***ing sucks by the way. But Secondary Leukemia means chemo and a stem cell transplant and you cross your fingers. Sure, Wes is a fighter. But you know what? So are all the other sweet little babies who get Secondary Leukemia and don’t make it. They don’t die because they weren’t fighters.
We really have no choice at this point but to think positive of course. And I will get there. But for now, I’m angry. Angry that where we stand as a world with cancer treatment is drugs that can cause other cancer. Angry that the oncologist dropped this bomb on me on Wednesday, having never met me before (he was the attending on duty at the time). Angry that I didn’t know, me, the researcher at heart. Angry that in the end, we really had no choice but to use this drug.
Studies show that not using this drug makes for a chemo treatment that isn’t as effective. Our alternatives would have been a potentially less effective chemo treatment, removing both eyes and doing no chemo, or radiation (which carries a much higher risk of secondary cancers than Etoposide).
And the real kicker is that the Secondary Leukemia tends to show up about 2 years after chemo is completed, but can show up any time between when chemo ends and 5 years later.
When I’m done being angry, I will focus on the 80% chance that Wes won’t get any secondary cancers. In the meantime, my anger is dissipated by that amazing little infections giggle and smile.
What can you do? Spread the word about childhood cancer and the need for more research. Tell everyone you know about any events you know of that raise money for childhood cancer research. Be angry with me, and let’s use that anger to change the world.
Two events coming up that I know of:
Here’s a video of Wes on happy juice before his sedation yesterday – some of those infectious giggles!