Starting a new treatment cycle

Feeling good, Faye. Looking good, Calum.

March 7, 2017

The last couple of weeks have been a welcomed break from the intensity of the first two months of treatment. Somewhat abruptly, Calum’s appetite, energy and spirits have returned to normal. If you didn’t know he has cancer, you’d never know he has cancer. He’s been fucking stuff up around the house like a totally normal three-year-old. It’s been so uplifting.

We had been waiting to see if we could begin the next cycle of treatment today because at our check-up last week, Calum’s neutrophils (infection-fighting white blood cells) were on the cusp of being too low, due to cumulative effects of chemotherapy on his blood. If his hemoglobin, platelets and neutrophils are below a certain level, treatment can be delayed. This can and does happen over the course of treatment from time to time. Even a sniffle can wipe out blood counts. Though we may expect to see a postponed treatment along the way, too frequent interruptions could have a negative impact on the effect on the overall success of treatment, which is a major fear. It’s not a good road to let your mind wander down, but if we get lackadaisical about germs and he gets a virus and treatment is delayed, you never want to wonder what else you could have done to prevent a possible relapse. Calum’s diagnosis is an everyday reminder that anything is truly possible; for better or for worse.

Today we learned his blood counts were safely above the level deemed necessary to start this next cycle. I had a momentary celebration and sigh of relief, but quickly moved on to what comes next. While it’s somewhat invigorating to close the books on the previous cycle, we now face a new set of unknown side effects and reactions. Poor Calum may expect to get mouth sores from this latest cycle, again, making it very uncomfortable for him. The nausea is also supposed to be intense for the first couple days following treatment. It’s so sad that the only thing we can give him to save his life makes him sick as a dog but, if he handles this like he has other treatments, we got this too.

I walk the hospital halls holding his hand and bursting with pride. When I say he’s been brave, I don’t mean he is just surviving through a tough day, I mean he literally kicks ass. From an 8:15am arrival with physical therapy, medical exams, needles, blood work, two different chemotherapies and a 2:30pm departure, not a single tear was shed (by him). The only time he complained was because he had to go poop.

As we slowly emerge from the initial shock of this diagnosis, we begin to digest just how long this road will be. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, cynical even, we feel a little teased by these pockets of time where Calum is doing so well. There are more severe treatments ahead and still some very scary unknowns. It has started to settle in that our lives will not be returning to normal for quite some time. A great friend of mine did me a favor today in reminding me that this is about celebrating the little wins along the way. I sound corny, but hearing that made me feel free to feel good about today. I can allow myself the joy of seeing Calum progress and feel well, and celebrate that independently of my natural fears for the future.

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