Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Unknown Son's Cancer Treatment

It's been a month since I wrote that the Unknown Son had been diagnosed with cancer, so I thought an update was in order. It took a while to get everything straight, but we now have our answers, and a pretty good idea as to what the next few months will involve.

Unknown Son has a stage 3 Wilm's tumor, which is one of the "better" types of cancer to have (it has five year survival rate exceeding 90% for most variants). It might seem strange to put comparative terms like "better" with cancer, but compared to neuroblastoma (his cancer the first titme around), this is a relatively straightforward thing to treat. Here's what the treatment will involve:
  • A couple of weeks back, he had a surgical port installed, which makes getting chemo, blood draws, and other input/output pretty easy and relatively painless. It was accessed for the first time this last week for his first round of chemo, and it was probably the easiest injections he's had since we can remember - they numb the skin over the port with some analgesic cream and put a needle through the port into the vein, and he hardly noticed it).
  • He had his first round of chemo this week (more details below), and seemed to tolerate it pretty well. There was some nausea later on in the week, but much less than we'd expected.
  • He also had his first two doses of low-level radiation (again, without much problem).
Here's what's ahead for the little guy: He gets about 25 weeks of chemo, involving three drugs: Vincristine, Actinomycin, and Doxyrubicin. He gets the Vincristin every week, and will alternate the other two drugs (i.e. for every three week cycle he gets Vincristine and Actinimycin on week one,Vincristine and Doxyrubicin on week two, and Vincristine alone on week 3 ). They alternate the meds because some of them take a few weeks for the body to recover from.

He also receives low-level targeted radiation for six days. He had two doses last week (Thursday and Friday), and will have four this week.

So far, he's had a bit of nausea the last day or two, but a couple doses of Zophran appeared to control it pretty well. We really don't know if it's from the chemo or from the virus the Unknown Daughter has had this week. But either way, the meds seemed to work. He's also had some mouth sores, but the analgesic mouthwash they gave (it primarily contains lidocaine and benadryl) did the trick.

So looking ahead, he'll be getting radiation every day next week and then chemo once a week for the next six months or so. The chemo will typically be scheduled on an "off teaching" day (I teach on a TuTh schedule this semester), so I'll be able to make most of the chemo appointments.

I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.