17
Sep
09

what i did while lying down

Yesterday, I traveled to one of the big university cancer research clinics in my area and laid my body down to received a substance called *Rituxan (Rituximab). I do this every 12 weeks, rain or shine, hot or cold, happy or sad, sick or well. Rituxan has helped me to achieve 2.75 years of remission from non-Hodgkin, B-Cell, lymphoma. Unless the CT scans show otherwise, 12 weeks from yesterday will be my last treatment and I will be declared in full non-Hodgkin, B-Cell, lymphoma remission, otherwise known as a cancer survivor.

Cancer is now generally considered a treatable, chronic disease in the oncology world. Remissions, the state in which no detectable cancer is seen in the body, are key. Anything hiding or too microscopic gets a free ride unless, or until the whistle blows. So remission is bedrock for being a survivor. Yes, there are other characteristics, like ingredients in a pie, but this one is numero uno. After that can come any number of poetic attributes, but remission, preferably full remission, is #1. Thanks to the biotech pioneers, Ivor Royston and Howard Birndorf , (were they beamline scientists?) and the companies who market rituximab  under the trade names, Rituxan and MabThera, my last encounter with this product will be 12 weeks from yesterday. (Praise God!)

Rituxan infusions are not a horror story, as is most chemotherapy, but it has its own properties that vary from person to person. Simply stated, Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody that locks onto  the CD20 protein found on the surface of the B-cell lymphocytes. It is also present on the surface of most of the abnormal B-cell lymphocytes that occur in some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rituxan marks these cells to be attacked by the immune system; however,  both abnormal (malignant) AND normal (healthy) B-cell lymphocytes are marked.  The downside to this double deal is a lowered immune response to colds and such for as long as it takes for the  body to replace the normal white blood cells that are damaged. The literature says this happens quickly. My experience has not been quick. Today I am at 45% of my normal vitality, feeling tired, flu-ish, worn and a glass half empty. I have to be careful not to be around sick people. Last time, because I was already not well before getting the infusion, it took about 6 weeks to recover and I questioned the value of continuing on. Do I say anything to the docs? No, I do not because in their minds I’m better off compromised than dead!  Well, this time I didn’t have anything viral going on, so I should be better in a few days to a week (maybe 2 weeks.)

I sound ungrateful, I know. What I really am is worn out, like I nearly drowned swimming across a muddy river, and now glad to be resting, sopping wet, under the bridge, away from the elements. The heart wants to get on with things, but the brain is foggy and the body parts don’t seem to recognize each other. I’m a merrionette…a Pinocchio! This soap opera will pass and I am a lucky lass to have a great oncologist with a compassionate heart and a warm demeanor…lucky as well to have friends who care about me and pray for me.

I am also lucky to have gotten sick AFTER I’d already gotten into Medicare. Even with the insurance I had as a self-employed person, it would have been a financial wipe-out with who knows what ending. (One CT scan can be 6 or 7,000 dollars. PET scans even more. Rituxan infusions also thousands. Will somebody please wave a magic wand in Washington to get all those “servants” to see the light of day??? This rich country does not now rank very high among the health systems of the world. I personally mourn for an artist friend who died of lung cancer because he had no insurance! He was gifted, brilliant and sending money to his developmentally impaired daughter. I mourn for all those who, against their wishes, are inducted into the cancer club and especially for those who finally must leave their bodies behind to the thief that is cancer. And then there are the families, the friends and the loved ones… Come, Lord Jesus, the tables need overturning.


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2 Responses to “what i did while lying down”


  1. 1 ordinary (mostly)
    September 18, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Yay for only one more treatment…

    I don’t think Royston and Birndorf qualify as beamline scientists. I’m sure that I don’t qualify as a biotech entrepreneur.

    Had to laugh at “simply stated…” I’m glad you didn’t choose the “non-simple” explanation. 🙂

    Amen on the comment related to healthcare reform (or the current lack thereof). In my family, we’ve had three births and one other hospital stay that started in the ER – a few tens of thousands of dollars total. And each one covered by group health insurance. It’s time for our system to change.

    • 2 Naomi
      September 18, 2009 at 10:29 am

      Well, of course you are right about beamline and biotech engineers. But it made a good story and 99% of readers most likely won’t care about this anyway. My simply stated actually is simple, once you start reading about this biotech stuff. It’s the future of cancer treatment. But I so wanted to say that it is NOT without its side effects, y’all. Some go through treatment like prize fighters and others go through like porcelain figurines. When medical treatment become really individuated (I’ll be dead by then), we’ll have a system to be pleased with. Until then…thanks for the AMEN. It’s all about power and wealth, I’m afraid…not people. Jesus would indeed have quite a few table to overturn. But I can dream….


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