On Saturday afternoon, after 24 hours of chemo at M.D. Anderson for her recurrent B cell lymphoma, Mrs. Charm said she felt “somewhat better.” Suggesting the chemo she’s been receiving almost continuously and will still through today might be knocking back some of the tumor load that was making her increasingly sick.
Hasn’t been all roses, of course. At one point in the treatment her O2 count was so low they had to put her on oxygen for a while. An X Ray of her lungs showed no problems, so apparently it was the tumor-filled lymph nodes pressing against them. The swelling of her left leg, from groin to toes, called Lymphedema, continues, however. Docs say it could take two weeks to go down. There is no cure for it, but only in severe cases does it lead to amputation.
UPDATE: Two days later, when she returned to the Rancho, “somewhat better” had gotten a big boost. Mrs. C. said her night sweats of several weeks standing were gone. Likewise her recurrent fevers, and pain, for which she was medicating non-stop several times a day. Swollen lymph nodes in her neck and under one ear also have diminished. All of which promises to make her two weeks of recovery from the first dose almost pleasant. Before the second one continues at a hospital in Austin.
Mrs. Charm’s treatment for the return of her cancer should have begun Friday afternoon. Instead we’re back in Austin to wait until next week.
There are several frustrating, angering reasons for the delay, all of which I want to relate, but I don’t want to jeopardize her chances at treatment by mentioning them in public. Suffice to say M.D. Anderson is not as professional as you might believe.
Four hours after leaving Houston and it’s god-awful, bumper-to-bumper traffic, we were home with orders to return on Wednesday—two weeks after Mrs. C. was diagnosed. Her Austin oncologist was almost frantic to get her seen within 24-48 hours of her diagnosis with the return of the high-risk, aggressive B cell Lymphoma that had been in remission since February. MDA said it would take a week. As if.
Mrs. C. is running a constant fever now, she’s in pain from growing tumors in her abdomen and one thigh is swollen from growing tumors in her groin. And we wait. The full treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, will last until late December and cost $1 million. There’d be intermittent periods of treatments and back at home. Hopefully the insurance will pay most of it. Chances of success are 50-50.
“With a little luck,” the MDA doc said, “years from now this will be only a memory.”
They’ll know within a month if it’s working and if it’s not, they’d stop and so would the bills. Then it would be on to experimental trials for which the experimentalists would pay, but she’d have to go where they are and stay until it’s over. Hopefully in Houston.
At that point, it might be more realistic to accept defeat and bring in hospice. But I don’t call the punches here. I just roll with them.
UPDATE: I was rather more candid in private about the reasons for the delay than I care to be here. And one response, from a friend who grew up in the Soviet Union in its heyday, is worth repeating: “An outcome like this would have been expected in a Soviet school clinic but not in a modern establishment.”