Words of Hope – Hotel Johns Hopkins

June 7th 2008: I just finished my first round or “induction round” of chemotherapy. It was a cocktail of 3 different types of chemo in various doses, spread over 8 days. The only name I remember is Cytarabine. The reason I can remember it is because of the nickname it has, Cy-terrible. This is because of the destructive effects it has on the patient. I must note that those same destructive effects also blast leukemia cells! Unfortunately, the tough part of chemo is that it does not discriminate between normal cells and cancer cells. It is complete and utter destruction. That is why you lose your hair and fingernails, etc… In addition, your mouth has sores, your GI tract is all fowled up, eyes are affected, sustained diarrhea, weight loss, appetite loss, joint pain, prone to bacterial infection, fungal infection, viral infections, joint stiffness and pain, skin rashes, high fevers, night sweats, nausea and vomiting, to name a few side effects. When you have all these types of issues you end up on a cocktail of other drugs that offer a whole new host of side effects; antibiotics, antifungal, anti-nausea… For example, I had an antifungal medication that came in an IV. It was yellow like Gatorade. It gave me ocular hallucinations after I took it. At varying times I was on 9-12 different drugs to combat the side effects of the chemotherapy. Acute leukemia treatments tend to be substantial inpatient time, versus other cancers where treatment can be outpatient or shorter duration hospital stays . Leukemia treatments eradicate a patient’s immune system because that is where the cancer stem cells hangout, in the bone marrow. Therefore, patients need to have long hospitalizations so the doctors can protect the patient from all the ailments that occur while the immune system is so compromised. My initial stay at “Hotel” Johns Hopkins was 24 days.