Today is officially day two of Jeff's chemotherapy. He will take his last doses of this first treatment session on January 23rd. Until then, the doctors will keep hammering away at the cancer. They are really going at it hard-core! Late last night, Jeff finished his first round of chemotherapy and started his first round of bio-therapy (the immune boosters). He will receive daily shots of Interferon-alpha and will be on a continuous IV drip of Proleukin for the remainder of his stay in the hospital. These drugs are EXTREMELY potent. If you're interested in learning more, please visit http://www.proleukin.com. Take a look at the sections on "How Does It Work, " "Side Effects," and, of course, "Melanoma Patient Success Stories."
So far, the staff has been managing Jeff's side effects very well and have kept them to a minimum. He had a fever of 102.7 last night, but this was medically induced because, as the doctor explained, fever debilitates cancer cells and makes them more susceptible to treatment, so fever actually helps the medicines work. His only other side effect has been some mild swelling/weight gain (4 pounds) due to the extremely high volume of fluids they are pumping into him. Again, this was to be expected and is quite normal. However, the most serious side-effect for Jeff has been the fatigue.
The nurses explained that everyone responds differently to treatment and that side effects are unpredictable and unique to each individual, however, EVERYONE has fatigue. But, fatigue doesn't even begin to describe it. Jeff is basically comatose. He doesn't wake up or respond when the nurses come into take his blood pressure and temperature. He doesn't respond to noise--doors opening/shutting, people talking to him-trying to wake him, etc. He is totally and completely out of it. This morning the nurse told me he HAD to eat breakfast. He couldn't just "try" to eat--he had to actually do it. So, they brought him food at 8:30 a.m. and I tried to feed him and keep him awake, but he just couldn't stay conscious long enough to cooperate. I can totally see now why they like to have a family member actually stay in the hospital with him--he needs round the clock care and the nursing staff simply can't spend the time necessary to feed him, make sure he drinks water and Gatorade, and try to wake him up/make him sit up every so often. He also needs someone to simply speak for him (I had to decide what he should have for lunch and dinner; I have to tell the nurses when his IVs run-out or when air is in the line because he doesn't hear the machine's alarm; etc. I'm so glad I'm here with him. I don't know what a cancer patient would do if they had to be in the hospital alone.
I don't mean to be so graphic in my descriptions of what is going on, but I have two reasons for going into detail: (1) other people who have a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma may be cruising the internet looking for hope and information, so if they come across this blog, I want them to learn something about the process; and (2) it will serve as a little diary for Jeff. He isn't entirely aware of what he's going through at the moment and I want him to be able to read back over his days in the hospital and see how well he did and how much he accomplished so that he can be proud of how much he's gone through. Finally, it is therapeutic for me to write these blog entries--it makes me feel like I'm "doing" something. It's either this or watching "The View" and Rosie annoys me. :-)
I'll write more after the doctor makes his rounds and checks on Jeff this afternoon. In the meantime, rest assured that even though he is tired, he is doing very well and has exhibited no unusual or scary side effects whatsoever. So, please don't worry or be scared. He's doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing to get the job done!
P.S. "Father David" the hospital's Catholic priest came this morning to bless Jeff and offer him communion which he, unfortunatley, was too asleep to receive. However, I'm sure he benefitted all the same. He said a very nice prayer which included Thanksgiving for all of Jeff's family and friends who are supporting him, so know that you all have been prayed for too!
Much Love, Kelly