Archives for posts with tag: Cancer

Made the trip home and back. Thank goodness for Amtrak. Granddad was awake when I was there and actually had a pretty good day. He is so pale and drawn, and is talking in whispers only. We still had a pretty long conversation, and he even ate a piece of pie while I was there (apparently radiation and chemo has left his raging sweet tooth unaffected, which is oddly comforting). When he wasn’t talking he would just sit back and beam at me.

I did ask him if he was scared. He said he doesn’t think about it much. He didn’t seem upset at all that I asked. I said I wished he didn’t have to go through all this, and he told me it’s just like having the flu all the time. Then we talked about football. And I told him a joke about St. Peter and Jesus and a crashing computer…I know this isn’t riveting reading but I feel like I need to document it somehow. We compared notes on side effects a little bit, we both had an aversion to coffee that passed after a few weeks. I think he actually enjoyed comparing experiences. The rest of the time we were just content to sit and hold hands. Got to spend some good time with Granny as well. She has lost a lot of weight (she must be in the negative numbers now…) but the aunts and uncles in town are keeping a close eye on her. She is being very strong.

Got to talk to Dad a bit about it too. I think he felt bad about talking to me, I know he worries about burdening me (He must get it from his dad). Honestly though it made me feel better to hear him get it out. If you can’t tell, I am big on getting things out in the open and discussing feelings. My family isn’t. However my “we hug now” policy I implemented several years ago seems to have worked pretty well so maybe I’ll eventually get them there 🙂
Came back and hosted a study group at my house. One of the girls took me up on my offer to let them practice injections on me. It’s tuesday so she did my procrit for me. She was so nervous but she did a great job! She was very afraid of hurting me. I hope being able to practice on a live person helped a bit. She said she might need to practice again, which would be great since I need outside motivation to keep my house clean (don’t really mind giving myself shots. I do mind dusting. The threat of potential embarrassment should help keep my coffee tables clear).
Been having insomnia issues again the past couple days so I had better try to wind down.


So I’m realizing this blog is kind of a mishmash of my personal story combined with daily experiences and random facts about hep c. Now I’m going to veer in yet another direction (sorry) because I’m finding that this blog is kind of cathartic for me as a sort of “mind dump.” So if you are tiring of my digressions, read no further. Warning: No sunshine and butterflies ahead.

The thing is, my grandfather is dying. Most people have been through this at least once before they’ve reached my age (26) so I’m lucky in that I have kept all my grandparents this long. But I’m a little behind on how to handle losing someone this close. Granddad has had cancer for quite awhile now but it has just been this past month that he has really started to go downhill. He lives about five hours away, so I haven’t seen him since right before school started, and then he was still alert and talking, reading about taking up bonsai as a hobby, starting some azalea cuttings to train up, etc. Now apparently he is sleeping all but one or two hours out of 24. I’m afraid he won’t make it til Thanksgiving so I just booked my train ticket for next weekend. I have a long weekend from school so I figured I had better go.

What do you say when you know this might be goodbye? And is it stupid that I really want to ask him if he’s scared? I mean, what kind of question is that to ask a dying person? The answer seems like it would be an obvious yes, but for some reason I’m fixated on asking him this.

I called the other day and caught him when he was awake. His voice was very hoarse (Granny says he doesn’t want to eat or drink much these days) so he couldn’t talk for long, but he always insists he’s fine.

Me: “Granddad, how you doing?”
Granddad: “Oh I’m fine hon.”
Me: “Are you being ornery?”
Granddad: “I wouldn’t be fine if I wasn’t ornery!”

Granny says he doesn’t like it when she arranges for one of the kids to come over when she leaves the house “because he doesn’t need a babysitter!” So they take turns strategically “dropping by for coffee.”

So do we just keep on pretending everything is ok? Granny and Granddad are the most religious people I know, so maybe to them it really is ok and we don’t need to state the obvious here. I wonder if they’ve had the priest out for last rites yet. And I wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t stop thinking about whether anyone has asked him if he’s scared.

I have decided to devote a post to this question because I have heard this asked so many times by people who are considering treatment and who are treating.

Most people don’t know that chemotherapy is not only used for cancer. It is used for hepatitis and in some cases of multiple sclerosis. I am sure there are other examples but you get the idea. Some people will say, “but isn’t any drug technically chemotherapy, since they are chemicals used to treat illness?” If you want to look at it that broadly, yes, but this treatment is also chemotherapy in the popular sense of the word. Here is why:

There are a couple of different types of what we traditionally think of as chemotherapy. Some of them are hormonally based, some are made from plant proteins, etc. With Hep C treatment, the part of the therapy that makes this classifiable as chemo is the interferon. If you are on Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) it is the type of chemotherapy known as an “antineoplastic agent” and is made from human proteins. Go to this link for a better summary than what I am capable of:
Additionally, the same type of interferon is also used to treat certain types of melanomas and hairy cell leukemia, except in those cases they use higher doses than what we use in our treatment regimen.
Some people have called this “chemo light.” I take exception to that. Some of us have a very hard time with this treatment and to call it “lite” is misleading. Also consider that even though we take a smaller dose of the chemotherapy agent than someone with cancer, in many cases with cancer you do not administer the drug every single week for six months or more, but rather in larger IV doses spread out in time…so I’d think that in many cases it kind of “evens out” as far as difficulty of treatment. Our hair thins. We throw up. Our red and white blood cells die, our hemoglobin goes down…this is not something to take on lightly. I believe the benefits of this treatment outweigh the risks, especially if you are in reasonably good health to begin with. I will tell you outright that I am an advocate of treating. However, anyone considering this treatment should go in with their eyes wide open so to speak, and if you don’t think you can handle chemotherapy, then don’t take on this treatment because that is what this is.