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Yew trees and platinum versus cancer

March 23, 2017

Photo on 6-10-16 at 4.39 AM

Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 1242

Gearing, Nebraska, at the assisted living complex.

My sister naps and I’m reviewing the use and side effects of her chemotherapy.  I found the best information at Wikipedia.  I recommend Wikipedia.

My role in helping her is to remember the instructions given her by her oncologist.  I got chastised when I urged Carol to take more laxatives more often than her doctor recommended, so I resolved to be more careful.  Carol doesn’t need more than one coach at a time.

The trouble with pharmacy information websites is too much boilerplate language warning against what they always warn against:  hypersensitivity to the drug or its excipients, followed by sparse information that is too brief and too general.

She is getting the chemotherapeutic drugs paclitaxil and carboplatin followed by pegfilgrastim to stimulate her bone marrow.  Apparently these cause bone pain.

Most people these days know that anti-cancer drugs are effective because they take advantage of cancer cells propensity to rapidly grow and reproduce.  Some of the newer drugs are more specific, binding to–and killing–certain kinds of cancer cells because of a biochemical binding site.  Sometimes these agents have minimal side effects.  Carol is not a candidate for that kind of medicine.

Unfortunately the drugs my sister receives every three weeks for six treatments are not terribly specific for cancers only.  They kill rapidly dividing cells of the cancer variety, but they also knock back hair follicles and the rapidly dividing cells throughout the digestive tract and bone marrow.  Thus, after several cycles of chemo, one becomes bald, gets sores in the mouth, and gets low on white blood cells, essential for fighting infection.

Paclitaxil was developed in the 1990s from the yew tree of the northwestern U.S.  I don’t remember when carboplatin came out, but other forms of platinum have been used since the 1980s for such tumors as lung cancers.  I believe the mitigation of side effects and the use and dosing for these potent medicines is much better than it used to be because of extensive research and clinical experience.

The pegfilgrastim is used to mitigate the bone marrow destruction of the chemo drugs.  Get this:  Carol takes a 10mg Claritin antihistamine tablet for several days prior to her chemo treatments and the pegfilgrastim to help relieve bone and joint pain commonly experienced.  I was skeptical, but I looked it up and the Claritin seems to help somehow in its role as an antihistamine.

Carol feels exhausted these days,  but she overcame most of the other side effects of the cancer treatment after about four or five days.  She is dog tired.  I say this because Gunther is also visiting Carol and he is asleep too.

Earlier today I was feeling a bit constipated and dropped a toilet-clogging load in the commode near where I’ve been sleeping. I flushed to no avail.

Bad luck!  I needed some way to resolve the plugged toilet!  Finding no plunger, I fashioned a coat-hanger wire to snake into the plugged trap.  I snaked and snaked with no result.  I wound up the wire and dropped it into the trash.

Carol had just fallen asleep (I peeked in on her) so I looked around for a toilet plunger.  She has two bathrooms.  No plunger in any of the usual under-the-sink or bathroom closet places.  I roused Gunther and we searched the wider premises, this monstrous building occupied by a half-dozen residents.  The halls look like they are a hundred yards long, mostly vacant with an occasional door mat or sign on the door welcoming spring.

About fifty yards down the hall was an apartment that had been converted into an exercise equipment room.  I looked in on the bathroom there and — lo!  A plunger.  The rest is history.  Yes, I returned the plunger.

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