My Hodgkin’s Disease – The Treatments
Radiation Therapy – 6 weeks
Gamma radiation was beamed into the upper mantle of my body (ear line to mid-abdomen), scatterred field. Scattered field is like spilling boiling water: as the water spreads out over the surface, it is still hot enough to burn or damage the surrounding areas. The idea is to radiate the lymph nodes in my chest, arm pits, and upper abdomen. There is a lead block placed over my breast bone to “protect” my heart – 30 treatments with the linear accelorator over six weeks. I would have time over the weekend to recover physically and physiologically what I could.
A unit of radiation is referred to as a “gray” or Gy. Living on earth, we are exposed to about 3 Gy per year in natural occurences. Exposure from x-rays and CAT scans can range from .1 to 20 Gy. The lifetime maximum listed by the NIH is 400 Gy. By the time all of my 30 treatments finished, in just treatments alone, I had been exposed to 4000 Gy. In the original plan, I was supposed to get more and without knowing what I know today, I am glad I said “no” then.
The radiation destroys the cancer cell’s DNA and the remnants go through the natural body’s processes. Unfortunately, good cells are also destroyed. Risks varied but include cardiac. Dry mouth, upset stomach, bone pain, and strong fatigue.
Chemotherapy – 8 months
Mustargen = one IV treatment per cycle (cycle = month), 8 cycles completed
note of interest = highly toxic, kills cancer cells, will reduce white and red blood cells, high risk of blood loss, high risk of infection, used in chemical warfare during World War II and more current wars (Saddam Hussein used it on his people), horrible metalic taste in mouth during the injection, hair loss
Oncovin = one IV treatment per cycle, 8 cycles completed, kills cancer cells, will reduce white blood cells and create a high risk of infections, hair loss
Procarbazine = taken orally during the first week of the cycle, kills cancer cells, will reduce white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells leading to a high risk of infections and blood loss up to a month after treatment, hair loss
Prednisone = taken orally during the first half of the cycle, will kill some cancer cells, and help to prevent brain swelling, but will also reduce body’s natural ability to defend itself (compromise immunity)
Adriamycin = one IV treatment given in second week of cycle, 8 cycles completed, kills cancer cells, increased risk of infections and bleeding, also pulmonary and fatigue issues, hair loss
Bleomycin = one IV treatment given in second week of cycle, 8 cycles completed, kills cancer cells, but increased risk of pulmonary issues
Vinblastine = one IV treatment given in second week of cycle, 8 cycles completed, kills cancer cells, high risk of infections, and sensativity of skin to sunlight