This past week my wife was to have her third, and penultimate chemo treatment. But on friday evening, ten days after her last infusion, she began to have some itching and a breakout. She did not think too much of it, until she awoke early Saturday morning with severe itching and an incipient breakout of hives. As the hives were rapidly appearing in new areas, it was obviously an allergic reaction. We had been told to watch for such things, and so I began trying to contact her oncologist. But since it was a weekend, we could only reach her answering service. After explaining the problem, they considered it serious enough to contact her.
That did not prove to be an easy task and after nearly two hours of calling every fifteen minutes, we finally spoke with the oncologist. She said that it sounded like an allergic reaction to the Taxotere, one of the drugs in the chemo cocktail my wife had received. She suggested Benedryl as the first thing to try. She also called in a prescription for steroids. And she said if it became severe to go to the emergency room. She said that because of the reaction, we would have to consider our options before the next chemo infusion.
Throughout the day Jeanie’s hives became larger and covered more and more of her body. Some areas of her body were totally covered and they produced a very severe itching. At one point she had some hoarseness as she spoke. Sunday was nearly the same but by Monday the hives began to appear with less frequency and severity. But they had been severe enough to leave bruising. I called back to the cancer center on Monday to set up and appointment and discuss our options before the scheduled Wednesday infusion of chemo.
To my surprise, I was told the oncologist was “out” and would not be back for six weeks. She had no other oncologist covering for her. I insisted I needed to speak with someone and so was told the nurse practitioner would call me back. After two hours of hearing nothing, I called again. This time I was again told she was busy with patients but would call “as soon as she had finished.” In spite of my anxiety I waited as patiently as I could. No call came the rest of the day. Nor did we receive a call the next day until very late. During that time Jeanie decided she would not risk further chemo if she could not have the confidence that the allergic reaction had been considered and dealt with.
Very late in the afternoon the we finally received the call and we informed her of our decision to stop chemo since we could not discuss the allergic reaction and the implications with the oncologist. She simply said “alright” and hung up. For the next three days we heard nothing and presumed it would just be left there. Then Friday afternoon we got a call back from the nurse practitioner. She was recommending we switch to a radiation regimen and explained a bit about that. Jeanie said she would consider it.
Over the weekend Jeanie thought about it and prayed about the decision. I did the same, though I had promised her I would respect whatever decision she made. By Monday she had decided to speak with the radiation oncologist and I called and set up an appointment. On Wednesday we went in and the radiation oncologist listened to our story and poured over the medical records. He examined Jeanie and then gave us his opinion. He felt that some treatment should continue because of the risk of the type of cancer and the size of the tumor. He did not recommend continuing with chemo but instead recommended 30 to 35 treatments of radiation and he carefully explained all of the reasons, benefits, and side effects. We thanked him and told him that Jeanie would consider it and we would let him know.
After a couple of days Jeanie decided to go with the radiation therapy. I again called and we made the appointment for the prep work and exams needed before that treatment begins. Now this Wednesday we will have that appointment and we will know what all that will involve and when it will begin. In all of this we trust the Lord for guidance and we thank all of you so much for your prayers, encouragement, support, and thoughts during this rather long and difficult treatment process. We will keep you informed as we have more clarity and details as to what the future holds. In the meantime, we again thank you and covet your prayers. May God bless each and everyone of you as you have meant so much to us during these recent, difficult months.