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Inside The Oncology World

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I will , forever remember our first experience with oncology/hematology ward at The University of Chicago. By the end of the day we felt so isolated, had become completely jaded.

For those who choose conventional medicine, click see "Avoiding chemo side effects page." There are some simple things can be done to greatly help evade side effects. Most nurses and doctors do not give this information out to patients. In fact, most had never heard of these solutions.

 

Before any conventional treatments, Brad had already bounced back from being choking on water to being able to eat Chicken Caesar Salad with just a few hiccups (We found a way around the hiccups). 

All of this success was from only eight days of Orally consumed Cannabis oil. 

I wish we had known about suppositories back then. There would have been no euphoria.

The day Brad came home from his endoscopy, he looked defeated. His endoscopy Dr. was sure it was cancer. The picture was damning. Brad just laid down. They set him up with an appointment at Rush Hospital, Chicago for a CT scan which showed spots on his lungs. Because of this, they did a biopsy on his right lung. They should not have done this procedure. Brad was in stage 4. There is no need to cut into a terminal person. "Terminal" means no cure. I am appalled by what I have learned . . completely jaded by what I have seen in the oncology world. They also placed a chemo port into his body right below his right shoulder blade. It looks like a big gel bubble. It has three dots in the shape of a triangle. This is for the nurses, to help gauge where to put the chemo needle into the port. Brad stayed overnight, I was with him. He was in a lot of pain when he woke. Next, it was suggested he go on a trial at The University of Chicago for esophageal cancer. His Dr's name was Daniel Catenacci. He was the associate professor.  The appointment was for six weeks later because he needed to heal before starting chemotherapy. 

     

On the first day, we met with a dietician. What a joke. She told Brad to eat sticky buns . . "Fatten him up any way you can like with a baked potato with all of the fixings". She also said not to eat raw eggs and to wash blueberries carefully. That was it! We just looked at each other, shook our heads and said "Guess we're on our own." She was in her own world, having just had her first baby. It was at this stage Brad knew he wanted me with him at all of his appointments. He took my advice on pretty much everything I recommended regarding his diet. We talked al lot about his medical stuff. Brad listened to my opinion but the final decision was always his. I did the research, gained as much knowledge as possible . . sifted through websites, read books, engaged with others in the cancer world so we had more to go on, in our tool kit.   

 

Next, we met with an oncology nurse. She started the conversation by saying "Today I am gonna talk at ya about things you don't understand, for about an hour." (so sterile). She said that no matter what the results of the biopsy were . . whether the cancer in the esophagus was the same as the lung spots or not, the chemo treatment would have been the same. (She snickered under her mask as she told us this). What was the point of performing the biopsy, then?

 

The recovery time was six weeks before the chemo treatments could start. (In hindsight, this was great timing because Brad started using cannabis oil ten days before starting chemo). We got to see him swallow solid food two days before any chemo treatments. Yes, all it took was eight days of cannabis oil to shrivel up that huge tumor. Before that, water was barely going down. It took time for one sip to pass through. The nurses introduction process was very mechanical. She was so cold. We were in great form, nothing getting us down. We were ready to take on the world so we just let it all roll off of our backs. 

 

After that, we were sent to another front desk (with a bowl of oversized ring pop's as well) and put in a room to wait for the oncology doctor. There was a desk, a rolling office chair and a couple of other chairs. The seat for the patient was facing a full-length mirror. That seemed strange, to me, especially since we were usually left waiting for four hours or more before seeing the oncology doctor. What cancer patient wants to sit looking at themselves for that long, worrying about what the CT scan results were and what the doctor would say?!!! 

 

Finally, the oncology doctor came in, smiled at Brad as he said "You are going to die. Even with chemo, you will never be able to eat again. Today we are gonna put in a feed tube. Even with the chemo you will never be able to eat solid food, again". Brad replied "What are you talking about? I had chicken Caesar salad yesterday and I am gonna have steak tonight." Eight days of cannabis oil was all that took. His esophageal tumor had shriveled up and he was eating solid food``````````` again. In my humble opinion, this is when his doctor should have told him to keep doing whatever he was doing and run from chemo. But, he didn't. He played like Brad's miraculous recovery was nothing special.

 

 He said that if Brad was in the lucky half of the people that the chemo even did anything for, that he had a 5% chance of living a year and a half. He said "Iif the cancer doesn't kill you first, the chemo will". He echoed the "Fatten him up with sticky buns" recommendation from the dietician. We were in complete and utter shock, dumbfounded by everything. He then proceeded to write down the three different types of chemo Brad would be given and the order. He explained it as putting them on the shelf until they were needed (which really meant once the most effective type of chemo stopped working he would switch to a less effective type and then another one after that, until it stopped working . . IF any of them were in any way effective, at all. When Brad heard the percentage he asked if he there was a possibility of lasting for two years and the doctor said "Mayyyyybe." The room was filled with understudies who quietly listened with uncomfortable smiles. When the doctor left the room, Brad asked one of the students/residents if he was actually going to die that soon. He laughed nervously as he agreed with the doctor. I was appalled by this lack of care for our feelings. We found none of this funny, at all. Brad had a CT scan performed before the meeting and he would have one every six weeks before his meeting with the doctor, for the duration of the treatments. It was always so stressful on the consultation days. 

After the consultation, we were sent back to the original front desk and were called in by a different nurse. She walked us through the ward to our cubicle. The walls didn't go up all the way and there was a curtain for privacy. The rooms were just like in and ER. The chemo recliners were an ugly lime green color. The ward was immaculate. The staff were great. And so began the chemo experience. 

Brad was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, HER2 positive. Because of this, Dr Catenacci set him up with two chemotherapies which would be administrated every two weeks for the duration of the treatments. One was 5FU and the other was Herceptin which is given to people who are HER2 positive. Also, he was given Oxaliplatin for the first 12 chemotherapies. This is a platinum based platinum. I can't remember which came first but Brad was given an IV of Herceptin and one of Oxaliplatin with a flush drip, in between. This took many hours. Once this was done, the nurse would connect the 5FU chemo to Brads port. The chemo machine was out in a fanny pack (bum bag) and he would carry it with him for 3 days. Every minute or two is would make a hissing sound. Before the treatment, blood was taken and the results were given to us before we left.

On that first day, once the platinum was being administered the nurses kept coming in asking Brad if he could feel tingling in his fingers and toes yet. He kept saying "No." and we continued doing what we were doing. We had brought a pillow, cribbage kit, playing cards and snacks. I propped Brads feet up and gave him a good foot rub (he loved a good foot rub). We played Cribbage for the duration of the treatment. All the while, the nurses kept coming in asking if he could feel the tingling yet. They said that it happened to everyone who took the platinum based chemo. Brad just kept telling them he felt nothing. We made sure ti keep him flushed with water. Take the chemo in and flush it out as quickly as possible was the aim AND IT WORKED! We left that evening with Brad feeling fine and positive that he could get through the treatments. We were given an aftercare report and blood work results. A nurse would visit us a few days later to remove the 5FU IV from the port and Brad was free for the next two weeks.  

Two weeks later, he had the same infusions and the same questions regarding tingling kept coming up as the day went on. It was explained to us that platinum is a heavy metal and that as soon as the infusion begins, the platinum goes to the lowest registers (hands and feet) and burns out the nerve endings. This causes so much pain and is extremely hard to reverse once the damage is done. We had gotten lucky because Brads hands and feet were elevated because of the pillow and his foot rubs and his hands were up because we were playing cards. It was only when I called our oncology nurse friend to ask her about the nerve damage stuff that she explained it all to me. She warned us to keep him bundled up and to keep him away from the fridge/freezer because the platinum in his blood would get cold and cause him pain, so we were really careful about this. Winter was coming in and Brad would walk to work. We had him all covered up, even with a balaclava and he would walk indoors for most of his walk. We were downtown by Printers Row and his walk was up Lasalle so the buildings had indoor walkways. Brad was fine, always nice and warm on his way to work. On the day of the second infusion, his Dr added another type of chemo to the mix (a quadruple chemo session) named Cysplatin (another platinum) seeing as how well Brad had handled the first triple chemo. Before this, Brad had had no side effects at all but this time all hell broke out. It was snowing and we were in the Northwest area of Chicago when all of a sudden Brad pulled off two the side of the street, jumped out of our minivan, ran around to the passenger side, dropped his pants and had a raging case of diarrhea right there. Two guys were across the road in their cars and saw the commotion, they looked so worried and were about to jump out of their cars to help but I hopped out and got him up off of the ground. He was sitting bare butt in the snow and was all discombobulated. I got him in the passenger seat and took the wheel. We stopped by a place nearby and he spent a while in the bathroom.  

24 weeks went by and Brad had completed his first round of platinum. 

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