TEMODAR!!! “The De-Cancer-inator”

In the previous update, Amy mentioned that I was having problems adjusting to a change in my anti-seizure medications. I’m feeling a lot better now…but I’m still not 100%. We’ve flown up to the NW to spend the holidays with my family and we’re going to give it a couple more days to see if my body will continue to adjust (I’ve been still experiencing tiny seizures 1-3 times a day, as well as a constant numbness in my left hand) before I start Chemotherapy…Speaking of Chemo, a lot of you have been asking Amy and I about it and how it works and possible side effects, etc, so I’m making this post to help explain the process (the best I can) and inform you as to specific ways you can pray and be a support during the treatment period (that will be at least a year long).

To quote the great parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic, “My mind is a pop culture Cuisinart”, so when my oncologist first told me that the name of the Chemo I’d be taking was “Temodar”, I immediately thought it sounded like the name of a Japanese monster movie…(TEMODAR!!! See…Now you get what I’m talking about). I, of course, started running with that image, picturing the Chemo as a giant lizard/moth-like monster with huge deadly claws, breathing fire on the Cancer cells (that resembled tiny businessmen running away in horror), so I had a friend draw up a quick sketch of the monster to help me visualize (Thanks “H-Bomb”), that I posted below.

Artwork by H Haden Hammond (you fellow geeks will get the Homestar Runner reference)

The way Chemo works with Brain Cancer patients is very different than most other Cancer patients. A lot of you know that the Chemo I’ll be taking is in pill form. For the longest time, Chemo proved to not be very effective with Brain Cancer patients, and what they were able to determine is that the “blood brain barrier” would (a majority of the time) block the IV infused form of Chemo from reaching the brain. Temodar is the only proven form of Chemo to break the “blood brain barrier” and reach the brain 100 % of the time. The one nice thing about this form of Chemo is that it is (for the most part) much more tolerable (than the majority of Chemo treatments) meaning that most people don’t experience the heavy common side effects of most Chemotherapies (like hair loss for example). However, here is a list of possible side effects (and things to pray about during the treatment) as listed by the Livestrong website: headaches, constipation, weakness, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, anxiety, incontinence, blurry vision, increased weight, double vision, insomnia, breast pain, a sore throat, prickling or burning sensations in the skin, a rash, confusion, itching skin, diarrhea, depression, speaking problems, nasal congestion, dizziness, a runny nose, drowsiness, pain or lack of coordination in the muscles, skin discoloration, uncontrollable teleportation, unconscious telekinesis, the possibility of transforming into a giant green rage monster when angry, and a decreased appetite. Buuuutttttt — My doctors feel that the following side effects are the most likely to occur: fatigue, constipation, and some nausea. These three side effects would definitely be a lot easier to handle (although the uncontrollable teleportation could be pretty fun).

I’ve been assigned 12 cycles of Temodar, which means that every 4 weeks I’m given five pills and on the first night of each cycle I take an anti-nausea pill an hour before I go to bed, then take a Temodar pill right before I go to sleep. I do this same routine for the 4 days after that and then I’m done for that cycle. I repeat the process again 4 weeks later but within those 4 weeks, I have to go have blood drawn twice to make sure my white blood cell count is high enough to start the next cycle. With what I’ve been able to research, it seems that everyone reacts differently to the Temodar…but through a cool DNA “staining” process (they take some of my tumor tissue and examine it’s genetic makeup), the doctors were able to determine that my body should respond well to the Chemo.

"Brain Map"

If you picture your brain like a peeled orange (or mandarin orange in this case) the stringy stuff on the surface are like the highways in your brain that allow cells to travel. Even in the midst of treatment, it’s possible for tiny Cancer cells that may have survived the blasts of Radiation and Surgery to go rogue and travel away from the war zone (the area where the tumor was). Radiation takes care of the remaining Cancer cells that are still trying to hang around the tumor area and “TEMODAR!!!” is there to take out the “rogue” cells that may have traveled. The reason you take so many cycles of Chemo is because it’s possible for rogue cells to lay dormant for awhile and the only way to get rid of them is for them to be awake. By taking the “TEMODAR!!!” for a long time you are greatly increasing your chances of it being there to annihilate the rogue cells when they wake up.

Hopefully this diagram will help assist my description

I hope this all helps you understand the process much better and that you now know the ways in which you can be a source of prayer and support in this time. Thank you again for all that you’ve done so far in that department. Amy and I firmly believe that we’re all participating in what is already becoming an incredible story of adversity and triumph.

Happy Holidays,

Alex


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