I have been bandying the word chemotherapy around a lot lately. To some it may appear like I am seeking attention. To be frank, as much as I knew it may be in my future, now that it is here I have been freaking out. Talking about it is my way of trying to let the panic go and get my head around it, ease the tensions, calm myself down.
As always, I am attempting now to intellectualise the situation and am inviting you into a bit of my process as I prepare my mind to cope with the next stage of my life.
Chemotherapy: Chemical + Therapy: The treatment of a disease by the use of chemical substances, most commonly but not limited to cancer by cytotoxic and other drugs.
Reception here is atrocious. Internet and phone lines both. I've been held in for more tests. I've called in the folks and totted my book stack up satisfactorily. At this stage its best just to say I'll keep you posted, and I am in the best place for treatment. Just trying to keep up with #unilife studies. #murdochuniversity #Murdoch #RoyalPerthHospital #RPH #neurology #cerebralvasculitis #cerebritis #Lupus #SystemicLupusErythematosus #sle #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #brainlesion
We are familiar with this treatment through the global wash of cancer awareness however this treatment is certainly not limited to that type of illness or disease alone. Yes, it is most typically referred to as being used for cancer. But it is not for that alone. You may recall that in August of this year I was intravenously infused with three daily doses of 100 ml of methylprednisolone. That treatment was chemotherapy just as much as this next type will be. In cancer chemotherapy is used to target and destroy cancer cells.
So what does this mean if you don’t have cancer? What does this mean for me?
Like my infusion in August I will be having an intravenous dose of another, stronger and more targeted immunosuppressant. I have identified before the use and function of corticosteroids such as Prednisolone for their immune suppressing qualities and how this benefits autoimmune disease treatments. My new treatment, Rituximab, appears to be another form of this type of pharmaceutical therapy. It is used intravenously to reduce inflammation in the body in cases such as severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and Vasculitis.
Safe to say at this point I’m a clear contender!
Let’s have a look at this drug more closely.
As with medical names, we can tell a bit about a drug by the pharmaceutical name for it. In this case:
+ mab : as a nomenclature (suffix) mab at the end of a pharmacological name identifies it as being a monoclonal antibody.
Monoclonal antibodies: A monoclonal antibody is made so that it binds to only one substance.Monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat some types of cancer. They can be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive substances directly to cancer cells. (National Cancer Institute)
In cancer, the drug Rituximab is preferred as it can be gentler and is received with a largely low reaction rate in patients. This drug is the preferred chemotherapy drug for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It is not the only drug used, but due to the aforementioned patient reaction rate it is one of the ‘sooner used’ rather than the ‘later used’.
Why is it preferred for me?
I have lymphocytes cluttering up my vasculitic lesion. They are harder to move than simple inflammation. You may recall I am allergic to Aspirin and Ibuprofens? This rules me out of being treated with many blood thinning, vessel dilating and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). So I have made things as equally difficult on myself it seems.
Why is this chemotherapy not as scary as it seems?
Let us look above quickly to the part where I mentioned this should be just a stronger form of immune suppressing treatment. Then we will combine that with the part about it being well received by patients. Now we will look at my favourite (and self-made) analogy of how Rituximab will be working…
Imagine there is a house party. It is private, but 30-40 people are invited and have RSVP’d yes. It is a bit out of the way and so is hard to get to. Somehow a rowdy party guy overhears the address and decides to take his mates and gate crash.
This guy and his crew are CANCER. They get in a taxi and head out to crash this party, inviting their mates to come along. The owner of the party isn’t having unwanted guests. They call in their mates at the police station to get rid of these fellows.
The police are RITUXIMAB. Police are known to head around, clearing out unwanted guests. It’s their job. When the party gets really out of hand and the gate crashers are setting fire to the house, burning property and tearing up the neighbourhood, doing burnouts in the street, this is when we call in the Specialist Response Group.
The Specialist Response Group are CYTOTOXINS. The drugs that kill cancer. The drugs we normally associate with hair loss, vomiting, chemotherapy.
I have a party in my brain. It’s not a bad one, it’s more like when your cousin’s ex-partner shows up drunk and making a scene and you just need help to get rid of them. I do not have 200 underage teenagers drinking and smoking pot on the sidewalk.
It may be uncomfortable as the Rituximab removes the Lymphocytes and excess inflamed cells fro my right occipital lobe. I cannot say how this discomfort will manifest, I can only guess it won’t be that nice.
I will have one hour long infusion October 1st and another hour infusion October 15th.
I think I will be okay.