|Blindsided - Page 2|
When we arrived at the hospital on April 12, 1996, the doctors talked in whispers to Faye and shook their heads as they contemplated treating a disease so hopeless that, prior to the experimental treatment that had just been developed, they'd have just made me comfortable while I died. From what little I knew of both leukemia and chemotherapy, I was deeply frightened.
The research treatment protocol I underwent veered consistently toward excess, utilizing lots of different drugs, with repeated dosing. The object was to kill all of my white blood cells—leukemic and otherwise—repeatedly, allow a few days for them to regenerate, and then kill them all again. My doctor described the approach bluntly: the hope was to kill the cancer without killing me.
The treatment cycles consisted of 5 days of chemotherapy followed by 12 days for my white-cell counts to go to zero and then start to regenerate. Each five days of treatment started and ended with an injection into my spinal canal of a drug called methotrexate to kill leukemic cells that could migrate to the brain and cause a quick, painful death. The macabre tone of the treatment was captured by one of the intravenous drugs that was draped in black plastic and administered with lights out and shades drawn because of its sensitivity to light. Throughout my chemotherapy, I was beset by cycling fevers that made me shake like a jackhammer.
By early June, I was declared in remission, meaning that there were no leukemia cells in the particular sample of bone marrow extracted. However, it would take only one leukemic cell anywhere in the bloodstream for the cancer to repopulate. Only after two years of remission would I be considered cured. Ten more weeks of treatment still lay ahead.