Monday, May 18, 2009

R-ICE Scary as hell!

I'm not talking about Uncle Ben's Converted Rice or brown rice or long-grain and wild rice or even Basmati rice. I'm talking about the acronym for a really really scary cancer treatment that John is about to undertake.

John had an appointment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania today. He was there to discuss his options for the next dose of treatment to get rid of the cancer that keeps showing up in his body, in his lymph nodes.

I wanted to go with him, but with the economy the way it is, I simply can't afford to take any extra time off right now.

Before any treatments start, John has to get a MUGA done. MUGA is a scan of the heart to make sure his heart can withstand the chemo he'll be receiving. He'll be getting this done next Tuesday, May 26.

He also needs to have a bone marrow biopsy done to make sure his marrow is good. Not fun. This is very painful. Why they don't sedate you for this I can't understand.

OK, so back to R-ICE. This is a treatment designed to fight Lymphoma (the non-Hodgkins variety). It stands for:

R- Rituximab ... John had Rituxan with his first round of chemo 2 years ago, This stuff kills the cancer cells while leaving the good cells alone (cool stuff!) and allows the body to rebuild the white cells.


*I don't know what these drugs do, exactly, but give me some time and I'll learn all abou them.

These are given via IV. I guess John will have to have another port (permanent IV line) installed in his chest.

He is to get 2 treatments of RICE which should put him in remission. Then they'll harvest his own stem cells. Then he has to get a really high dose of RICE that will make him really sick. At some point, they'll begin to replace his own stem calls back into his body. If this treatment doesn't kill him, it should put him in remission, hopefully for good.

He has a very long hard tough summer ahead of him. The last dose of RICE and the stem cell work will keep him in the hospital for a month... in Philly, 40 miles from here. This is going to be long tough hard road for me too. The earlier treatments I can handle with work, but that month in the hospital is going to be very hard for me to do. Luckily I have 3 weeks vacation this year and I plan to take a week when he gets out of the hospital and comes here for recuperation. Dani should be at school by then so that shouldn't be a problem. If not, she's just going to have to deal with it.

John's worried about his job. Will he be able to take the better part of the summer off and still have a job to come back to in September? He was told his treatments should be finished and he should be able to resume his normal daily life.

One of the downsides of this treatment is in 10 or 20 years, he may get another kind of cancer. The alternative is he gets sicker and sicker and dies. So he's going to go ahead with this treatment. He trusts Dr. Swaab implicitly. Unfortunately, our cancer center doesn't do the R-ICE treatment, so he HAS to go to U of P Hospital. The doctor who John saw today was one of the doctor's that Dr. Swaab trained under, so John felt better about it. My niece is a recovery room nurse U of P Hospital. I'll have to talk to her soon.

It's important that we both stay VERY positive during this time. John was very lucky that he handled the chemo treatments 2 years ago with relative ease. He was able to work through it. This time it's going to be much tougher and he'll be sicker. But John's a tough old bird and I have a feeling he'll come out of this really well!

When I know more, I'll be sure to keep everyone posted.


♥ Braja said...

Oh Joanie, yuck...poor John, and you. I wish i was there, I'd cook him some sweeeeet RICE, the real kind ;)

Lilly said...

Joanie, John has the right partner in you. You are a fighter as he is. In any way we can be of any help let us all know. It will be atough but you are in it together and my prayers are with you both. Keep your sense of hunor.

Alix said...

Sweet Joanie...

Please know you and John continue to remain in my thoughts and prayers every day.

I can only imagine how difficult and frightening this all is and I want you to know that I and all your other family/friends/blog friends send you our love and positive thought reinforcement!

Did you see the Farrah Fawcett cancer documentary on Friday? It was riveting. It gave me a little perspective on what you must be going through and the lengths you must go through sometimes just to stay alive.

John should not be concerened right now about his job. He is in the midst of the fight of his life and any negativity could be harmful to his recovery.

You are both colossally brave and I am so proud of you for educating yourselves so thoroughly and boldly taking appropriate action. Thank you for keeping us informed.

We love you Joanie. We really, really, really do!

Michelle said...

My positive thoughts and prayers are with him.

RecoveringActor said...

If I'm not mistaken... Aunt Jo is an oncology nurse at U Penn. Let me call her also... she'll take really good care of John.

And if you want to stay in Delaware one night and have a 30 minute drive into Philly instead of a 60 minute drive, you can do that, too. We also have the train that takes you right to Suburban Square and University City.

~Thought's By Dena~ said...

BIG HUGZ are sent to both of you...and you are right staying positive is the most important thing for both of you to do ALWAYS!!!!!

Mary Ellen said...

I'm not close enough to lend a hand in person, so I'm sending my positive thoughts and prayers your way.

You guys make a great team, and I know you'll get through it together.

Aaron said...

keeping you both in my thoughts and prayers. tell john its a job thats all. dont spend any thoughts on it spend them on him getting better.

Jim and Garret said...

Positive thoughts! I'm sorry this is happening to you BOTH.


Sally's World said...

thoguhts, prayers, hugs for you both x0x0x0x0

a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

i'm praying, praying, praying for him sweet joanie. just as you did for me.

xoxoxo (((((HUG)))))

Joanie M said...

Thank you everyone for all your kind words and prayers and good wishes. I have tears in my eyes reading these. We're holding on to each other so tightly right now. Doing our best to have a "normal life", not knowing what the next few months will bring. I just hope and pray that John can withstand this. Well, better to get the crying out here, so I can put on a good face for him. I'm sure he's scared, too, although he hasn't said he was. The soldier is much still a part of his whole being. He told me he took an oath back in 1973 when he joined the Army to never give in to the enemy, and that's exactly what he's doing now.. not giving in to the enemy.

Captain Dumbass said...

All the best to John, cancer sucks.

bernthis said...

Please tell John I'm over here in L.A. rooting for both of you with all my heart.

Anonymous said...

John has everything to live for with you by his side.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Many prayers and good thoughts and strength vibes are being sent your way. This sucks. A lot.


My "peeps" in PA come from the Kingston area. I don't know a lot about our family history there- but my dad does. My uncle is a home builder up that way now. I think the last of our mines closed (my grandfather ended up owning a mine or 2, I think).

Lisa (Jonny's Mommy) said...

I'm from PA as well. Hang in there. You'll be in my prayers.

Joanie M said...

John's pulmonary test was good. Apparently he has good lungs! Glad he never took up smoking!

Amy said...

Joanie -- Will keep John in my prayers. Please let us know if there is anything we can do.

Joanie M said...

Amy, yeah. send money. :)