Well, CHOP therapy is fraught with risks, and we ran into one that was unexpected. Turns out that my light skin, blond hair, and other characteristics do not blend well with this treatment. I ended up in the hospital for eight days with hyper acute skin toxicity. Essentially, I sunburned like no sunburn I have ever seen nor heard of. My face, eyes, and both hands were impacted. The worst is over (I hope).
I did finally lose all my hair which is kind of a relief. I am fairly comfortable being bald like my Dad was. Of course that means wearing a hat all the time, which is not a bad thing. My hands and face are healing pretty well now, and my eyes are slowly becoming almost useful again. They still burn and feel dry all the time even though they tend to ‘weep’ constantly. I am writing this with text much larger than I usually use when reading or writing. But, I can see…. .
So, how does this happen? Chemo is a strange beast and CHOP is potent and indiscriminate. It attacks all fast growing cells in the body. It does not target cancer cells, though it attacks those as well because they are – fast growing cells. That said, the chemical attacks soft, fast growing tissues such and hair, mouth tissue such as gums, tongue and inner cheek cells. I am sure there are others as well. Additionally, the chemical can make one light sensitive which is what happened to me.
Already light skinned and easily sun-burned, the addition of the chemical magnified that sensitivity such that in only a few hours I burned very badly. It is fortunate that I generally always wear a hat and long sleeve shirt.
The bottom line is that we came out the other side without debilitating results. The folks at Mayo were very good. There were four teams of doctors working on my case along with two nurses all the time. The doctors were not quite sure what to make of me after our first morning round meeting where nine doctors would show up.
The first day, sat up in my bed and gave them a bit of a talking to. Basically I told them that their job was to find out what put me there, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening again. There were a few mouths hanging a bit open when I got done. They responded very well, never-the-less. This was a complex case with coordination between teams being very important. I watched for any sign of dischord during my stay and found none.
The day before I was released, one of the doctors from the dermatology came by to ask me if they could use photos of me (no name) in a journal article. I said sure and signed. He explained to me that it was important to get the word out to other doctors and medical researchers regarding the response I had to the treatment. I agree! I don’t give a damn about my picture as long as it is used to advance the body of knowledge. I was pleased that I could be helpful in that small way. And again found that I felt grateful that someone may not endure a similar reaction because I was willing to help in this very small way.
I am recovering at a reasonable pace. I wish mostly that my eyes worked better, but that will come…slowly, but it will come.
I want to thank my family for their support as well as the medical professionals who worked with me. Again, I am so very grateful.
Next week I go back for another round of CHOP. But just a bit better prepared this time.
Just keep on keeping on, it is all we can do. (Don’t forget to have some fun along the way!