On Tuesday, Megan received the first chemo dose of her third three week cycle. Overall, this was week 121 of chemo treatment for her, and during this time, we have learned more than enough about the nasty effects these archaic and toxic drugs have on the body. Whenever Megan starts a new chemo drug, there is always the hope that maybe this time won’t be as bad for her. Maybe she won’t actually lose her hair. Maybe she won’t be so tired that she can barely function. Maybe she won’t experience that awful nausea. Maybe she won’t have the bone pain and muscle aches. Maybe her digestive system won’t be completely messed up again. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The side effects of chemo are just so awful, but I guess you have to expect it when the only clinically proven treatment option for these kids is to pump toxic chemicals developed 40 years ago into their bodies to kill the cancer cells…and Megan is to the point where her treatment options are not even clinically proven. As you travel this journey, sometimes you start to question if the treatments aren’t just as evil as the disease. I hold out hope that someday our country will actually prioritize the health of our kids, but until then, Megan and all of the other brave kids in her situation will have to keep finding a way to trudge through their chemotherapy treatments.
When Megan started her new experimental chemo drug, we spoke with her oncologist at length about what the side effects of this treatment might be. To make a long story short, the bottom line was that it wouldn’t be as bad as her first 54 week chemotherapy protocol, but there were still a number of side effects Megan might have to tolerate. In all of Megan’s chemo treatments, it seems like at the beginning of her protocol, we get lulled into a false sense of hope that maybe things won’t be too bad. During the first two three week cycles of her current treatment, we went through the same phase of unrealistic optimism. Megan seemed to be tolerating her new treatment very well, because other than a few digestive issues and some fatigue, she seemed to be doing okay. The issue is, there is a cumulative effect of chemotherapy that cannot be ignored or avoided. I’m afraid that Megan started to experience this as she started her third chemotherapy cycle.
On Tuesday, Megan had to be at Central DuPage Hospital at 7:40 a.m. because her oncologist wanted her to get an echocardiogram. One of the lesser known side effects of prolonged chemotherapy is the damage it can due to the functioning of the heart. During Megan’s first 54 week chemotherapy protocol, there was some significant damage done to her heart which caused her to be on medication for about two years. The heart damage seriously impacted her stamina and impacted her ability to complete basic everyday functions like climbing the stairs or taking her dog for a walk. Thankfully, over time, her heart has started to mend itself and she is no longer on the medication. However, now that she is starting chemotherapy again, her doctors wanted to get some baseline data to measure her current heart functioning. The results showed that there has already been a small amount of damage to her heart, but nothing like it was a few years ago. She has an appointment with her cardiologist on Tuesday to review her test results and see if any medication is necessary moving forward. I’m sure as Megan continues through her current chemotherapy treatment, her heart function will be closely monitored.
After her echocardiogram was completed, she then walked over to the CDH clinic to get her port accessed, get bloodwork taken, and then receive her chemotherapy treatment. Although her chemo push only takes a few minutes, we are always at the clinic for over two hours as Megan gets a full physical from her doctor and we wait for her lab results. Megan has traditionally been very lucky in the fact that her blood counts tend to recover fairly well from chemotherapy. In her 121 weeks of chemotherapy, I believe she has only had three blood transfusions and one platelet transfusion. Although her white counts drop quickly after chemo, so far they have always recovered in time for her to receive her next chemo treatment. Fortunately, this was again the case on Wednesday as Megan was cleared to receive her chemotherapy treatment as scheduled. After her treatment, she wanted something to eat and then settled in for her usual post-chemo nap at home with her Boo Boo Kitty.
For the first time during her new chemo protocol, the unavoidable cumulative effect of chemo started to hit Megan. On Wednesday, she had a lot of bone and muscle pain combined with a messed up digestive system. On Thursday, she felt stomach irritation and nausea for the first time. Although she never threw up, she just felt miserable and spent most of the day trying to sleep it off. Once again, whenever Megan needs some comforting, her kitty seems to always be there.
In addition to the nausea, fatigue and digestive issues, Megan is also experiencing muscle cramping and lots of general pain in her calves, neck and back. Fortunately, on Friday she started to recover, which was perfect timing because Kenzi decided to make another trip home this weekend just to spend more time with Megan before her classes start back up at the University of Wisconsin. Having her big sister home always seems to breath new life into Megan as they spend time watching their favorite shows, catching up on their TikTok videos, making coffee drinks or just hanging out.
Although Megan has reached her fundraising goal to fund an important and promising research project being conducted at the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute, she is still actively working to raise even more funds. The more money she can raise, the more thorough the pre-clinical trial studies will be. These pre-clinical trial studies are vital to ultimately receiving funding for a full clinical trial on a drug that if finally approved, would be the FIRST EVER primary treatment drug approved for specifically for Megan’s type of childhood cancer. If you are interested in still donating to Megan’s cause, you can do so HERE. Megan would like to thank everyone for their generous support for this cause that could change the lives of so many brave children. If we all make it a priority, Megan is confident we can cure childhood cancer. I just have a feeling that if anyone can serve as the catalyst in making this dream a reality, it’s Megan.
On Tuesday, Megan heads back to CDH to meet with her cardiologist and then to receive her second chemotherapy treatment of Round #3. We are holding out hope that the cumulative effects of her treatments continue to be manageable. However, no matter what cancer and chemotherapy throw at Megan, she is still determined to overcome and finally defeat this beast once and for all. Optimism is a good thing, because without it the negativity always wins. We could all use a little of Megan’s optimism right now.
“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”
Until next week…