Instead of just being a victim of cancer and chemo, I believe one of the most important actions you can take is being proactive in your treatments. In that regard, I mentioned in the last article to be careful about catching a cold. It is also very important to care for your oral health. Cancer treatments can damage your gums and teeth without precautions, which will make it difficult to eat and maintain your weight. It is highly recommended that one use a soft bristle brush or an electric toothbrush, in addition to keeping hydrated. Also, use an alcohol-free mouthwash in the morning and a mouth moisturizer in the evening. “Biotene” is one such moisturizer and is effective for up to four hours.
Monthly blood draws will be performed. While measuring several components of the blood, I track only three; white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, and platelets. The most important of these is the WBC count, as this is our primary infection and disease-fighting component.
It is imperative that the WBC remains within the average range or the next round of chemo might be delayed. This count normally diminishes during chemo treatments but the use of immune boosters, like Astragalus Extract, are highly effective and easily available. As my results were so positive, the nurses were grateful to receive this new information so their other patients could be assisted. My RBC and platelet counts have also remained within the normal ranges.
Blood pressure and heart rates are tracked monthly, before and during each treatment. Your blood pressure will determine if the chemo treatments can be sped up or must be slowed down. Again, maintaining proper hydration assists one’s blood pressure.
In addition to the scans at the beginning of this trek, additional scans are interspersed throughout treatments. The results of my latest torso scan have been very positive, showing no cancer remaining in the abdominal lymph nodes, on the pelvis, in the stomach, or in my neck! There remain a few still impacted on and beneath the collarbones, but I can feel the changes occurring in those. With just two more treatments remaining, I fully expect to be cancer free by then.
For now! Unlike regular Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s is not curable and will return. From studies and experiments, no matter how strong the chemo drugs given, the disease usually reappears in three to five years. Why then, doctors and scientists asked, given the extreme side effects of strong chemo, administer the stronger dosage? Regular maintenance check-ups and testing procedures will be the norm. Promising studies are currently being conducted for a more permanent cure.
I feel strongly that cancer patients should share their individual stories with loved ones and groups he or she is involved with; be it church, the community at large, golfing buddies, business or club associates, arts or craft friends, etc. I also understand when cancer strikes at a “too personal to share” area and I totally support and understand that person’s decision to limit one’s sharing. The support and prayers you receive, from whomever you share with, will tide you over during the rough days and make the healthy days even better. Blessings abound, are surprising, and strengthen your resolve.
“It is what it is.” “Follow the protocol.” “Be proactive from the onset.”
Be especially kind to your nurses. Accept all prayers, well wishes, and support with an open heart and gratitude. From symptoms to diagnosis, side effects, treatment options, and protocol, sites like Google are very informative.
This article is the last in the series about my chemo treatments for cancer and I hope that readers found them to be informative. I appreciate Editor Marg Jackson’s willingness to support these articles and the many readers who have appreciated them and/or added me to their respective prayer lists.
Escalon’s annual “Relay For Life” will be conducted during May, in conjunction with the communities of Oakdale, Riverbank and Waterford, the combined Relay scheduled at Oakdale High School, and I hope everyone will support that activity.
(Editor’s note: This is the final in a series of special articles submitted by Jerry Emery, a longtime resident of Escalon and educator, sharing his journey through cancer treatment. He at one time served as principal of El Portal Middle School, as well as being involved with a number of community service based organizations.)