There is a chemo called Doxorubicin. When Doxorubicin is brought into a hospital room, it arrives covered in a dark, photosensitive bag because the light of day can harm it. When Doxorubicin is introduced to the human body in certain doses and suspensions, it requires a “rescue drug” to be given simultaneously to protect the heart.
Doxorubicin makes parents pray that their children escape with only small damages like hair loss, mouth sores, and nausea.
Because of Doxorubicin, cancer patients have heart tests at least once a year for the rest of their lives.
Its mixture of ruby hue and devastation earn Doxorubicin the fearful title “The Red Devil.”
Do I make it sound like it terrorizes villages on dark nights? It might as well. In fact, it is powerful enough that during Chase’s radiation treatment, he couldn’t have this chemo because it, coupled with radiation, would have been too much for his body.
For Chase, whose heart is, at the moment, in good condition, Doxorubicin has a common, but amazing (to us) effect. He gets very neutropenic (which means that the chemo eats his white cells down to a small and critical number) and it always happens, on a bankable level, on the tenth day after his last chemo cycle started. This is, in fact, so predictable that Bob and I can actually see the fevers coming on, pack our bags and be ready to call his doctors and drive to the hospital, all before we clock the first temperature spike… and it has been this way on every Doxorubicin cycle since August 16th, 2012.
The wretched routine becomes oddly comforting in its familiarity… the night of day #9, he cries out and sleeps badly; the morning of day #10, he lays on the couch, weak and white and his temperature hovers… and then it spikes and we are in the ER by the early afternoon at the very latest. Every time.
Yet, as I should well know by now, the only thing predictable about Chase is that you can’t predict him.
Today is day #11.
As I write this, I’m tamping down the overwhelming urge to stalk him with a thermometer. He usually has fevers right now and I can’t help but feel that there’s a monster of a temp simmering right under the surface of his hairless little forehead just waiting to erupt at any moment and the slightest exertion is sure to turn him febrile and tachycardic.
(By the way, one of my many coping mechanisms is hiding behind medical words… hence, the talk of neutropenia and tachycardia)
As I thought about this all day today (and tried not to think about taking Chase’s temperature), I was struck by several things…
By how much a cancer parent hopes for the best and expects the worst…
By how oddly stressful the breaking of a routine is… even a terrible routine…
By how much I resent not knowing what is going to happen from moment to moment…
As wonderful as it is to be out of the hospital, days with “The Red Devil” and unpredictable days like today remind me once again to pray for grace and take this life… Moment by moment.
“The heart of man plans his way, but The Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9