Chapter 18

The guinea pig program

Finishing off five weeks of daily radiation, we had been in Hawaii for about 5 months now, it was early May, and it was time to go home. We advertised, my still little kitten, on the radio and had no problem finding a home for him. The people we delivered him to gave us tickets to see ‘Don Ho’, it was a wonderful way to finish off our trip to Hawaii. Not that I liked Don Ho especially, it was more like closing off a chapter, the knowledge I was going home. He was so completely Hawaii and it was just the perfect way to end the, experience.

The specialist we had been dealing with was sending us home with hope. There had been an aggressive chemotherapy program recently designed specifically for my type of cancer. As fate, or coincidence would have it, the program turned out to be from the St.Judes hospital.
The doctors handed me my file as we left the hospital in Hawaii for the last time. We went home out of the tropical heat to a late May snow in Victoria. Then over to the Vancouver cancer clinic, this time with an experimental chemotherapy program to try. I was designated a file number, and sent downstairs to the office of this new prominent specialist. It was a hole in the ground. Papers everywhere, file cabinets cluttered every bit of wall space floor to ceiling and again, no window. I was starting to wonder about this clinic when the doctor walked in. Compared to the offices in Hawaii, this was hell.

Our new Doctor seemed extremely competent and drew my trust immediately. He started by stating how surprised he was to see me, whether this meant, ‘still alive’, or submitting to traditional medical treatment. I explained to him that I’ve never been against traditional medical advice. I just didn’t like the options they had had for me a year earlier, and now, with this new chemotherapy program along with the fact that I was so much more knowledgeable given my experiences along the journey, I had confidence we could beat this together. This isn’t to say that I agreed with everything he said, it was more that I trusted his opinion, and felt comfortable questioning him, if I felt it was warranted.

He organised out of the original twelve chemotherapy drugs listed in the new regime, an intensive therapy program including high doses of four of the main drugs for my regiment. Three, to be injected intravenously, vincristine, methotrexate and Cyclophosphamide, every two weeks, and the one, methotrexate, to also be given intrathecally (in the spine) every twenty eight days, as well as hormonal therapy consisting of prednisone to be taken orally. Bone marrow taps to be checked every 3 months to keep an eye on the rate of cancer growth there. On top of this I was prescribed 10 mg. Of Valium as needed, which turned out to be every 3-4 hours while on the prednisone.