Contrary to popular belief, not all cancers are terminal. Hodkin’s Lymphoma is one of the more curable cancers. Treatment for Hodkin’s is based on the level of infection, and the patient’s general health, age, and such. There are many medications that may ease the side effects of chemotherapy. The primary goal of oncologists, in most Hodkin’s cases, is to cure the patient.
There are four stages of Hodkin’s Lymphoma, with two levels per stage. The stages are based on what and how many regions and/or organs are infected with the cancer. The levels are determined by the symptoms. The more advanced the cancer is, the more treatment will be needed to cure it.
The standard treatment to begin with is six to eight rounds of chemotherapy. I was at a stage 3B (meaning I had cancer in areas on both sides of my diaphragm and suffered from fevers, night sweats, and fatigue) when I was diagnosed, and so I was started on six rounds of chemotherapy. This meant I received chemo every other week for a total of 12 weeks. I was given several medication to ease the side effects. Kytril, Compazene, and Zofran were to offset the nausea, Ativan for stress and nausea, and Oxycodone for pain. At four weeks, I got a PT Scan (a more effective version of a CT Scan) to see how much of the cancer remained, and it was determined that I should go through a total of eight rounds of chemo, instead of the original six. Another PT Scan revealed that I was in remission. I have to continue going to get scans every three to four months for the next five years before I will be considered cured.
Chemotherapy can be given in one of a few different ways. The more popular ways are intravenously and through a contraption called a portcath. The port I had was inserted under my skin a couple inches down from my right collarbone. It was round, about a half inch in diameter, and had a long, thin tube. The round part had a soft center. To administer treatment, a smaller needle was pushed through the center, and the medicines went through the tube and into my heart. The newer ports can even withstand the pressure of CT contrast.
When I went through treatment, I received several antibiotics, steroids, and anti-nausea medicines before each session. These medicines helped prevent illness due to the chemo drugs’ lowering the amount of white blood cells in my system. They also made me drowsy, so I would normally nap during my treatments. After my sessions, I was still capable of performing small household chores, and even making dinner and doing laundry, but everyone responds differently.
The day after treatment, I would receive a shot called Neulasta. This would boost my white blood cell count by causing my bone marrow to work overtime. The downsides of medicines, such as this, are that the bone marrow working harder causes pain, and the shot itself is given in the back of the arm, and is kind of painful. This is what the Oxycodone was given to me for. I would use the pain medicine and my anti-nausea medicine for about four to five days after treatment before feeling semi-normal again.
All of these medicines make it possible for Hodgkin’s patients to become survivors. Every patient’s experience is different and unique. Some people lose their hair, some don’t, and some people are miserable and can’t work, while others are fine and can live their lives no differently than before they were diagnosed. In some cases, radiation therapy is needed after chemotherapy, but I was lucky enough to be in remission after eight rounds of chemo. I just got my port out today, as a matter of fact. It just goes to show that cancer patients should never lose faith, because new advances are mad every day, to not only give them more comfortable lives, and longer lives, but also normal lives, and it makes all the difference.