Chemo Failure (Part 2)

In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of this series!

It had been five years of chronic myeloid leukemia. I started one TKI oral chemotherapy, then a chemo change, and then dosage changes. I bent over backward to make this fit into my world and worked around it to the best of my ability. I fought hard for a quality of life.

In 2017, I celebrated a full molecular response! I reassured everyone I knew that the fight had been won. I was so grateful.

Three months later I experienced an aggressive relapse of the condition. I was a chemo failure.

My hat was in the ring

My hat was in the ring. Punchdrunk, Round 2 started with very little fanfare. Taking off the robe, only the doctor saw what was happening underneath. I barely whispered this to others.

I was angry! Angry for the people who had stood by me only to see it win. Angry for the healthcare team that gave me palliative options. Angry for the people who couldn’t watch anymore and averted their eyes. I leaned on new supports. I told myself to use my brain this time. To outsmart it somehow. To take the lead for a change, to tie a chain around its neck and drag it around. If leukemia was winning, leukemia was gonna be uncomfortable. No more Ms. Nice Guy.

It hit me with rashes, I countered with UV Therapy. It hit me with infections, I countered with oral and then IV antibiotics. It took my appetite, I changed my eating habits. It hit me with fatigue, I prioritize my energy. It was 2021 and I was told that my numbers were failing. I was given palliative options. I asked my oncologist for something unconventional.

Rolling with the punches

He offered me a chemo change followed by another dosage increase, “This is the dose for a 6’4”, 240 lb hockey player.” he said, warning me of its potency. I might be a 5’4” post-menopausal woman, but I grabbed the opportunity. I was more fat than fit, so I used that energy. I listened to my body in ways I never thought to do before. It had my attention. I had my strategy: dodge, weave and then give it a good wallop!

I rolled with the punches. I had taken as much as I could. I fought back with all I had.  I fought dirty this time. I was gonna burn it to the ground, chemo style! Only one of us would make it out. It wasn’t pretty. I’m not gonna lie. Comfort measures were obliterated. Specialists consulted. Three months later, my oncologist arranged a zoom meeting. My voice was so horse from vomiting that I could barely speak.

Round 2 goes to me

“Do you know what you’ve done?” he asked as I described each and every side effect I was experiencing. He addressed them all and then said, "Let me tell you what you have done. You’ve reached a full molecular response AGAIN! Congratulations!”

It had been five years since I started Round 2 and the last three months had been brutal. Beaten and battered, I retired to my corner of the ring and licked my wounds. I have been granted a full six-week chemo break. After that tests resume as a precaution. I’ve been told that a return to chemo is most likely. But I’m not one to listen to everything I’ve been told.

Today, Round 2 goes to me.

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