Three Cheers for Mustard Gas

Steve McKinionUncategorized1 Comment

The United States toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in part because of a fear of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), including mustard gas. Ironically, tomorrow Harrison will receive mustard gas as part of his cancer treatment. A nurse will set up a drip to slowly infuse him with cyclophosphamide (or cytoxan), which is derived from mustard gas. The ironies of cancer treatment never cease to amaze.

Harrison with Ryan Mathews and Grant Sasser from NC State baseball

Tomorrow starts the last part of Delayed Intensification, itself the final phase of frontline treatment. After this phase Harrison will begin Long Term Maintenance (LTM) for the final two and a half years of his leukemia treatment.

In addition to cytoxan, Harrison will begin cytarabine (also called Ara-C). He will remain accessed so Ginger and I can administer the Ara-C at home. Unfortunately, he’ll not be able to swim due to being accessed, so he’ll need to find something else to occupy his time.

He’ll also have methotexate administered in his spinal column in an attempt to prevent a relapse in the Central Nervous System (CNS), the most likely place for a relapse to occur. A child we’ve been following in California has just been given the unfortunate news that he has relapsed in the CNS only one month after completing his three and a half year treatment. Now he’ll face two more years of chemo plus radiation. There is no guarantee that any of this treatment will work in the end. But our children undergo these barbaric treatments because, for now, they are all we have.

With all due respect to Dr. King, I have my own dream. I dream of a day when no child has to face a day like Harrison will have tomorrow. When no child will lose her hair or lose his life because of childhood cancer. Of a day when no parent will fear cancer. Of a day when my kids can think about childhood cancer the way my parents thought about polio: a deadly disease from a prior generation.

As a Christian, I am confident that day will come. There is a day (Scripture calls it the eschaton, or the coming of the new heavens and new earth) when there will be no pain, suffering, disease. A day when cancer and death will be overcome forever. But until that day, as a Christian, I must pray to see the “kingdom come,” and God’s will “be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Living with an eye on eternity means resisting disease and death. It means praying for, and working with, those who discover and develop treatments for diseases such as childhood cancer.

Precisely because I believe “that day” is certain, I must dedicate myself to its work until then.

Tomorrow will be a long day for Harrison. He’ll arrive at the cancer clinic around 6:45 AM and probably not leave until 4:00 PM. The cytoxan has a tendency to cause bladder cancer, so his schedule will include two hours of fluids before administration of the chemo, then four hours afterwards to ensure the medicine is flushed from his bladder. We’re grateful for the drug, but hate the effects. Thank you for praying for him.

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