Nearly Killing to Save

Steve McKinionUncategorized6 Comments

Tomorrow is hospital day for Harrison. We’ll be taking him in the morning. No sedation, so we don’t have to leave at 6:00 AM. They will check his counts and give him a quick splash of Vincristine. Accessing, prepping, etc, takes longer than the actual administration of chemo.

Because of so much bruising, there is little doubt his numbers have plummeted. If they are too low he will need a transfusion, which takes ALL DAY. Additionally, if his white cell count is too low they will cut his chemo back.

This may seem frightening, and to may parents we’ve heard from it is. However, it is important to remember that cancer treatment isn’t like taking medicine for an illness. Basically, the oncologist gives drugs that kill as many blood cells as possible, hoping to get the bad with the good. As long as the cells are being killed, the amount of chemo is irrelevant.

To put it another way, if you or I contracted strep, the doc would give us an antibiotic that would kill the strep bacterium. There is no antibiotic for cancer.

Strep is a “something,” a bacterium that is something foreign to the host. Cancer is a corrupted “you,” or, in this instance, a corrupted “Harrison.” Each cancer cell has his DNA, but it is corrupted. Doctors cannot just give a drug that attacks the cancer cells.

So they give drugs that attack Harrison.

They kill him.

Or at least parts of him. Those parts are blood cells. They all are under attack from the chemo. But he doctors try to make sure some blood cells remain. When they don’t, he needs a transfusion to survive. That explains the several dozen transfusions he has had to this point.

But as the doctors take him to the brink of death, some of the cells that die are the corrupted cells, the leukemia. The reason his treatment is over three years long is so eventually, every cell produced by the body will eventually be killed off, and replaced by new, good cells.

Right now Harrison takes three 6-MP pills, three Gleevec pills, and nine and a half Methotrexate pills, in addition to the monthly steroids and Vincristine. If, as it appears, that is “too much” medicine to leave him with enough blood cells to survive without transfusions, Dr. Weston will decrease the dosage. If, on the other hand, Harrison’s blood counts are too high, he would increase the dosage. Again, unlike medicine for an infection, cancer treatment attacks the patient, hoping to save him or her from the cancer without killing him in the process.

Barbaric, isn’t it?

Thanks for your prayers for Harrison.

6 Comments on “Nearly Killing to Save”

  1. Wow…that is crazy. Thanks for explaining. I have become familiar with some of the terms you use and the medicine, but it makes sense now…or actually doesn’t considering how toxic the treatment it! Hope Harrison liked the poem and trophy, he was so quiet! Guess between being so tired and working so hard, he was a man of few words. šŸ™‚ I was so glad to meet you all and to watch him play. I hope to come again soon.

    Praying for tomorrow to go well.


  2. Steve, praying for Harrison and your family through all this. Harrison is so brave. He is amazing. You inspire and teach so many of us who read your posts and blogs. Thank you and Gos bless you. Good luck tomorrow.

  3. Hey!
    I work at UNC Hospitals as a CT technologist and have heard all about you and your son through young pros at RCCC. I would love to reach out to you and your family in any way possible. I would live to meet y’all.
    Michelle Chait

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