Preparing for Chemotherapy

With the problem defined, effective solutions can be recommended. Dr Aloysius arranged for a family conference in the hospital to tell us about the treatment and other relevant information. Dad, my siblings and I sat in the conference room and listened to Dr Aloysius’s treatment plan. It was good that we came prepared with questions of concern about the upcoming treatment.

Some of the key things Dr Aloysius mentioned:

1. Survival rate for young Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) patient with treatment is quite high. However, it depends on the bone marrow biopsy results which will determine the type of AML and whether the prognosis is a ‘good risk’ or ‘bad risk’.

2. Chemotherapy should begin immediately. The prescribed chemotherapy drugs are Idarubicin and Cytarabine which would be administered 3 days and 7 days respectively. The need for bone marrow transplant would be determined after the bone marrow biopsy results are out.

3. Sperm banking should be considered if the patient plans to have a family in future. This is because the entire course of treatment may cause temporary or permanent fertility problem.

Questions and what concerned us:

1. My cancer is in which stage now?

- There are no stages to acute leukaemia. It happens rapidly and requires immediate treatment.

2. What are the side effects of chemotherapy?

- The common side effects include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss and mouth ulcers. These are temporary only.

3. What is each treatment cycle like?

- Each treatment requires patient to be hospitalized for about a month. A week of chemotherapy, followed by rest and recovery of blood counts which could take another 2-4 weeks. The recovery period usually shortens on subsequent chemotherapy cycles.

4. Are there any food that I shouldn’t be eating?

- Raw and under-cooked food (e.g. sashimi, sushi, salad), sliced and thin-skinned fruits (e.g. grapes, strawberries), unpasteurized dairies products (e.g. milk, cheese). Patient should consult the doctor before taking any traditional chinese medicine (TCM).

5. What is the estimated total cost for the treatment?

- About S$10,000 – S$30,000.

There were probably thousand of questions in my head at that time, but I decided to take things a step at a time. No point overloading myself with so much information or creating fears through wild thoughts and imaginations. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to eat a steak by cutting it up into bite size than to swallow the whole steak. On top of that, every leukaemia patient may have a different set of treatment and experience. I learned to always listen and read with a pinch of salt, and prepare myself physically and mentally for the upcoming challenges.

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