- Inserted a new CVC line and had 5 days Clofarabine/Ara-C chemotherapy. Side effects as usual – loss of appetite and vomiting.
- The medical team thought my bone marrow is unlikely to regenerate white blood cells (WBC) after chemotherapy and they planned to do a stem cell transplant if that happens. But the WBC counts increased which prompted for a bone marrow biopsy. The biopsy showed that the mutated bone marrow cells was reduced from 60% to 6% and no blast cells were found. Blood VNTR (variable number tandem repeats) test was done and it showed that majority of the blood cells were from donor’s. It was an “uncommon result” and they decided to put the stem cell transplant on hold. I was given more donor’s lymphocytes as we want to have a good GVL (graft versus leukaemia) reaction.
- While WBC counts climb steadily, haemoglobin and platelet levels were going the other direction. I had an entire week of transfusions, each day alternating between platelets and red blood cells.
- Last week, the blood and platelet counts were slightly more stabilized (but still dipping) and I got discharged.
This week, I’ll be back for more blood test and transfusion (if necessary).
The last low dose chemo, Azacitidine, only reduced the blasts for a couple of days. The baddies grew very fast and we have to move on to Plan B – stronger chemo using Clofarabine + cytarabine.
I was back in SGH on 5th July 2012 for salvage chemo. A new CVC line was inserted on 7th July, followed by chemo infusion. It was a blessing that the line insertion experience was fast and with very little discomfort. Credit to the surgeon and nurses.
Clofarabine is infused over 1hr, and 3hrs later, cytarabine is infused over 2hrs. Felt light nauseousness, loss of appetite, and some occasional headaches over the 5 days of chemo. Didn’t feel like doing anything and lying on bed doing nothing gave me more comfort.
I woke up this morning, and as I was giving thanks to a peaceful night of sleep, a thought came into my mind. For the past one year I’ve been fighting so hard to kill leukaemia. It suffered damages and so did I. We’re both strong and stubborn… and probably stupid too.
I told my marrows, it would just bring us more harm if we continue to fight on. I respect its strength and resilience and I admire even more of it’s ability to stay dormant, in peace and harmony with my body. We shared so many happy times together when we are not fighting one another. I don’t need to remove you totally to make myself ‘perfect’. Life is perfect and beautiful when we live in harmony, and I’m sure this is a win-win situation for us. So why not let’s live with each other in peace and harmony for good? XOXO, your best friend.
Good afternoon! I am feeling fresh after a good nap and a nice tea break. Decided to do a quick update about the recent salvage chemo treatment.
Admitted into SGH on 11 Jan 2012
Done a MUGA heart scan before the chemo
Chemo protocol: FLAG-ida (Fludarabine + Cytarabine + Idarubicin) given daily over five days, except for idarubicin which was given daily by bolus over three days.
Side effects experienced: Nausea, itchy rashes developed on thighs and back, hair loss, rapid drop and slow recovery of blood counts, virus and bacteria infection.
I was warned that FLAG-ida is a very strong chemotherapy compared to what I had received thus far. True enough, the nausea effect was really disturbing but fortunately it was only during those five days of chemo.
A skin biopsy was done for the rashes and it was found to be due to drug allergy reaction. The itch was unbearable at times but the medical team helped me to manage it well with Sarna lotion, moisturizer and atarax.
I was pretty upset that my total white blood cell counts made a steep decline two days before Chinese New Year. I was hoping to obtain a home leave to have a reunion dinner with my family at home. The risk of infection out there was too high for me to leave the hospital. But I managed to have home-cooked food, cooked freshly by mum, and delivered by my siblings. That was priceless, I gobbled up everything my mum put in the tingkat.
Peiling, Wei Yuan and Mei Ying accompanied me on the second day of CNY. We played monopoly deal and the small mahjong tiles Wei Yuan brought. After we finished the games, I ran a temperature and was down with fever for two days. I had the worst chill ever, whole body trembling hard uncontrollably. The nurses had to switched off the air-con and cover me with four thick blankets. The culprit was later found with a simple throat swab – it was a common virus that caused running nose and cough. Thanks to Ribavirin (anti-viral drug) and procodin (suppressed my cough), I was well again!
Last Thursday (2-Feb), I spiked a fever again. This time the culprit is Escherichia coli. As of now, I am still on antibiotics (Cefepime).
Today, Dr Yiu said I would have to stay for at least another 9 – 10 days to complete the entire course of antibiotics. My white blood cells finally rose above the 0.2 mark to 0.47! Happily counting down to going home soon!
According to the Singapore Cancer Society, cancer is the number one killer in Singapore! 1 in 4 Singaporeans dies of cancer. Every day, 12 people die from cancer and 28 people are diagnosed with cancer.
There are many things you can do to prevent cancer from happening to you:
Quit smoking | Eat lesser red meat | Exercise regularly | Healthy lifestyle | Apply sun screen | Go organic | Regular health screening | Fight pollution | Wear PPEs | Smile & stay happy | Fight obesity | Reduce alcohol intake | Raise cancer awareness
Treatment may have many undesirable side effects. For me, the salvage chemo treatment has caused patchy hair loss, a second time for me. The following illustrates why prevention is better than cure!
After showering, I looked like an old man!
My fingers run through my hair and I collected this!
I made a mess on my head.
I decided to tidy things up a bit, with mum’s help.
Now this is what I call neat and tidy!
Don’t wish to be bald like this because of chemotherapy treatments? Get something done today!
4 February 2012 World Cancer Day – Stand Up and Do Something
“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.”
- Benjamin Mee, We Bought A Zoo (2011)
The BMA done yesterday showed a 40% blast cells in the bone marrow. Dr Ho called me in the morning, suggesting a need for a new chemotherapy immediately. He asked for my preference, to return to SGH today or tomorrow. I thought the earlier the better and replied “I’m fine with either days”, which I later regretted.
After telling mum about the news, she asked if I could return tomorrow instead. She wanted all of us to have a dinner together tonight. I thought at most I would do a late check-in after dinner if they have a bed for me today. In my heart, I was hoping mad that both Ward 72 and 77 were fully occupied. I was unprepared and not expecting to be hospitalized this week.
The call came anyway. I negotiated for a late check-in but SSN Clarice reminded me of my condition that needed to be treated ASAP. She said I should be there latest by 4pm so that the ward doctors are still around to do the necessary admin work. I gave in reluctantly. I was reminded of what Benjamin Mee said in the movie “We Bought A Zoo”. If only I took the 20 seconds of courage to call back and state my preference to return tomorrow, I would have the chance to dine with my family tonight. Boo.
This will be yet another month away from home. And for the first time in my life, I will miss a Chinese New Year reunion dinner with my family.
I was unsure how the strong chemo will change me physically. So after I had packed up, I took a couple of pictures with mum, brother and niece.
Before I left, my brother told me to get well soon and get back home soon. I nodded and walked on, feeling tears whelming up in my eyes.