First Round of Chemotherapy

I started my first round of chemotherapy today! I expect to feel pretty lousy for the first few days after each infusion (the next one being 3 weeks from now), but I’m very happy that treatment has begun.

The chemotherapy regimen I am undergoing is called CHOP, an acronym for the combination of drugs used: The C (cyclophosphamide) is an alkylating antineoplastic agent which damages DNA by promoting the formation of interstrand and intrastrand crosslinkages leading to cell death. The H (hydroxydaunorubicin, or doxorubicin) is another DNA damaging drug which inserts itself between DNA bases and prevents the progression of topoisomerase II (which relaxes super-coils of DNA so it can be read or replicated), leading to cell death. The O (Oncovin, or Vincristine) binds to tubulin (the primary molecule comprising the cytoskeleton). During metaphase (when all the chromosomes are lined up and about to separate) the separation of chromosomes into two daughter cells is prevented, and an apoptotic pathway is activated killing the cell. Finally, P (prednisone) is a glucocorticoid immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drug commonly used alongside antineoplastic agents to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions and to alleviate some of their side effects. Although these drugs seem like blunt instruments (broad spectrum DNA and cytoskeleton-damaging chemicals), rapidly growing cells (such as the tumors being targeted by this chemotherapy) are preferentially targeted for damage, resulting in the efficacy of this treatment. Other fast-growing cell types are damaged as the result of these drugs, one of which live within hair follicles. As such I expect to begin losing my hair at some point over the next couple of weeks.

Port Placed Today

I got my port placed today!port is a medical appliance surgically implanted beneath the skin which is attached to a a tube which goes into a large blood vessel (a central venous catheter, CVC). Instead of poking my arms to draw blood, deliver chemotherapy medication, or inject IV contrast dye during medical imaging, my port can be accessed instead.

Update (2018-12-13): A chest X-ray taken today displays my port quite nicely! The white objects under my opposite arm are staple-like sutures used during my last surgical biopsy.

Update (2018-12-14): A CT taken today shows my port nicely too! This CT series was re-sliced, maximum projected, then windowed to maximize bone visibility and hide soft tissue. The port is visible on the left side of the image, but the contrast dye used during the CT is also visible coming through an IV line. If you look closely you can see where the IV line turns into a needle, enters my arm, fills the veins, and clears once it enters my heart.

 

PET CT Reveals Progression

In July 2018, after 6 years of careful observation while my disease rested in an indolent state, the lymphoma kicked into gear and started growing rapidly. I experienced an abnormal increase in generalized lymphadenopathy (beyond the level I had come to get used to as normal), and a CT revealed thoracic and axial lymph nodes which were significantly larger than typical. A PET CT revealed high metabolic activity in many chains of lymph nodes, indicating the disease had shifted in its behavior from indolent to aggressive.

On one hand it’s disappointing that the disease began progressing. On the other, it’s now in a state where it is more likely to respond to treatment. In August 2018 the decision was made to begin interventional treatment: chemotherapy to attack the actively-growing lymphoma, followed by an autologous stem cell transplant (treatment which includes very high doses of chemotherapy, total-body radiation, and a type of bone marrow transplant where I am both the donor and recipient) which may help prevent its recurrence in the future.