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Cytarabine Toxicity

Posted Feb 21 2009 11:37pm
2/9/07 Day 30

Devotees of this blog will note that I promised more updates yesterday and then failed to post them. The reason is that Ann has officially run afoul of her first major complication to her chemo treatment. The culprit is Cytarabine and was one of the two drugs used in the last round of chemo.

The side affect Ann is going through is called Cytarabine Toxicity and as you can see from the picture it has done a number on her eyes. It started after I finished yesterday's blog post. Ann started complaining of red eyes and trouble with lots and lots of tears. It only got worse from there on.

Ann thought after consultation with her Nurse that the cause of the problem was the steroid drops that she was taking. Wrong! Lesson learned: Ask your Doctor before you stop taking any medications while undergoing chemo. As it turns out the steroids were to prevent the very situation that was now occurring.

When we got in to see her Doctor yesterday it took all of thirty seconds for her Doctor to notice the problem and send Ann directly to the Opthamologist. By the time we actually got in to see the Opthamologist, due to a long wait, Ann's eyes had completely swollen and tears where streaming out of them continuously.

Ann is particularly reactive to Cytarabine, more reactive than the staff at MDA has seen in years. So from yesterday at lunch time Ann has had her eyes swollen shut and is functionally blind. The Opthamologist says that this will last for days or maybe longer than a month.

Of course throughout all this Ann still had to meet her appointments yesterday. One of which included a lumbar puncture...again. She did he a hefty dose of Adavan which helped with the eye pain, but also knocked her out cold. The PAs doing the LP did tell me that the last LP she had in the hospital turned out negative! Hooray!

We did have Sloppy Joe night but the enjoyment of it was somewhat diminished as Sloppy Joes are not the selected food of choice for the blind. However Ann said she really enjoyed the food though and I was really happy to see her eat with something closer to her old appetite.

That wraps up the events of yesterday and brings us to today's events.

This morning Ann woke me up after having trapped herself in the corner. Not being able to see she had missed the door to the bathroom and got stuck in the corner of the bedroom. Her eyes had continued to swell overn night (even with a cold compress on them) and she was incapable of opening her eyes at all.

After seeing this we when back to MDA to have Ann's eyes evaluated again. The new Opthamologist discovered a scratch on Ann's cornea of her left eye(2mm x 1mm) and changed type of drops that we were putting in her eyes again. This time he added a antibacterial drop to the steroid and cream we were prescribed yesterday. I have to pry Ann's eyes apart with both hands to get enough room to put any of these in. To boot I have to do it in a lit room so I don't bump her eye with the applicator and I can't even begin to tell you how much pain this puts Ann in.

The final event of the day involves me and not Ann. Yesterday I noticed a sore spot inside of my neck, like a pulled muscle near my adams apple. In fact I took it for a muscle pain because of having to twist my head to put my back pack (holding Ann's supplies and records) throughout the day. Well today it got on my nerves so much that I decided to have it checked out on the off chance it was a infection.

We hear so many stories from the other leukemia patients here about their problems with small infections that quickly got out of hand that I am completely paranoid. I think I wash my hands 30 or 40 times a day. So I found a clinic near the apartment and after explaining I was taking sole care of a chemo patient, I got in to see a Doctor right away.

She felt my throat and said I have a enlarged lymph node with some post nasal drip in the back of my throat. Of course when she said "enlarged lymph node" I had to suppress a twinge of panic. Ann's first symptom of leukemia was after all enlarged lymph nodes (although hers were not painful and she had more of them and much much larger). Of course I blurted this out to the Doctor...

She told me not to worry and completely understood. It's hard not to walk around all day every day in a place like MDA and see some of the things I have seen here with out being just a little bit paranoid of any symptom of even a simple illness. She diagnosed me with Lymphadenitis, took a swab for strep and gave me some giant antibiotics to take twice a day. I gobbled the pills right out of the bottle as soon as I got them from Wallgreens.

I hope I don't get sick. If I get sick I will not be able to be around Ann or she will get very very sick. Plus she can't see right now and can't even get around the apartment on her own.

Jesus, please don't let me get sick right now.

Update 1

Ann says "Being blind sucks! One the up side I feel like my old self and I'm not tired. Expect for the blindness I'd feel normal."

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