Going Through Chemotherapy: Wonder Where the AFIB Went?


Ed completes the last two of four chemo cycles without any AFIB episodes.

Ed and Pattie were in the waiting area of the Tunnel Cancer Center when Linda, the technician from the lab, called Ed back to take a blood sample.

Ed had made it through the third and fourth scheduled chemo cycles without going into AFIB as he had after the first two cycles.

Ed had lost 10 more pounds for a total loss of 75 pounds over the last 2 1/2 years and his hair is completely gray — almost white. Not a trace of black hair could be found. Ed counted the weight losses a blessing of leukemia since his Type II diabetes was under complete control. Ed had not taken metformin for almost three years and his A1/C remained well below 6.0.

It was almost two weeks since Ed completed the four scheduled chemo cycles and just a few days after he had a CT scan (they still don’t have chocolate barium smoothies). When the analysis of the blood sample was complete, they would be seeing Dr. Asif, the oncologist, for a follow up visit. Ed and Pattie would know shortly because Dr. Asif always asked for a copy of the results.

As they were waiting, Ed was thinking of what he had endured over the past four months. Was he now in remission? Will the AFIB return unexpectedly? Has the size of the lymph nodes been reduced? Was he now out of danger of damage to his liver? How long would remission last this time? Did the medication changes by his cardiologist prevent further episodes of AFIB? Will his hair return to its natural color? How much longer will the nausea continue? How soon will he be able to have heart surgery?

Ed’s recovery period from a chemo cycle was longer than it had ever been. It took almost four weeks before he felt better and taste returned to his mouth along with an improved appetite — although he still could not enjoy Pattie’s luscious chicken caesar salad as he had before.

Linda came out with the results of Ed’s blood test and almost simultaneously the nurse, Erica, came to take Ed and Pattie back to the doctor’s examination room. As they walked down the long corridor, Ed could see the windows of the wig shop looming before him and he could see inside. His reaction to seeing those wigs again and how his compassion for those patients and survivors who used those wigs would almost overcome him. Ed turned his face away and picked up his pace until they were past the wig shop.

Outside the exam room, they paused as Erica measured Ed’s weight. Then, stepping into the exam room, Erica took Ed’s blood pressure and blood oxygen level. Now, Erica began the routine of 20 questions: nausea, yes; diarrhea, no; constipation, yes; loss of appetite, yes; bad taste in mouth, yes; elevated body temperature, no; mouth sores, no; numbness or tingling in your hands or arms, no; anything bothering you we have not discussed; no. Alright, Dr. Asif will be in very shortly.

Soon, Dr. Asif appeared and was very cheerful as he announced, “You have remission.” Oh, what a relief to Ed and Pattie. Dr. Asif then said, “Lay on the table and let me check your lymph nodes,” as he felt Ed’s abdomen and arm pits. “Your CT scan shows your lymph nodes are normal, your spleen is back to normal and there is no more pressure on your liver. Now sit up and let me check your neck.” As Ed sat up and Dr. Asif reached for the sides of Ed’s neck, a smile creeped across Ed’s face and was reflected by a smile from Dr. Asif.

“It is gone, finally after more than 3 1/2 years, it is completely gone,” Ed exclaimed. The doctor who could not find the lump on Ed’s neck just below his right ear asserted, “Yes, and it may be gone forever.”

After a moment of rejoicing, Dr. Asif spoke, “I want to schedule you for two more chemo sessions. If we do this, I believe we can put it down for a much longer period of time and if it comes back again we may be able to treat it orally and not by infusion.”

The thought of more chemo took the edge off the celebratory atmosphere in the exam room. Ed looked at Pattie as she looked back sternly and firmly and said “do it.”

Ed somewhat reluctantly agreed for he knew, in his heart, this was best all-around for them both. As Ed nodded, Dr. Asif said, “Fine. I will schedule the next one for next week and the last one for four weeks later.” Even though he agreed with this aggressive approach, Ed did not look forward to waiting two more months to feel like his old self again.

The things that would happen to Ed over the next six months were not foreseeable.

All cancer patients and survivors have hope.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7(NKJV)

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