Chemotherapy Update (A List of Eight)

  1. After all my life absorbing the cultural lore surrounding chemotherapy, I have been surprised this week--the first of four--that Sunitinib worked so quickly to restore, however incrementally, my strength & lift my fatigue.
  2. The lore says you will be sick as a dog, but as far as I can tell the nausea I was experiencing as I began chemo was a side effect of Percocet taken for pain. Since switching to mostly morphine sulfate with only occasional Percocet for pain, I haven't had any nausea. Morphine is not quite as effective as Percocet, but the trade-off is worth messing around with the morphine to get the dosage right.
  3. My hair has not fallen out. Yet.
  4. Sunitinib comes with an extensive kit that includes a little satchel complete with fancy medication box with compartments for each day of the week, those subdivided into times of day. I may use the pill box, but want nothing to do with the satchel, what with its brand-identification implications.
  5. Sunitinib costs approximately $466 / capsule.
  6. The satchel also contains several expensively printed pamphlets intended, near as I can tell, to usher one into the arcana of the "cancer community." I want nothing to do with that community. Such a community is a granfaloon, to borrow Kurt Vonnegut's neologism: "A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat's Cradle), is defined as a "false karass." That is, a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless."[1. Source: Wikipedia.]
  7. Flinch reaction: As my pain has receded, I still find myself flinching when making certain motions, despite the fact that the flinch itself is more painful (now) than the gesture or movement.
  8. Among all the brochures there is one sober one that explains "Sunitinib is not a cure" & that "different patients respond differently to this drug." My oncologist had already explained this to me while making it clear that there is no cure for my cancer when it has developed past a certain point. "No cure, only management," or, in blues language, "Doctor say it kill me, but he don't say when."[2. "Cocaine Blues."]

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.