Once George received his official diagnosis, there was a flurry of activity. Dr. Behrens wanted to start treatment immediately and so did we! The PICC line team came in and inserted the PICC line into George’s arm where he would receive his chemotherapy regiment. This first round of chemotherapy was called the induction phase. Dr. Behrens said, the purpose was to “Napalm” all of George’s blood cells and take a scorched earth approach to his bone marrow. The goal is to eradicate all the cancer and get him into remission. His chemo regiment was called FLAG -Ida. It is a combination chemotherapy regiment made up of fludabarine, high dose cytarabine, idarubicin, and granulocyte colony stimulating factor, Whew! Basically, it would be 5 days of the FLAG and then 3 days of the idarubicin.
We were told George would be in the hospital for about a month. He needed to be closely monitored while his blood cell count reached its lowest point and bottomed out (the nadir) because he could develop an infection and it would need to be treated immediately. After the induction phase was over and his blood cell count returned, he would undergo a second bone marrow biopsy to see if the cancer was gone and he was in remission.
We are both thankful that George’s place of employment was so understanding and supportive during all this. Since he was already working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he wanted to continue working. This way he wouldn’t burn up all his sick leave (as we don’t know what the future holds) and he can keep some sense of normalcy during his days in the hospital and keep his mind occupied. I brought his work laptop to the hospital and we set up a pretty decent work station for him!
George handled the chemo very well. He had one night of nausea, but rang for the nurse and she hooked him up with some anti-nausea medication that worked well and he didn’t suffer from nausea again. The chemo did sap him of energy and he needed blood and platelet transfusions every now and then.
Since George was dealing with a blood cancer, blood was drawn pretty often to see where his counts were during the chemo. It was always a challenge for the nurses to find a vein and get the job done. Quite a few times, it became a group effort. Also, later in his treatment, George developed C Diff from all the antibiotics he was taking. The nurses and doctors had to wear blue gowns when they entered the room for a while.