After Amber’s surgery, we awaited the results of the lab tests on her tumor. We were thrilled to find out that her cancer was Stage I with a favorable histology. This meant that she would have chemotherapy but it would only be seven treatments with each one being every three weeks. We were also thrilled to find out that they would allow us to get treatments in Alexandria, Louisiana, meaning we could stay home. She would have every other treatment at St. Jude with the others being at Freedman Clinic in Alexandria.
Amber’s chemotherapy was a combination of two chemotherapy drugs. Dactinomycin and Vincristine would be the two drugs that she would receive. They would both be given at the same time with a push. A push meant that she would not have an IV for administration, she would have an injection from a syringe into her line. This injection would be through a very slow push of the syringe to administer the drugs. The administration of her chemo only lasted a few minutes.
The first treatment of chemo was given to Amber on November 23, 1994. This was six days after her surgery and also the day we were allowed to go home from St. Jude. Her treatment was the last thing we did at the hospital that day. I will never forget that trip home. We stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, to eat supper at Outback Steakhouse. Amber ate rice pilaf and loved it. As we were turning onto our road from our long trip home, Amber threw up from the chemo for the first time….and you guessed it, it was rice pilaf.
We learned quickly how long we had after treatment before she would begin to throw up. With each chemo treatment, the throwing up would get worse. When we were at St. Jude for her fifth chemo treatment, we found out that there was a drug they could give her to help with the after chemo nausea. It was wonderful but we sure wished we would have had it for the first four treatments. This drug was given through an IV drip into her line. It took 30 minutes to get but it was worth every minute. The throwing up was gone.
Chemo can have many side effects besides the nausea and throwing up. The types that Amber took also cause significant joint pain. She would cry with the pain and all we could do was to try to comfort her. There was no way to explain to her as to why she was hurting. She was only 15 months old when she began treatments and about 19 months old when they ended. Clumsiness was another side effect of her drugs. Amber was clumsy to begin with but with the chemo it was much worse. She had bumps and bruises all over from falling and bumping into things. Sometimes I think that clumsiness never went away.
The most common side effect of chemo is the loss of hair. Amber never lost her hair at all. In fact, during the chemo period her hair actually grew a little. The odd thing was that about two months after the end of her chemo, all of her hair broke off. It looked like she had gotten a hair cut but she hadn’t. It just broke off in perfect layers all over her head. We asked about it on one of our trips to St. Jude but they had never heard of that happening before.
All in all, her treatment protocol was as good as we could have had. Even though we had to deal with chemo we were very fortunate that it was not worse. We were also fortunate that we were able to stay home for most all of her treatments. I am just thankful that she doesn’t remember the chemotherapy.
This picture was taken the day after her first chemo treatment and exactly one week after her surgery. It was Thanksgiving Day and we had just made it home from Memphis late the night before.
This one was taken after her second chemo treatment. It was her Christmas picture that year. You can tell the difference from the chemo in this one because she had gotten very pale compared to her normal coloring.