Friday, January 8, 2010

Gleevec, I'd like you to meet your new friend.....

What a day! Wake up was at 6:00 am, which is always tough- because I am by no means a morning person. In addition to a full day of work I had to complete the last remaining test prior to starting the Interferon- an ECG (electrocardio gram). This test is simply a precautionary measure to make sure your heart is functioning normally. The ECG was completed by 9am and the results were immediately faxed over to the American hospital. Shortly after, I went to work- even though I was physically at the office, my mind was focused on what would be in store for the upcoming evening.

At around 10:00 AM the American hospital contacted me and gave me the green light- ECG and recent blood results had been reviewed- I was now fully licensed to take Interferon. First things first though, I didn't have the drugs on me and secondly I didn't know how to administer a Sub-Q injection- just details, right? I left the office at 5pm, raced over to the Cancer pharmacist who had the drugs ready for me (2 prepared syringes securely fastened to an ice pack). Zipped over to the local clinic and met up with a very nice nurse who taught me the in's and out's of injecting . We went through the procedure a few times: thoroughly wash hands, disinfect injection site with alcohol swab, gently insert needle under skin- pull back syringe to look for blood? Push- Inject, properly dispose used syringe.

Within a few seconds the deed was done! I've been waiting for this Pegylated Interferon injection for over a year and a half! I felt normal for the first hour or 2, then at around 8:30pm I started to feel the expected side effects.....slight headache, shivers and body aches- also, I've been battling a mild sinus infection for a better part of the week so all symptoms were compounded. No pain, no gain- right? I'll have to take the injection (90 micrograms) every other week.

The shivers got pretty intense- teeth chattering and all. I buried myself under a pile of blankets (3 to be exact) and also had on 2 layers of relief! An experienced patient told me that this would happen, her advice- pop an extra strength Advil. I feel a lot better now, how cool is tribal knowledge? In all honesty I am happy to be shivering and aching- its a sign that the immune system is awake and fighting- potentially attacking quiescent and leukemic stem cells., cells that Gleevec can't reach........the very same cells that need to be abolished in order for us to be cured. These symptoms originally last for 2-3 days and then you begin to gradually feel normal- until the next dosage.

Do any other patients have pointers for dealing with the side effects of Interferon?

I'll be sleeping a lot easier tonight knowing I have the tag-team of Gleevec/Pegylated Interferon battling what's left of the CML in my body.


  1. I am really, really, really proud of you kid! Its been less then 24 hrs and I already see a huge difference in your attitude. BTW, who knew you had such good writing skills? ;)

  2. Pre-loaded syringes? Luxury! Never had them myself. Had to load my own. I recommend you take a Tylenol or Advil before the injection. A pre-emptive strike if you will. Ifn takes some getting used to. Likely more than 2 or 3 days but I hope that for you, it is only 2 or 3.
    You are off to a great start kid. As my first doc used to tell me: Keep on keepin'on.

  3. Hi Garfield - thanks for doing this for you and for the rest of your "buddies" looking for a cure. Hmmm, two years from now you'll be CML free and then hopefully the rest of us will be starting this regimen. Again, thanks for paving the way.

  4. Congratulations!

    I have quite a few years experience with IFN. Much like you, I am on a combo - Sprycel (Dasatinib) and IFN (non pegylated). I have been very stable at PCRU for over 10 months now.

    After close to ten years with this disease, it sure is nice to think about a future that might possibly include a "long term drug free sustainable remission". Not sure I could ever use the word cure.

    We need options that allow us to go after this insidious disease as aggressively as we choose.

    Here's to your combo journey and here's to mine!

    Love and Peace,

  5. By the way, as for dealing with IFN side effects, EXERCISE works wonders. Keep active and do some strenuous exercise on a regular basis. Sometimes I have to push a little harder to make it through the fatigue, but once I do, I am nicely rewarded with more energy....

    Stay away from crazy supplements. A little bit of Wheat Grass here and there is ok, but certianly not on a regular basis. It is never a good idea to take too many anti oxidants, our body uses the oxidants to kill the bad cells.

    Here's to a good rest of the week!