The Obligatory Cancer Post*

*Alternate Titles For This Post:

I Had To Add A New Category For This

My New Cancer-y Blog

Oh For Fuck's Sake

No One Cares About Your Cancer




I should be packing my apartment; my lease is up at the end of the month and time is ticking. But, I need to write one of the ten (and counting) blog posts that keeps popping up in my head and gets written as I pack or drive or take the el or sit at work or do just about anything and then I think, "Oh, I'm not ready to share this with the world," or "Is this the blog post you want to start with," or  "Once you start, you're just going to keep talking about this and UGH," or "REALLY? What a fucking cliche."

But it's here. Someone VERY VERY VERY close to me has cancer. (At least it's not me, right?) So, you're going to be hearing about it. (When she manages to blog, does this lady EVER talk about manic-depression?) Starting now. (I'm already starting to regret this blog post.)

As the Dark Knight Joker would say .... and here ... we ... go ...

My father's kidneys started to fail him at a young age -- mid to late 20s. And he received a kidney transplant the first day of 1985. We're coming up on 30 years here. That's pretty miraculous in and of itself. However, the body does not take well to foreign bodies being placed inside of it. In order for the body to accept and use someone else's kidney, you have to suppress the body's own immune system so it doesn't attack and kill it¹.

My dad was on two medications. One, prednisone, is a corticosteroid. However, you can't take it in large enough doses to do the job alone. If you've paid enough attention in the last 30 years to sports, you'll know that long-term use of steroids is TERRIBLE for you, and my dad has suffered many effects from steroid use that do not include the amazing ability to lift large amounts of weight and hit the long ball.

The other drug -- his main rejection drug -- is azathioprine (Imuran). The first part of the Wiki entry immediately references being an immunosuppressant for organ transplantation. So, honestly, I guess there's nothing I can say -- it's what he had to take. And as the one doctor (who finally admitted to the thing I'm going to reference next) said -- he had a choice: take the drug and the risks and have the kidney for 30 years or being on dialysis and die of heart failure in 10.

Risk and benefit. Risk and benefit. Risk and benefit.

However, I guess I was just shocked when I went to research a link between Imuran and AML -- acute myeloid leukemia (the kind of cancer my dad has) -- and I found the follow up paragraph in Wikipedia:

The main adverse effect of azathioprine is bone marrow suppression, which can be life-threatening, especially in people with a genetic deficiency of the enzyme thiopurine S-methyltransferase.[5] It is also listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans).[6]

Umm .... excuse me, WHAT? I didn't have to go searching for abstracts in some medical journal and try to decipher some research of 20 pages. It was in Wikipedia. In the second paragraph. The SHIT CAUSES CANCER. LIKE DUH.

I was fucking pissed. How was this never mentioned? Especially since there was a time about a decade or so ago when my dad was offered the opportunity to get off the drug and switch to different one/s and he declined, figuring "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" I can't say I disagree with his logic at all, but if I had known the shit was a cancer maker, maybe I would have thought differently, you know? Maybe he still would have made the same decision, but ... what the fuck? (Also, that footnote? Number 6 in Wiki? It's from NINETEEN-EIGHTY-SEVEN..........)

The other thing that was infuriating me was that everyone (except the one guy who was just blunt about it) kept saying "it's possible that the medicine caused the cancer ..." and I'm like ... right. And it's possible that the alcohol you drank last night gave you those hangover symptoms. Are you shitting me?

Further evaluation shows that the AML was pretty recent ... so, it seems (if they're telling the truth) that the blasts² in his bone marrow wouldn't (didn't) have shown up on blood work until this recent toe infection he went to the hospital for this past week. However, it seems like the AML came from something called MDS -- myelodysplastic syndrome. That's what I think the Imuran gave him and what turned into the AML.

So, much like a recovery lead -- that's what it was like, and what happened. What it's like now? Well, there are two options for treatment with AML (besides doing nothing). High intensity and intermediate intensity.


¹In this recent parade of doctors and specialists, I asked -- you know, even after having a kidney for 30 years, does the body really never go, "You know, we've had you around for 30 years, we'll accept you as one of our own now." The doctor said, only when it's a perfect match from a sibling -- 1 in 1,000 times will that happen. Otherwise, even if you've been on meds 25 years -- if you go off them, within months, the kidney will die. I guess that's your mental health related content -- sounds like friends I've known who have been on meds for years, felt good, gone off and been in trouble within the year. Or people in recovery who stop taking their "medicine" and end up relapsing (and sometimes dying) as well.

I started this post on MAY 19th. Yep. May 19th. So much has happened since then. My dad is still living in the hospital. He's started and finished chemo. He went with intermediate intensity -- I didn't even get to finish the post and tell you why or where or when we picked this option over that option. I didn't even finish the ² where I tell you about blasts and AML and what's wrong with him. We're awaiting his first bone marrow since he found out he has leukemia. Instead, I've been paralyzed, not even being able to write the first post I started. I am giving you this, because I need to write more posts, and I need to give you a baseline -- even though I can't finish the baseline I started.

So, the TL;DR is this. My dad has cancer. He got it from the medicine that has been keeping his kidney alive. Life's a bitch.


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