Friday, April 23, 2010

The Three Cs: Cancer, Chemo and Colds

Which of these doesn't belong in the group?

After being diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer and undergoing some of the harshest chemo known to man, I would think that I would now sneeze in the face of colds. Only wimps complain about colds, right?

Wrong. After catching yet another cold four weeks ago, I've been tired, sluggish and grumpy. An active day is followed by a day of recuperation. And it seems that I no sooner recover from a cold or flu that I've caught another bug.

During my visit at City of Hope yesterday, I told my doctor that I now catch colds and flus more easily (I've had two bouts of the flu and two colds since December, with sick days outnumbering well days 5 to 1), that I'm knocked down harder and that it takes me longer to get back up again. He believes that my immune system was battered by the post-stem-cell-transplant maintenance Rituxan that I took every quarter for nearly two years. We cut short the last infusion because he suspected that my immune system was taking a hit.

"It's one of the things that we doctors often debate," he said. The efficacy of Rituxan for keeping patients in remission is uncertain. But the pummelling of the immune system with some patients on Rituxan is certain.

If someone had come to me with these facts before the decision to go with the maintenance Rituxan, I doubt that my decision would be different. I figured only a fool would pass on a chance for a longer remission because of a fear of sniffles.

But as I reach for one more Kleenex and cover one more cough, I'm beginning to wonder.