Interferon… Day 3

by Rachel Hill

Well, we do feel like we are getting a little bit of a routine going, and perhaps some progress on side effects.  This is a huge praise!  Yesterday Kevin received an anti-emetic (nausea) drug in his pre-interferon IV drip, and that made a HUGE difference with all of his side effects.  At first we didn’t think it did, since he started feeling aches and chills before he was even done with his IV drips.  But I got him home, and he began his usual routine of crawling into bed to try to sleep some of the effects off.  After getting him settled in, i headed downstairs (we’re getting good use out of those baby monitors… hehe!)  About an hour later, he came downstairs, and said he was feeling almost 90% and that he wanted to try going into work.  He went in and did great, making it through and then coming home for dinner.

He went into the office this morning and worked through until 1:00.  We had changed his scheduled time to the latest slot they have, which was 1:30.  We’re not sure if we’re going to regret it, because it’s currently 3:45, and he’s still not gotten the results of his labwork back, and thus hasn’t even begun the IV drip.  Not sure if we are going to run up against closing time or something.  I guess we’ll find out.  The idea was simply that he usually got sick right after treatment, so why not do it at the end of the day, and at least have a good day working in the morning.  The true test will come tomorrow to see how he feels the morning after an afternoon treatment.  It’s odd how much trial and error is involved in all of this, and we don’t know if others do it this way, or just kind of accept whatever is initially spelled out for them.  Everyone is different, but Kevin is such an analytical guy, that approaching this all methodically and trying to find the best combination of drugs, timing, etc. to be able to function the most has made sense for us.  It’s kind of the way we work with lot’s of things.  Nerdy, I know, but we both appreciate if we’ve figured out the most efficient way to go about something, especially if it can make life a little (or in this case a lot) better.

Up until a few days ago, I only had a passing understanding of what interferon alpha actually was and what immunotherapy actually did.  I read a new pamphlet that explained things pretty well, so I thought I’d share for those of you science nerds who were interested.  I am constantly floored at the miracles of modern medicine.  I mean, seriously, how do they figure this stuff out?!

Interferon Alpha is a treatment for some people who have malignant melanoma.

Your Immune System

Your immune response involved your body’s ability to distinguish cells that are native to the body from those that are foreign and are invading your body.  The immune response is like a “general alarm” that signals your body that something has entered or does not belong there.  Viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells can activate your immune response.

Your Body’s Lines of Defense

Your body recognizes foreign, diseased, or cancerous cells because of special marks on their surfaces.  These marks allow your body’s immune system to distinguish them from healthy cells in your body.

When this occurs, the immune response begins, sending fighter cells to destroy invading cells.  The cells of your body that have been stimulated will begin to produce interferons and other natural substances.  Although the precise mechanism of action is not fully understood, interferon is a protein that is part of the body’s immune system that “interferes” with the growth of certain cancer cells.

Interferon Alpha is a product that contains man-made protein called interferon

So there’s the info for all the nerds out there.  I know I found it interesting to better understand what’s basically happening, and it also explains why Kevin gets flu-like systems from the treatment.  His immune system is effectively forced to stay in “fight” mode.  It also explains why this treatment, difficult as it may be, is not as toxic or dangerous as many kinds of chemotherapy.  As best I understand, chemo is basically killing cells, and the race is for it to kill enough cancer cells before it kills too many healthy cells.  Interferon Alpha works differently in this regard, and I suppose for that we are grateful.  Though it still pretty much sucks.

Well, it’s 4:00 now, and still no response from the lab regarding his chemistry workup.  We are one of two couples left in the clinic, and they are turning off lights in certain areas of the room.  Hmmm… is this a sign we’re going to get kicked out soon?  Well, I guess we’ll see!

Prayers please to continue for strength, for treatment to go as planned, for energy for Lila as she is tending to the kids, meals, and the home full time, and for Kevin to continue to be able to work at least some.  We continue walking literally one hour at a time, but praising His Holy Name all the while.  God is good!

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