Friday, September 28, 2012

End of Induction

A little Oncology education...(against my will I am becoming an expert).....

There are several phases to the treatment of leukemia, the first one being called Induction.  This week is the end of Induction for Austin.  This is good news because it means the end of daily steroids and a week break off of chemo.  The bad news is that the next phase, Consolidation, requires weekly lumbar punctures so weekly trips to Salt Lake for us.  From here on the most important thing that we will be checking is Austin's "counts".  This means his "ANC" or Absolute Neutrophil Count, his Platelet count, his White Blood Cell count, and his Hematocrit.  To advance in these weeks of treatment Austin's counts have to be "good".  This means an ANC of at least 750, Platelets of 75,000, and Hematocrit of more than 25.  If these counts are too low then we have to wait until they come back up to continue treatment.  This means weekly blood checks. 
Early morning ride to Primary's
We headed back up to Primary's for another Bone Marrow Aspiration and Lumbar Puncture with Chemotherapy.  Austin was checked over by the Oncologist and his labs were drawn from his port.  Happily, we have found the combination of numbing cream and numbing spray that make it so he can't feel the needle.  This has cut way down on the amount of anxiety going into these appointments.  At one point when the nurse asked him if he was ok, he said:  "It's ok, I'm used to this".  Oh how it breaks my heart that he has to be used to needles and pokes but I am so glad that he can handle it without a lot of anxiety.
Getting his port accessed 

Getting checked by the Oncologist
Austin had his back pokes under sedation and did really well.  Plus bonus, he got his flu shot while he was asleep so he didn't have to feel that poke either.  Gotta love the sleepy drugs! 
Austin doesn't love the early morning appointments, you can see it on his face,
  he is unhappily putting up with all the nonsense.

Playing a game on the Ipad with the Child Life Specialist
 Today Austin's counts were awesome.  His ANC was 2800, Platelets 268,000, and Hematocrit was 29.  It's not a huge surprise that his counts are up because the steroids he has been taking make them higher so we expect they will drop in the coming weeks.  But the best news from this is that Austin gets to go back to school!!!  As long as his counts are good his body is able to fight off bugs that may come his way.  So while he can, we will take advantage of the time and let him enjoy school.  This is so important to me to make him feel like a "normal" kid.  I want him to argue with me about doing his homework and study his spelling words on the way to school--you know normal kids stuff!  Oh the things we take for granted!  Those "routine" things are dreamed of and craved by those that can't do them.  I am hoping for a couple of "routine" weeks for Austin.  He is very excited about seeing his friends, although he is worrying about what they will think of his bald head.  Please children, be kind!  The Child Life Specialist from Dixie is going to go to Austin's class to do some education and I think that will help.  I know the root of bullying is fear and the unknown so I hope explaining why Austin is bald or why he has gained weight will help.
Chemo is rough on his body, he is always so tired on the way home.
So here's to starting the next phase of Austin's treatment.  One step closer to being done.  We are taking things one day at a time, appreciating the things that are going well and putting up with the things that are tough.  Over all we are very happy with Austin's response and the small number of side effects so far.  Austin is such an incredible boy.  He puts up with all this with a smile on his face (except when he is hungry, then watch out!) and a good attitude.  He is teaching us about what is really important in life, that all we really need is those that we love.  Keep fighting Austin, we need you!!!

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