Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Side Effects 101

When Jimmie was first prescribed this new chemo pill it was accompanied by a small book of things to learn.  Do's like "use an electric razor" and Don'ts like "grapefruit juice" are good to know, but the important list is always the Side Effects.  This drug had 4 lists and none of them were very pleasant.

The very first page had a flashing neon sign that read:
  • Can cause liver damage leading to death
  • Can cause heart damage leading to death
A great way to say hello.  Then Jimmie turned the page and kept on reading . . .

Common Side Effects:  (in more than 30% of patients)
  1. Fatigue
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Constipation
  4. Mouth sores
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Abdominal pain
  7. Upset stomach
  8. Heartburn
  9. Swelling
  10. Taste changes
  11. Loss of appetite
  12. High blood pressure
  13. Low blood counts
  14. Skin turning yellow
  15. Bleeding
Less Common Side Effects:  (in 10 - 29% of patients)
  1. Headache
  2. Fever
  3. Dry skin
  4. Dizziness
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Rash
  7. Flatulence
  8. Hair color changes
  9. Cough
  10. Hair loss
  11. and then a whole slew of things that can show up in your blood work
There's also the less than 10% list, but they don't print that.  They do include:

Rare:  (Life-threatening events in 2-3% of patients)
  1. Blood clots leading to pulmonary embolus or stroke
  2. A hole in stomach or bowel wall

By the time you are finished reading you have to wonder if you should have left the pills at the drug store.  Seeing such predictions can be a tad disconcerting.  Then a couple of nights ago when Jimmie was back up in the middle of the night he decided there really should be a better list of side effects.  Something better to look forward to.  So, we brainstormed a few he would like to see on the next prescription.

Flashing Neon Greeting:
  • Guaranteed to kill cancer!

Common Side Effects:
  1. Frequent bursts of energy
  2. Whitens teeth
  3. Cures snoring
Less Common Side Effects:
  1. Curls hair
  2. Induces uncontrollable laughter
  3. Makes everything taste like strawberries and cream 
  • Promotes World Peace             

I agree.  Those side effects would definitely be better.

- Linda

P. S.  Jimmie's hemoglobin was 10.3 this week - the first time it has been double digits since last summer.  Fantastic!                                                                                                                             

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