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3. Coping with Chemo

     It's now been one month since I started my chemotherapy.  The accepted treatment for my type of pancreatic cancer is the weekly IV administration of the drug, gemcitabine, or Gemzar, for three consecutive weeks.  Then on the fourth week, no chemo is given in order to give my system a rest.  Then the cycle repeats again and again until the 5 month course of therapy is finished.

     The most common side efects of gemcitabine are related to bone marrow suppression.  Both red and white bllood cell counts must be monitored before each gemcitabine infusion.  If the counts are low, the amount of chemo is reduced until the counts return to normal.  As bad luck would have it, my white count after the first injection fell so low that the doctor opted to give me no chemo at all the second week.  This came as a surprise to me because I'd suffered no overt ill effects from my first week and felt perfectly normal.  But a low white count puts the patient at an increased risk of getting an infection, so I was told to avoid crowds and sick people for the next week until my count rose again.

     When I returned for the third week, my white count still had not recovered as well as hoped, so I was given an injection of a granulocyte stimulating factor called Neulasta, which was then followed by a reduced dose of chemo. This very expensive drug, Neulasta, coaxes the bone marrow to produce more white cells, and it did this in spades, as my white count surged well above normal after the injection.  This allowed me to get the full dose of gemcitabine on the first week of the second chemo cycle.  Down the road, I may need more Neulasta to keep my count up.

     As I mentioned in an earlier post, I volunteered for a cllinical trial that evaluates the addition of a second chemotherapeutic drug to the gemcitabine to see if the second drug would help patients with pancreatic cancer.  Half of the volunteers will receive the second drug and half, the placebo group, will not.  I was randomized into the placebo group, so I receive gemcitabine alone.  At the end of the 5-month chemo course, I will undergo another CT scan.  I pray that this scan, and all to follow, will be negative like the first one in early April.  Meanwhile, I am still quite active, walking everyday with the pugs and working out at the gym.  My weight is holding in the low 180s, just where it was way back in my college days, so I'm very happy about that.

     Many of you know that my oldest daughter, Tori, chose to follow in her parents' footsteps and earn her veterinary degree. She is now working on her PHD in Baltimore.  I'm also happy to report that my niece, Cathy Cupples Meloy, just receved her DVM from Texas A&M on May 10th.  She graduated summa cum laude and fourth in her class.  My sister and her husband are very proud of her (as is her Uncle Dave), and it seems quite evident that veterinary medicine just runs through the veins of all the extended Baxter family!

     As I now slide into the summer routine of weekly chemotherapy, I want to thank everyone again for all the prayers and kind thoughts that have been sent up on my behalf.  I believe I have half of Texas is in my corner!  Thank you all, and I'll update this post periodically as circumstances require.     

                        Fondest Regards,  David Baxter 

       

    

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for what you have tamed."

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Latest News

  • Help Your Pets Have a Happy Fourth!! +

    Here are some helpful tips to make sure your pets are safe when the fireworks start popping!    Make sure your pet's ID tags and/or microchip information are updated -- pets in a crowd or startled by the sound and flash of fireworks may try to escape or break free from Read More
  • Stay Cool, Holt Pets! +

    It's time for some summertime basics:    NEVER leave your pet in the car -- even for a minute (even with the A/C running).  The temperature inside a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes.  In less than 30 minutes, the inside of your car can reach 120 degrees.  Heat Read More
  • Pet Cancer Awareness Month +

    The Veterinary Cancer Society advises pet owners to watch for the following early warning signs: Persistent, abnormal swelling Sores that don't heal Weight loss Loss of appetite Bleeding or discharge from any body opening Offensive Odor Difficulty eating or swallowing Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina Persistent lameness or Read More
  • Is Your Pet Ready For A Storm? +

    Identify your pet We recommend both micro-chipping your pet and also having a second form of ID on the animal in case your pet is found by someone without access to a scanner. Be sure to update information on tags and with the microchip registry! Post a free rescue alert Read More
  • Fun Facts About Dog Breeds! +

    Do you know about the breed of your dog? Dalmatians are best known for their association with fire trucks; prior to being a mascot, they often ran behind the fire trucks and began following and guarding stage coaches. They are completely white at birth! What breed did US President Richard Read More
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Dr. Baxter's Blog

  • 9. You Do the Hokey Pokey +

    My last two CT scans have both been negative for cancer re-growth, so I am very thankful and humbled over these good reports. I hope everyone will continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I continue my journey. My radiation colitis, which is a common side-effect from Read More
  • 8. On Cruise Control +

    I must apologize for it being almost 6 months since my last update, but the cliché that No News is Good News certainly applies. I've undergone two CT scans (May and August) since my rhubarb with the occluded stent last winter, and both tests were negative for metastasis. For this, Read More
  • 7. A Stent Pulls a Stunt +

    The Christmas and New Years Holidays were relaxing but eventful with family getting together and sharing our blessings. Then on January 3rd, I went in for a check-up and injections according to the protocol of my clinical trial. My weight was 186 pounds and all was well, especially in light Read More
  • 6. Christmas Update +

    There is no Christmas gift that can compare with another negative CT scan. This good news was received Wednesday just as my farflung children began to trickle back home in preparation for the holidays. Back in September, I finished my 6-month course of chemotherapy and promptly entered into the first Read More
  • 5. September CT Scan +

    After finishing five months of weekly chemotherapy, Karen and I returned to Houston's M. D. Anderson Cancer Center on Sept 12 for my second CT scan. The first scan in April was negative for tumors but there were a few odd anomalies noted then that needed to be rechecked to Read More
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