Highlight: Joseph has been tolerating his treatment well, though it has been a challenge to him.
Prayer Request: We have been told to expect Joseph to get a fever and need to be hospitalised for a week on intravenous antibiotics as his body will be so run down from the current course of treatment. Please pray for the Lord’s protection of Joseph as he enters this time of testing.
Friday was the 5th day of Delayed Intensification. Joseph went in to receive an intra-muscular shot of Asparaginase. This drug takes advantage of a weakness in leukaemia cells. Unlike most healthy cells in the body, leukaemia cells are not able to produce asparagine, a substance needed by cells to process nutrients. Leukaemia cells get their asparagine by picking up left over asparagine produced by heathy cells. Asparaginase destroys the left over asparagine in the blood stream thus denying leukaemia cells this critical substance. Without asparagine leukaemia cells “starve” and die.
This is generally a painful shot and we are grateful that the drug is now given in a time release version that provides an even dose over two full weeks. In the past, children needed to receive this shot in their thigh every other day for two weeks. The pain of the shot was amplified by the knowledge that another was coming a day later. When Joseph went in to receive his, he sat on my lap while the nurse pulled out a syringe with a rather long looking needle. She quickly made the injection as I explained to Joseph that this would sting. I covered his eyes so that he would not watch the injection and to everyone’s surprise he did not make a sound when the needle was inserted into his leg. Only when the injection was made did he let out a low protest and then it was all over. Then Joseph jumped off my knee and the nurses all said, “Wow, good boy Joseph!”
As we were picking up our things a nurse told me that we needed to wait for a hour before we could go home. It was explained that there is always a chance of an acute allergic reaction each time a child receives this shot. When our wait time was almost done, we met a nurse in the hallway who asked us what treatment we had that day. When we explained she told me, “Yes, very good that you stayed for the waiting time. Just two weeks ago a child had a severe reaction and went into shock, requiring emergency care and oxygen. Definitely not something you would want to deal with in the car on the way home.”
Over the weekend Joseph was experiencing the dual problem of feeling nauseous at times and being ravenously hungry because of the steroids. This can cause him to be very frustrated. However, with a wide variety of “nibbles” and the use of anti-nausea medicine he weathered the weekend.
Joseph is feeling the effects of the chemical warfare going on in his body. At some meals he is literally shaking with anticipation. Other times he is asking to be held and walked about as he feels “strange” and would like the comfort of someone holding him. However, after a bit of this he is off to play with his brothers again.
Tomorrow Joseph gets another infusion of “Red Devil” and is taken off steroids for seven days. We have been told to expect him to come down with a fever sometime this next 7 days and need to be hospitalised for antibiotic infusion for a week. Our bag is packed and sitting by the door.
The goal of this hard cycle of treatment is to ruthlessly eradicate any possible remaining leukaemia cells in Joseph’s body. It is hard on Joseph but failure to do this would mean the ultimate return of leukaemia in a “hardened” untreatable form. This is exactly the same thing that Jesus has taught us about sin. He said that it was better to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye than to allow sin to control our bodies. Jesus was not talking about self mutilation but rather being ruthless with our sin and not allowing any of it to survive. Jesus draws a stark picture of either being ruthless with our sin or finding ourselves cast into hell due to that sin. Fortunately for us, Jesus died to not only pay for our sins but to give us the power to be ruthless with the sin that still remains with us in this life. Jesus broke the power of sin over us, but sin often then whimpers to us to not be so stern and harsh, only waiting for a chance to try and destroy us. Ruthless eradication is part of the path of life.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5: 27-30