Max headed to hospital to begin treatment

Since it's Fall, it must be time for bad news from the Mikulak household. 2 years and 17 days ago Max was admitted to Rady Children's Hospital here in San Diego to begin treatment for stage IV, high-risk neuroblastoma. As you all know, he responded to treatment very well, and finished his protocol in close to record time, with almost no short-term side effects and only one major long-term side-effect which was some moderate-to-severe hearing loss in both ears forcing him to wear hearing aids. In relative context, we got off easy, we thought. As it turns out, the chemo, autologous bone-marrow transplant (stem-cell rescue as its called now), radiation, and retinoic acid didn't quite finish the job. So, the same cancer has come back - albeit in lesser form - but still to the point where Max will be receiving fairly moderate chemotherapy.

A key difference between this time and last time, is that this time we're venturing into the unknown, relatively speaking. That is, with Max's prior treatment protocol, there was much known about how to treat a newly diagnosed instance of the disease. However, if and when the cancer recurs, less is know about which treatment protocol produces the best outcome. So, we're entering this treatment with more-or-less a hypothesize-administer-measure-adjust framework, where we have a lot of options to consider as we determine what's working and what isn't.

Max is checking in tomorrow at 1:30P at Children's, and in the afternoon will receive a bone-marrow aspiration (1/8" thick needle inserted into the pelvic bone to remove a core of bone marrow) and will receive his new "port", through which blood will be drawn and the chemo drugs administered. As some of you will recall, last time Max had what's called a Hickman catheter, which entered his body just below his collarbone and which left about 10" of plastic tubing protruding from him. This required much maintenance and caution, since if the entry point got wet, or if the tubes got pulled, that would have been no good. With the new port, everything is subcutaneous and Max will simply have to endure getting slightly stuck with a needle to access the port. We'll see how that goes, but to-date he's been a tough kid when it comes to pain and so we're hoping this works for him.


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