Monday, February 20, 2006

Imagine a Raspberry


Imagine a raspberry as big as a medium pumpkin.  Add peach fuzz.  And some freckles.  You now have a mental image of Erin, as she is currently configured.  That's right the endless jaunts through the woods this winter have finally taken their toll, and Erin finds herself with a raging case of poison ivy.  The itchy rash is confined to her head, neck, and face (since she has dutifully taken the precaution of wearing long pants and sleeves as she has tromped around), but it is pretty deep down her ears and dangerously close to her eyes.  She will go (back) on prednisone and a prescriptive antihistamine tonight (Lord, please protect me from Prednisone Rage and let there be enough acceptable food in the pantry to satisfy her.).

This rash started Friday evening, about the time we arrived in Dallas.  We kept it at bay throughout the weekend festivities with over-the-counter antihistamines and topicals and proceeded to celebrate Emma's first birthday with style and verve.  For her part, Emma did the mandatory "Cake Grab and Smear" as if she had been practicing for weeks which made the whole trip worthwhile.   By the time we made it back to Bryan through what passes in Texas as a Big Winter Storm," Erin's tolerance for itchiness was waning quickly.

It was another vet/doc day this morning.  Uma already had an 8:30 appointment for her annual exam and shots, and I couldn't immediately get in at Erin's pediatrician, so the dog got treated first. . .again.  Erin finally made it to school by 11:00, and everyone started absent-mindedly scratching random body parts just looking at her.  Fortunately, the school has a ready supply of cool, damp paper towels for relief, which I had confirmed in an e-mail with her teacher Mrs. Jennifer Steen who wrote to assure me that they wouldn't run out: "cold, wet paper towels are actually a miracle drug in 3rd grade - they cure headaches, stomach aches, hurt ankles and elbows, loose teeth...."  Having some experience with drug companies, I wouldn't want this information to get out or the price of those rough, brown folded towelettes would soar.

Anyway, as miserable as Erin feels, I am relieved that we have a poison ivy diagnosis.  When she started to break out in a head rash, I had Walter scour the information we had on etoposide (you know, that long list of indications and side effects printed in devilishly small print on tissue-thin paper and folded twenty-two times and stuffed inside the drug package).  Rash was listed as a rare side effect, leading me to immediately jump to the conclusion that I was witnessing an unpalatable side effect of this drug that we really hope works because it is so easy to administer and tolerate.  I didn't want to have to make the decision about whether to let her itch and look raspberryish and continue taking the chemo, or to discontinue and move to something else.  At least with a poison ivy diagnosis, we can make the etoposide decision based on its efficacy against the tumor, rather than whether we can live with the side effects.

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