Chemotherapy, It’s Not Just for Cancer

Dear Diary,

Today, my sister sent me an e-mail with her doctor’s treatment plan attached. It had all sorts of information about the chemotherapy and radiation that she is to face in the coming months. She’s asking that the entire family look over everything, and send back to her any questions that we may have for her surgeon and medical oncologist.

I pointed her to this website:, which lists questions to ask when you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s amazingly thorough and has lots of questions organized by the type of doctor you’re dealing with.

The two questions I did have and that I didn’t see on this list, are:

  1. About last year’s mammogram—Since there was no cancer found with last year’s mammogram, was something missed or is this indicative of the type of cancer it is (slow-growing or aggressive)?
  1. About your symptoms—Does breast cancer manifest with chest pain and the other symptoms you’ve been having?

I pray that this does not overwhelm her. You know me, I have to get into action mode when someone asks about dealing with doctors. That’s my specialty!

In researching more about her treatment, I discovered that one of the chemotherapy drugs that they’re using for her breast cancer is also used for certain severe cases of Lupus. The drug I’m referring to is called Cyclophosphamide (also known as Cytoxan). According to, it “belongs to a class of drugs known as alkylating agents, which have been used to treat some types of cancer. It is also considered an immunosuppressant—a medicine that can decrease the immune response.”

The website goes on to say, “cyclophosphamide is reserved for severe, refractory rheumatoid arthritis or severe complications of lupus, myositis, scleroderma, or vasculitis. Cyclophosphamide can be associated with serious side effects and requires careful monitoring by your physician.”

I knew chemotherapy was used for patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis, but I never heard that it was used for Lupus as well. That’s a good thing because it means that I’m not that far along yet. The drug that I take for Lupus specifically is called Plaquenil, and it’s the first choice of doctors to treat the disease, according to my rheumatologist. It has the least side effects (when compared to other Lupus drugs), and it works well to keep the serious Lupus flares away.

I pray that I never have to take chemotherapy for my Lupus.