Monday, February 28, 2011

Questions Answered

Tomorrow Alexis has an appointment with a team of doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. They will spend time answering questions and teaching Alexis what happens now. Hopefully Alexis and her parents will have a better idea of what to expect as far treatments and side effects, and all kinds of other things after tomorrows appointment.

But today, we wanted to answer a common question. What is a lymph node?
We know that Alexis has Non-hodgkins lymphoma, large B-cell.
Simply: Alexis has cancer in her immune system. Below is a little more explanation.
The the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system. It includes many things: tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes, etc. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures that help fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are located along the network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the arm pit, the pelvis, the neck, areas of the abdomen, and groin. These bean shaped nodes are like little fortresses placed throughout your body and work to kill off infection.

Alexis has cancer in her lymph nodes. Some of these nodes have more cancer then others, like the ones in her neck (cervical lymph nodes). It is normal for our lymph nodes to get bigger when they are working to fight an infection, just like when your tonsils become inflamed with a sore throat. However, Alexis has large lymph nodes because they are filled with cancer cells growing inside.

What is a B-cell?
A B-cell is part of the lymph system, and it's job is to help produce antibodies. Antibodies are the "fighters" who work inside the lymph nodes (or fortresses) to attack bacteria & viral infections. There are other types of cells too that help produce antibodies, but B-cells are a major contributor. The cancer has essentially turned many of these b-cell fighters into cancer cells.

What do we hope chemotherapy will do?
We hope that the chemotherapy will stop the growth and spread of the cancer. But in order to do this it has to kill the cancer cells. In Alexis case, it will kill the B-cells and the cancer cells because they are part of each other now. This is one of the reasons that Alexis will be at high risk for infection. The Chemotherapy will essentially kill a big part of her immune system and she will be vulnerable to illness because she has no way to fight it off.

But none of this information changes the fact that Alexis has a fighters spirit. She will rise to the occasion and with the help of medical staff, friends, family and intervention she will be able to overcome this cancer.

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