A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

What does 'Chemo' mean?

Find out what Chemo means. Chemo is explained by Margaret McMillion - author of PERSONAL BAGGAGE


Chemo is an abbreviation for the word chemotherapy, a type of treatment for cancer employing drugs to destroy cancer cells by impeding their growth. The oncologist must determine his patient’s particular type of cancer because different combinations of chemo drugs work better for different types of cancer. Biopsy of the site of origin is the best way to determine the type of cancer to treat, because cancer cells spread, or metastasize from the original site and invade other parts of the body, especially the liver, which filters blood carrying the cancer cells, making it a prime site for metastasis. So, for instance, a patient with breast cancer which has spread to her liver, will be given chemo drugs specific to breast cancer because that is also the type of cancer cells that have invaded her liver.

The idea is to destroy young, rapidly multiplying cancer cells while healthy cells remain intact, but chemo drugs can't differentiate between rapidly growing cells that are healthy and those that are abnormal. Normal cells are being formed in a patient's bone marrow, so chemotherapy can prevent the bone marrow from making new cells, leading to anemia (due to lack of red blood cells), bleeding tendencies (due to lack of plateletts), and decreased resistance to infection (due to lack of white blood cells).

In PERSONAL BAGGAGE on page180, Maureen’s chemotherapy has been stopped because she no longer has enough WBCs to fight infection and she has been placed on reverse isolation, meaning that anyone entering her room must wear a mask, gown, and gloves to keep from bringing her in contact with germs she can’t fight off.

Nurses must protect themselves as well as their patients because a liquid chemo drug can be absorbed into the skin or mucous membranes. Chemo can cause unpleasant side effects such as nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, and mouth sores. Managing side effects is part of an oncology nurse’s job.

On page 283 of PERSONAL BAGGAGE, Penny prepares to administer chemo, first explaining the side effects of the drugs she is about to administer, giving the patient premeds to combat them, and donning gown, gloves, and mask to protect herself.

Search result for 'chemo' in PERSONAL BAGGAGE

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
"...He’s had all the radiation he can take, and Dr. Benson’s maxed him out on chemo. So now we’re trying to support him through nadir, right? The plan is to relieve his pain and keep him free from infection until his bone marrow can recover and make new cells, and then send him home in remission.” ..."
"...Penny took a minute to digest this information. “You know, Barb, until I took the chemo class I didn’t know that nadir is when chemotherapy has killed so many white blood cells that there aren’t enough healthy cells left to fight infection. I thought nadir had something to do with astronomy.” ..."

Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
"... “Well, if you have time right now, you could go down to the lab and get Miss Logan’s first unit of blood so I can start it. The chemo for her multiple myeloma made her lose red cells, and I’m supposed to give her blood and platelets tonight so she can go home in the morning.” ..."
"... be strong—if she let down at all it would be like a leak in the dike. “The pathologist’s report said my cancer was widespread with seeding. I start radiation treatments next week, and after that comes chemotherapy.” Staggered by the gravity of Maureen’s illness, Penny placed a hand on ..."

Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen
"... moved toward the hall door. “Penny, have you talked to Maureen?” “I think she’s at home; she was hoping to be discharged Friday, and then return for radiation and chemotherapy. I’ll call her this morning.” When breakfast arrived, Penny served Jane in her wheelchair and then ..."

Chapter 18: Chapter Eighteen
"...“You know most of it from Report...but I’ll tell you anyway. I got through radiation and the first round of outpatient chemo just fine, but Dr. Benson stopped my treatments in the middle of the second round because my counts dropped so low. I can’t fight infection, so unless my bone marrow recovers and begins making white cells, he won’t order any more chemotherapy and the bad stuff will grow, ..."
"... away the tears rolling down her own cheeks. Seven days of chemo had left Penny’s third patient with uncontrollable diarrhea. His day-shift nurse described him in Report as, “A modest forty-two-year-old who wants his door kept closed.” He had answered Penny’s questions and accepted ..."

Chapter 19: Chapter Nineteen
"... pumpkin. After chemotherapy, scanty hair, soft as feathers and the color of stone, had taken the place of Maureen’s black pageboy, and tonight her skin was the color of earth. Her respirations were noisy with congestion as she breathed five liters of oxygen from a nasal cannula. “I’m ..."

Chapter 20: Chapter Twenty
"...for taking care of Buck, he’s a good friend of mine.” He winked at Penny as if they were chatting companionably. “I’m very sorry about Maureen’s death; you lost a good friend! Don’t let her death sidetrack you, though; lots of patients have good results from chemotherapy and from what I’ve heard, Maureen was far advanced before she started treatment.” ..."

"... the steps.” Penny leaned back in her seat. “They didn’t have chemotherapy drugs back then. Your father had acute leukemia before that camping trip; he just didn’t know why he felt so bad.... Johnny, you don’t really believe it was your fault that he died, do you?” Johnny glared ..."

Chapter 26: Chapter Twenty-Six
"... night until next Tuesday.” “Then you keep Neely Logan and his lilies. They admitted two more today: Shenelle Sharp has chemotherapy orders, and I’m not chemo-certified yet, so you do her and I’ll take the other new one and keep my little Josephine Banks.” Penny had just poured a cup ..."
"...In room 408, a seventy-three-year-old lady wearing blue eye shadow and startling, brown lipstick was filing her ruby-red fingernails. Penny entered the room to assess her before donning the protective attire she would wear to administer chemotherapy. “Hi, Mrs. Sharp. I’m your nurse, Penny. We’re going to spend the night together.” ..."
"...When half of the first chemo drug had infused without any untoward events, Penny rechecked Mrs. Sharp’s vital signs and came out into the hall as Flossie Mae arrived to spend the night with her mother. Flossie Mae wore a raspberry-pink jersey and matching earrings, and she had fastened back her dark hair with ..."
"...Returning to the chemo cart outside 408, Penny filled a 10 ml syringe with normal saline to flush in the last drops of chemo. She covered her scrubs with a new protective gown, fitted a fresh mask over her nose and mouth, and positioned it to see as well as possible through ..."
"...Through Mrs. Sharp’s partially-open blinds, Penny glimpsed a man in Mrs. Banks’s room pushing Flossie Mae up against the far wall. Throwing the syringe and the bag of chemo onto the cart, Penny dashed into the hall, her gaze riveted on the man with a knife dangling from his hand, who was running out of Mrs. Banks’s room. ..."
"...Stripping off her blood-spattered chemo garb, Penny ran to the storage alcove beside the elevator and speed-rolled a wheelchair back to 406. She helped Carina lift Mrs. Banks into it and Carina pushed the patient, staring straight ahead, into an empty room, where Penny helped her transfer Mrs. Banks into the fresh bed. ..."
"...“I’ll be better when the chemo finishes up. It’s almost done.” Penny poured herself a small amount of coffee and drank it straight. Outside 408, she re-clothed herself in protective garb, disconnected Shenelle Sharp’s empty chemo tubing and bag, and flushed the site without waking her. As she walked behind the ..."
"... “Mrs. Sharp in 406 is a little squirrely,” Penny said, “but I turned on her bed-alarm, and I don’t think she’ll get up without calling. Her chemo’s finished. Mr. Logan in 409 is going home today.” Penny waited at the elevator while Carina told them about her patients. ..."

"... happened upstairs.” Penny began with Flossie Mae’s arrival at 11 o’clock. She told them about the phone call from Bob, eating supper, walking with Flossie Mae to her mother’s room, and then going back to hang Mrs. Sharp’s chemo and hearing Flossie Mae scream. “Now, we need to ..."
"... at Penny as if she had suddenly sprouted antennae. “You say you had on a mask?” “Yes, I told you I was hanging chemo when she screamed. I had on a protective mask, but I could see him just fine.” “You’re talking about Dr. Samuel Scales, right?” The short officer made notes. ..."
"... even realize she was cut until I saw blood running out of her chest, you know?” When they reached Oncology, Mrs. Sharp’s daughter was in her mother’s room. “Did she do all right with her chemo?” “Your mother didn’t sleep very well,” Penny said. “But she did fine with her ..."
"... Mrs. Sharp’s daughter was in her mother’s room. “Did she do all right with her chemo?” “Your mother didn’t sleep very well,” Penny said. “But she did fine with her chemotherapy.” “They made a movie last night,” Mrs. Sharp said. “You should have been ..."

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"In a story of evolving relationships, Margaret McMillion breathes life into her characters, especially Penny, who must find..."

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