If, like me, you've been following news of the nation's methotrexate shortage, you already know that severely curtailed supplies of this powerful chemotherapy drug are threatening the lives of children who need it for cancer treatment. (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's Michael Link, MD, the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, has been quoted in several news stories explaining the problem.)
Today, CNN's health blog The Chart covers this story in a powerful new way, through the words of a 12-year-old boy now being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Here's part of what Owen McMasters, who was diagnosed in November, says about his experiences in cancer treatment:
I take many different kinds of chemotherapy drugs, at least once per week and sometimes many days per week. I have to get my blood drawn frequently. I have to get up early, go to the doctor’s office or the hospital, and spend many hours getting treatment. I have been in the hospital sometimes for up to 10 days in a row.
I had a severe infection from my immune system being wiped out.
I have to get radiation treatments in my brain. Sometimes the treatments don’t bother me too much; sometimes they make me tired, weak, nauseated and unable to eat for days. They make me cramp all over and swell.
While none of this is any fun, I do what I have to do and deal with it in my own way. I joke with the doctors. I entertain my parents. Sometimes I use bad words and get away with it because I have cancer. But I do everything I am told to do because I am going to live and be cured of cancer. The doctors say I have a very good chance to be cured if I take all of the treatments, which last for three and a half years.
The story goes on to explain that, at a recent check-up, Owen's doctor said the next phase of his treatment is threatened by the methotrexate shortage. Owen needs high-dose methotrexate delivered through an IV in his spine.
Soon after receiving the bad news, Owen was visited by representatives from the Make-a-Wish foundation. His wish?
I wanted to make the shortage of methotrexate known by everyone who could do something about it. I wanted the drug companies to share my goal of curing my cancer and cancer in lots of other kids by making these drugs, even though they are cheap and might not make as much money as some others.
The FDA has said that methotrexate will be available for now. But this problem is not solved for good. A permanent solution to this problem must be found. I don’t care how the problem is solved, it just needs to be solved.
Here's hoping this brave young man's story makes a difference.