I titled this blog post Jive Talkin’ mostly because, yes, I am actually listening to the Bee Gees right now (these days anything that enhances my mood without damaging my heart is ok by me) — and also because today I had my second dose of Panobinostat, and I’ve noticed that this absurdly named drug is but the latest word in the cancer lexicon to fly off my tongue like a spitball in a schoolroom.
I like words. I’m a word geek. So I don’t scare easily around big, multisyllabic, fancy-schmancy words. But for some reason known only to pharmaceutical companies, most drugs have massively difficult and unpronounceable names. It’s really only after thinking about, talking about, obsessing about and generally Googling the crap out of them that they come to be easily uttered.
For me, Herceptin was one of the first and easiest to learn, but even this is cheating since its real name is the much more laborious Trastuzumab (and I admit that I just had to Google that).
I remember struggling in particular with the names of my chemo drugs, perhaps because there were so many of them right off the top of my cancer treatment when my head was still having a hard time wrapping itself around the word “cancer.” A year later, Epirubicin is the only one of that first trio that I can remember (because it was ruby red and could burn the epidermis.) The worst of my chemo drugs was oddly one of the easiest to pronounce: Taxotere. So taxing was it, and the cause of so many tears, that Taxotere is forever imprinted, possibly embossed, in the cancer dictionary in my brain.
And here we are today with Panobinostat, a word I now throw around almost casually, even though when I originally heard it several weeks ago I thought the drug-namers had reached a new level of desperation in their quest for alienating and unapproachable words. But in the spirit of the tireless researchers who discovered this new drug, I would not be deterred. I have now mastered saying “Panobinostat” and in doing so, in some small way, I feel I’m giving it a kind of substantiation; making it real; willing it to work.
As for the category of drugs to which Panobinostat belongs, let’s all be grateful for acronyms like HDAC. Imagine if I actually had to learn to say “histone deacetylase inhibitors” in order to believe they might work?