Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Day Two Down. 148 Left to Go.

Yesterday was my first round of chemo and I am happy to report that it did NOT kill me. As a matter of fact, it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be, so I will definitely take it.

Ruanita and I arrived at the Cancer Center at Regions Hospital at 10:30 in the morning. We checked in and were immediately sent across to the Infusion Center for blood work. This will be my routine every time I go. They inserted a needle into my port connected to a tube that would eventually connect to an IV line. Pretty much completely pain free. (Have I mentioned that I am totally in love with my port?) They drew blood to check all my white blood cell levels. They have to be at a certain level to receive chemo, so depending on my blood work, we will proceed or delay chemo every two weeks. (Hopefully proceed, of course.) Yesterday, as expected, my blood work was perfectly normal.

After the blood work, I will go back to the Cancer Center to meet with either my oncologist or the clinic's PA to discuss any symptoms or side effects I've experienced, the results of my blood work, and to go over our continued game plan.

Then it is back to the Infusion Center to start chemo. (Lots of walking back and forth, but luckily, the Cancer Center and Infusion Center are just across the hall from each other.) Everyone was fantastically, ridiculously nice to both me and Ruanita. The Infusion Center has several private infusion rooms with televisions and movies. The private rooms are first come, first serve. Yesterday, they were all in use, so I was put in a large room with four or five separate chemo areas. There was only one other woman with us in there who, believe it or not, Ruanita used to work with 15 years ago. So they struck up a conversation while I played on my iPad.

Let me tell you, they do everything they can to make sure the patients are as comfortable as possible. The chairs recline. They have heaters in the back and two different levels of vibration. I opted not to get my vibrator on, but the option exists if I ever feel the need. They have volunteers who come around occasionally with a basket of different snacks that we can choose from (they were offered to both me and Ruanita). They also offered us drinks (water, sodas, hot chocolate, coffee). It was so incredibly nice!

And don't even get me started on the huge stainless steel refrigerator-looking contraption that is filled to the brim with heated blanket. HEATED. BLANKETS. You do not know real luxury until you are draped with a heated blanket, I guarantee it. 

So once I was comfortable and everything was explained to me, I received a bag of IV fluids and a big bag of IV anti-nausea medicine. I was also given several anti-nausea pills to take. That process took about an hour. Then it was time for the first chemo drug.

The nurse came back, completely decked out in paper scrubs, gloves, and a mask with a shield. It was like that scene in E.T where Elliot's house is wrapped in a bubble and everyone is walking around looking like aliens. The area around my port (my chest, shoulder, etc.) was covered in paper scrubs, and I was told to put my right arm under the blanket. Then she brought out three HUGE syringes full of bright red chemo medication. It kinda looked like kool-aid. Or jello shots. I was assured it was neither. The syringes were covered with skulls and crossbones and other fun and incredibly bright symbols of toxic poison. I was told that all the covering was just in case any of the medicine splashed on me or the nurse. Apparently, it would be a really bad and terribly tragic thing if the drug came in contact with either of our skin. But injecting it directly into my vein was perfectly okay. Yeah...that was sort of surreal. Needless to say, it was a little unnerving. The three syringes were inserted into my tube very slowly, over the course of 15 minutes, while the nurse and I chatted about our kids. I felt nothing, but it was definitely one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had.

After the bright red syringes of poison, I received the second chemo med, which is colorless and diluted in a whole bag of saline, through my IV. It took about another hour. I got really hot when the second medication went in, so the heated blankets were flung off at that point. Otherwise, I felt nothing.

After the second medication, I received a little saline and a little heparin in my port to prevent clotting. Then I was done and ready to go home. I felt perfectly fine when I left the Infusion Center at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. Surprisingly fine. Normal even. It was not at all what I expected.

So, how about side effects? Have I experienced any? Yes, most definitely. So far, I have run into the following side effects:
  1. Dayglo orange pee. Lots of orange in my pee. It's exactly as weird as it sounds.
  2. Nausea. At about 8:30 last night, I got incredibly nauseous. I spent a good thirty minutes hanging over the toilet bowl absolutely certain that I was going to puke up my guts. It was a total throw-back to my pregnancy when I was sick for seven months straight. I hate being nauseous more than anything in the world, so it was not fun. Eventually I climbed, zombie-like, into bed and Ruanita practically force-fed me some cheese crackers. Amazingly, they helped and I felt much better. (Note to Self: You have to keep something in your stomach at all times to control the nausea. They told you that, moron.)
  3. Night Sweats. Oh. My. God. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning absolutely soaking wet. My shirt was drenched. My underwear were drenched. My hair was soaking wet. My legs were stuck together and soaking wet. I looked like I had just stepped out of the shower. Fully clothed! I got up, peed some Day-glo orange pee, and changed my clothes. Then I reluctantly climbed back into the pool that my side of the bed had become. It was disturbing. To say the least.
Today, I felt perfectly fine. I went back to the Cancer Center for genetic counseling and was SO glad I took my mom with me. Not only did they want to know about my immediate family, but wanted to know how old all 14 of my aunts and uncles (both sides of the family) are and their entire medical history! It was incredibly thorough. But I did decide to go ahead and have the genetic testing done. My geneticist seemed not so concerned with my aunt who had breast cancer, but focused more on my dad who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 32 years old. She said that there is a gene that seems to connect brain cancer (particularly early-onset brain cancer) and breast cancer. So...not sure what that means, but opted to go ahead and get the genetic testing done. It may tell me nothing definitive. But any knowledge is power. That's my motto, anyway.

After the appointment with the genetic counselor, I had to go across the hall to the Infusion Center for a Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a steroid that I will get the day after every chemo session. It helps re-build my white blood cells so I can be ready for chemo again in two weeks. They say that it can cause bone pain because it forces my bone marrow to create white blood cells at a much higher than normal rate. So far, so good though.

Today was a good day. I felt really well--really normal--most of the day. I did get a bit nauseous at Target this afternoon and had to come home. I needed to eat something. I am not, by nature, a snacker. That may be hard to believe by looking at me, but I am usually a three square meals a day type girl. Three hearty meals, but only three a day. I have to get adjusted to "grazing" all day like I have to do to stay ahead of the nausea. It doesn't come naturally and I haven't had that much of an appetite. So it's a work in progress.

So...that's where I stand right now. It's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I am also well aware that the effects of chemo are cumulative, so I may feel worse as each session progresses.

So we take it day by day.

Today was a good day.

P.S. Ruanita just reminded me that there was a therapy dog in the waiting room, too. A beautiful old Golden Retriever who walked up to me and just leaned his head against my leg. So freaking sweet! Dogs make everything better, I believe.


Madge Woods said...


Madge Woods said...

Sounds better than expected. Let's hope it stays that way.

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