Chemo 1

Biggest dilemma Friday morning? What to wear to chemo. I wasn’t looking to look good, but I wanted an easy way for the nurses to access the port without having to change into a gown. I don’t own many button up shirts and most of my lower-cut shirts seemed too dressy (or showing too much cleavage) for chemo. I finally settled on a tank top under a zip-down Columbia fleece. I think this will be my uniform on Fridays through May. (Note to self: I probably need to buy another fleece.)

Chemo started at 8:15 with blood work, but there was a delay as soon I as entered the lab. Everything involving the port (where the blood would be drawn and chemo meds administered) must be sterile. So everything is prepackaged for convenience – the gloves, the tubing, the needle, everything. Unfortunately, I have a latex allergy – and the gloves in the kit are made of latex. There was a scramble to find non-latex sterile gloves (couldn’t be the gloves hanging on the wall since those aren’t sterile), and when they did find them, the stink from the gloves was overwhelming (like burning rubber), overall a delay of about 15 minutes before blood could be drawn from my new port (yay, it works!). The lidocaine cream I applied before leaving the house worked, and I couldn’t feel the needle going into my skin.

Met with the nurse, vitals taken, health reviewed, more talk about what to expect with chemo. Then met with the doctor and everything was repeated – with an emphasis on follow up visits (one week for more blood work and to meet with the oncologist). The oncologist asked how the kids reacted to learning of the cancer. Then he shared a story of when he learned his mom had breast cancer. He was 9 years old, same as Ethan. I knew I liked this dude.

During this time, a friend texted a few funny memories, making me LOL. B also sent a few lovey texts (so appreciated and needed XO) from his business trip to Colorado. Another friend sent encouraging words of support. All exactly what I needed.

Then to the infusion room. Because of the cost of chemo meds and the customized cocktail each patient receives, the pharmacy doesn’t start mixing the blend until this point (after blood tests confirm red/white blood counts and electrolyte measurements, and the physical exam is okay). Then everything is confirmed by multiple pharmacists and nurses. So another 25 minute wait. I settled back in my comfy recliner, plugged in the laptop, and waited. That lasted about two minutes. I was feeling antsy. Since I still wasn’t hooked up to anything, I walked around the infusion room – there’s a communal area with about seven chairs (where I sat), a handful of private rooms, and a few private rooms with beds (if you want a nap or can’t physically sit up for the duration of the treatment). There were some snacky things and a fridge of waters, juices, and sodas. There were some crafty things people made and donated for the taking. (I picked up knitted hat with a flower). Someone started a communal weave-thing (“Pick a ribbon and weave it through the strings. Leave a note for why you selected the color ribbon you did.” I did not participate this time.)

About 30 minutes after I arrived in the infusion room, saline was started through the IV in the port. The oncologist came back to find me. “You’re still having periods?” he asked. “You will be post-menopausal after a few treatments. Are you okay with that?”

“Is there an option if I’m not okay with that?” I smiled, laughed and asked.

“Not really,” he laughed.

“Then I’m okay with it. Let’s get started.”

He reiterated that he thought I would do really well with chemo.

A few more minutes of saline and then the nurse started a combination of three anti-nausea meds and a steroid. This was scheduled to take another 20 minutes or so before the actual chemo drugs would start. Lesson learned: there’s nothing hurried about this process. Sit, relax, watch Wendy Williams, chill. Know what I don’t do well? Sit, relax, chill. (I do, however, watch Wendy Williams well. I like her; she makes me laugh.)

Around 11:15 (and after I finished all three syllabi – YES!), the chemo drugs started.

“The Red Devil” was administered first. Three syringes of a bright red liquid needed to be inserted by hand by a nurse wearing full protective gear. “This is just to protect me if there are any spills…” she started.

“Toxic spills of what you’re injecting into my body,” I laughed.

The Red Devil is the drug that causes most of the problems – hair loss, mouth sores, major nausea, red pee. Twenty minutes later, the line was flushed, and the cyclophosphamide started. It would take an hour for it to run into my system. This is the drug that causes bone pain.

Overall, chemo wasn’t…bad. Comfy chairs. Cable TV. Wifi. Plenty of electrical outlets for iPhone, laptop, DVD player. Super nice nurses.

A woman named Roberta sat in the chair next to me. She was working on a watercolor of a bird. When she left, she gave me this painting and said, "It sounds like your journey is just starting. Best of luck to you." I teared up.

A woman named Roberta sat in the chair next to me. She was working on a watercolor of a bird during her treatment. When she left, she gave me this painting and said, “It sounds like your journey is just starting. Best of luck to you.” I teared up.

So, right now, I feel fine. Four different nausea meds should keep my stomach in check. Claritin should minimize the inevitable bone pain associated with my first two months of meds – as will a shot I’ll receive in 24 hours. Probably feel super tired Sunday/early Monday. Hair loss is anticipated at the two week mark.

I’m just glad to get this process started. We can’t end if we don’t start somewhere, right?

NOTE: I didn’t have my playlist from friends with me today, but I will next time. If you have any music recommendations, let me know. Doesn’t matter what kind of music – I just want music YOU recommend, to make me feel like I’m being hugged by my friends. (And thank you SO MUCH to those who’ve sent music!)

Added: the oncologist and surgeon both called tonight to see how I’m doing (completely fine). Also, wig fitting scheduled for tomorrow morning. Yippee!

2 thoughts on “Chemo 1

  1. Ok, first – I want to hug Roberta. Second, so glad that everything went as well as could be hoped for. And third – my best song for you is “I’ve got Soul (But I’m not a Soldier)” by The Killers. That will PUMP you through this!!!

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