I got my first chemo infusion this morning. I was a little concerned that I would have to put it off because it seemed the cold I’d had back in Denver decided to reconstitute itself into bronchitis and a sinus infection. Fortunately, their measure for whether I get chemo at a given appointment is whether I have a fever or that my iron or white counts are too low.
The infusion both was and wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a long time sitting in a room at the hospital, which I expected. It wasn’t painful, it didn’t make me feel too weird (I’m already weird, so how much weirder could I get?), and it was mostly being given anti-nausea meds before getting the chemo drugs themselves. They’ve already told me that I could show up on a chemo day and be told to go back home because my white count is too low, so this will be an appointment by appointment process. I’ll say this again. One day and one step at a time is really the only way this can be done. The one thing that did catch me off guard was the waiting for the pharmacy to deliver the drugs. This goes with the go/no-go, so it makes sense. I just expected them to be there ahead of time.
The port that was put in a couple of weeks ago, sits right under my collar bone and under my skin. I have a numbing cream that I am supposed to put on about an hour before my appointment. It’s kind of like getting some novacain cream rubbed on your gums before you have dental work done. It’s not particularly anxiety inducing. I had plenty of that going into the appointment this morning as it was. After that, they put a special kind of needle into the port and do a blood draw. None of the IVs can actually be started until after the results of the blood draw come back.
When the blood work was done, the oncologist came in and went over all of the staging scans broadly. She said my disease is either Stage 3A or 2B. We’re treating it like 3A. We talked about scheduling and she gave me an antibiotic for the sinus/bronchial crud I’ve got so it doesn’t get worse.
Another one of those divine providence things: the nurse giving me my infusions today was a Stillwater High grad, class of 2004. I’m definitely in the right place to be doing this. I know my class is pretty tight knit, and I feel our community is as well. I feel like I’m in good hands.
Next were the anti-nausea meds. I got 2 IVs of those that took about 30 minutes each. I was also given some oral meds at that time. Do you know how hard it is to make yourself drink 3 quarts of clear liquids in a day when you’re used to drinking one? I know my cells are happy, but man… my tummy has a fill line. It’s gonna have to get over that throughout this process. 🙂
My chemo drugs themselves come in big syringes. Maybe 100 mL or about 3.3 ounces. Those are pushed manually into the IV line, and each one is timed to take about 10 minutes. The two I’m getting now are Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide. One of them is kind of a blood red color. It will make me urinate fun colors. Both will make me lose my hair and change how my nails look. Later, I will get a different mix, and then at the end of 5 months, we’ll re-do the mammogram and maybe the MRI.
So far, I’m tolerating the drugs pretty well. I didn’t sleep well the last couple of nights. I had some weird dreams and woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night. I’m also sick again, so I don’t know how much tired to attribute to chemo, not getting good sleep or being sick. My stomach seems to be okay outside of a few things I could have chosen differently to eat. The only thing I’m noticing is a lingering headache, which could be the chemo. My neighbor, who’s also on chemo, gets nasty headaches from hers sometimes, so this is somewhat expected on my part.
I’ve now stocked up on surgical masks for those days I need to go out for errands and be out amongst the crowds. This time of year I get hyper-aware of people not taking better care of themselves, and also not taking care not to spread colds and flu, which as you already know, ticks me off. I’ve also gotten a big bottle of hand sanitizer to refill the smaller ones I now carry in my coat, purse and in my truck. I was just buying the little ones as needed, but that’s going to get cost-prohibitive in a hurry. Now, I guess it’s time to just hunker down and get through this day by day.
I don’t mean for this to be an addendum or a last thought by any means. I cannot say enough good things about how this process is unfolding with my care team at Virginia Mason. Everyone so far has been very attentive and willing to help with every aspect of my care. I’m so grateful to have a team like this working with me.