This is How it Works

Entering Chemoland, visa in hand, three liters of fluids down my throat the day before; up to the hospital by 8:00, valet parking and in the door with Mom…

Appointment at 8:15, paperwork and called in first time a little late – vitals taken (height, weight, temp, blood pressure, pulse) and into the chair. IV set up (and a beautiful job Pearl did of it too), blood drawn and sent off, and packed off back to the waiting room.

And waiting. And waiting. Waiting room full and buzzy with talk, people spilling out into the hall, and I sucking down more fluid – it’s a such a state of flux, impossible to concentrate, the conversations rising around you and your being attuned to the appearance of the nurse at the door, is it your turn yet, is this your pyschopomp come to guide you? People you know, people you’ve never met; the Asian couple in wheelchairs and their daughter; the woman from Montpelier area with her mother that looked like Aunt Florence and was afraid of dogs; the bloody little ‘therapy’ dog like a miniature Doberman nosing about and setting off volleys of sharp barks (and whose idea was *that* therapy?!?).

Off to the back to fill out the paperwork for the Neulasta trial (studying the effects of Claritin on Neulasta induced bone pain), and back and waiting waiting waiting….

Not only have the wait times increased drastically since Mom’s time there, the food selection has dropped. No coffeepot in the waiting room, no Ben and Jerry’s, no cakes, hospital boxed lunches (pallid sandwiches, fruit/jello cup, overly sweet cranberry juice cocktail… bleagh), stale stale saltines… nothing *I* wanted to make a meal of. I wanted a ham and cheese croisssant from Mirabelle’s, I wanted more juice and water, and fresher Saltines might have been ok, but none of that was on offer, alas.

My pyschopomp came shortly after noon, (along with the Montpelier woman’s, we raced back together – me first! me first!) guided me to my comfy chair and the nurse that would be doing the actual chemo. I settled in for the long haul, blanky wrapped around me (it’s chilly back there), books and ipod close to hand, and once the drip was started, cold saline running down my vein, I sent Mom off for shopping. What cancer girl wants,  cancer girl should get – within reason, at least.

And good mother that she is, she trotted off, list in hand and came back with just what I’d asked for, and extra provisions stored in my fridge. Thanks, Mom!

Pre-meds (anti emetics, steriods) next until the bag was empty and the machine beeping; then the Taxotere; then the Cytoxan. No Benadryl, thankfully  – quite enough drugs in the system, IMHO. Bags emptied and replaced, the nurses gloving and robing up fully whenever they add anything toxic to the mix. No immediate reactions to any medications either, which was a very good thing.

Done and dusted by 3:00ish, home again, home again, knickety knock… a bit wired and loopy from the steroids, my nerves humming and wild, rocking a bit on my feet, all manageable. Emails, calls, updates, research, the last of the day’s four liters of fluid (not counting coffee), a quick light bland supper, feet up on ice (supposed to help with possible neuropathy and nail loss by decreasing circulation), reading and dozing…

The steroids wound down, and shortly before I fell into Lethe’s waiting arms, I got a bit queasy and, thinking ‘better safe than sorry’ (’cause once you start puking it can be hard to keep the pills down), I popped an anti emetic. I’m wanting to avoid taking them as much as  possible – they have all their own little list of undesirable effects (drowsiness, blurred vision, etc) – but in this case, discretion felt the better part of valor. Besides, I was going to sleep, drowsiness was fine and my dream vision is excellent.

Any other ‘immediate’ effects from chemo should manifest in the next few days  – and delayed effects (such as neuropathy, hair loss, mouth sores, digestive problems, etc will take a bit longer to show up). I’m supposed to take the steriod again today but I’m trying to talk them into allowing me to halve the dose –  normally they want to see a pre-chemo dose, a dose during chemo, and another dose after. I skipped the pre-dose with the oncologist’s consent already, and I’d like to reduce the amount of after-dose as well.

Today I’ll be buggering back up to the hospital for genetic testing (to see if I have a recognizable talent for making breast cancer) and then again for my Neulasta shot (24 hours after chemo  means I’m unlikely to be able to combine the trips – I’m in the schedule for 4:00 as it is).

So far, so good… I can handle waiting four hours (c’mon, I’m Peace Corps!) for a three hour treatment; if that, the fatigue, and the hair loss are the worst it gets I’ll be well pleased indeed.

Fingers crossed, boys and girls!

Entering ChemoLand

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2 Responses to This is How it Works

  1. dropjohn says:

    Oooo, huzzah! Approved for half dose steroids – thank ye gods and little fishes, that stuff makes me crazy, as in seriously crazy. My brain runs full tilt boogie, and tries a bit too hard to fill in any missing details… so random sounds turn into whispers and half heard conversations, moving shadows or reflections become various impossible living things, and everything is important, everything must be seen, all the details colluding and colliding, hyper vigilant and hyped reactions, hyped reaction times… Bad Bad Stuff for me.

  2. Marlene Bryant-Wallace says:

    I’m sure if steroid reactions are bad for me (and they are), they’re going to be worse for you – they speed me up far too much for my liking or for anyone around me, and your base line is already about 3 times speedier than mine, especially in these latter years. So, so sorry the chemo reaction also caught up with you. Anything you want/need – just call.

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