I was always curious if chemo was really the way it appears in the movies. Was it painful? Did you feel the drugs going in?So I thought I’d share my experience with chemotherapy.
My infusion is done at my Oncologist’s office, not a cancer center. My Oncologist a great guy who doesn’t use too much Doctor talk to keep it real. And he always seems pretty chill, which under the circumstances is very calming.
Although he’ll check in on me, on infusion days I go to the back of the offices where the nurses run the place. They’re all really great, but I’ll save that for another blog. There’s a chemo room where several people can get infusions at the same time. It has a wall of windows that looks out to the busy LA streets. There are also some private infusion rooms. Depending on availability and which I prefer determines where I’ll end up. Today I got room 6 - the private infusion room. I get weighed, blood pressure, temperature and blood taken and all my information is entered in the computer because it will inform the dosage of medicine for the day. When all the numbers are confirmed, the nurse requests to get my medicines released from a pharmacy-like area in the office.
While that’s going on, I’m connected to an IV through the port in my chest. The nurse pops the needle into this tiny device placed under my skin on my chest. I don’t feel it at all.
From this point forward, everything is given to me through IV in my port. First I receive several pre-medications (Emend, Decadron, Kytril) that will (please G-d) help with nausea. I’m also given fluids to make sure I stay hydrated. This process takes about an hour.
Once that’s completed, the nurse shows up with a huge syringe of a red liquid that looks almost like cool-aid. (It kinda reminds me of the old cartoons where Bugs Bunny shows up in scrubs and a big ‘ole syringe!) She then manually pushes the Adriomycin (also known as the red devil) into my IV. This is done manually to make sure it goes in slowly and evenly so I won’t have an adverse reaction- it’s some potent stuff! I have ice in my mouth during this part of the process in hopes of avoiding getting sores in my mouth, one of the side effects of Adriomycin. This takes about 20 minutes.
None of this hurts at all, by the way. I sit comfortably in the chair and chat with the nurses about all the various things going on in our worlds.
The next drug, Cytoxin, is hung in an IV bag and infused over another 40 minutes or so. During that time, I just chill. I’ve found that it helps to picture the medicine as a magic healing potion going into my body. But even with that, I’m aware that I’m trying to fool my mind and distract myself from the intensity of what is going into my body. I put my headphones on and listen to some good ‘ole 80’s music.
Once I’ve finished receiving the Cytoxin and other fluids, my port gets disconnected. The only thing left is to have a small box that contains Neulasta attached to my arm. This part is actually kinda cool. It’s a little device that will release a white blood cell booster medicine into my body 24 hours after my infusion. It gets attached to my arm and starts beeping and blinking. After a few seconds a small catheter is inserted into my arm. It feels like when someone snaps a rubber band on your skin. For the next 24 hours, a light on the box blinks and at the 24 hour mark, begins to infuse the medicine into my arm over 45 minutes. Then I can take the box off my arm and throw it away. Wow- 21st Century stuff for sure!
And that’s it. The whole process takes about three hours. Without any pomp or circumstance, my infusion is complete and I’m free to head home and wait (dread) to feel the medicines kick in.
I’ve been prescribed a new anti-nausea medicine to try at home this time in hopes that I can avoid the experience of my first infusion.
And one more thing- by my side- every breath, every step, has been my amazing husband. He is my love.
And there you have it- the chemo experience!
PS- I’m happy to report that I had a much better (I’d say 40%) experience post infusion than the first round. We changed up a couple things. I kept the house really cold at 75degrees. Somehow that helps. And at the first sign of nausea, I lit up my legally bought marijuana joint. Took 3 puffs and waited to see. Sure enough, it was helpful at keeping the nausea at bay. I also to an Ativan at bedtime because it’s side effects are anti-nausea and am thrilled to share I’ve had my first good night’s sleep in months. Onward we go!