It’s 36 hours after my first chemo infusion. It is a very strange feeling to willingly sit in a recliner lounger in a room with up to 3 other patients and let a chemotherapy nurse put an IV in your wrist to pump cytotoxins into you. That may be an understatement.
My chemo buddy and I did the Chemo 101 class at 9am in the morning. There were about a dozen other people in the class. They teach you about what to expect, what to report for side effects and how to manage the side effects. They also teach the support givers how to protect themselves if they have to clean up any of the results of the side effects. If it hadn’t registered that they are shooting poison into your body before that, I’m sure it did for many then.
I had been working on my visualizations – choosing to see the chemo going in as assassins, highly specialized, well trained elite troops that hunt down enemy cells and kill them dead. They are accompanied by a clean up crew, who sweep in behind and cart off all the dead bodies. Those dead bodies get eliminated through your pee and poo. Hence the instructions to DRINK LOTS OF WATER. In my mind, the clean up crew sweeps all the nasty stuff into the river of water and it gets flushed out.
I made sure I drank LOTS of water.
LET’S DO THIS THING
As part of getting my mind to be open to accepting the chemo going in as a ‘good’ thing, I had a quick huddle with my chemo buddy – kind of like a pre-game pep talk. We did the hug and fist bump and I sat myself down in the chair.
Chemo nurses are amazing. They are a special breed, I’m sure. Incredibly caring, compassionate and experts at finding veins. I, apparently, have small veins. They like big, fat veins and the best one they found in my was in my wrist. Sigh. I was hoping to avoid that as it’s a bit awkward and painful. Oh well. As my chemo nurse said – I love this vein – nurse porn she called it. Well then, who can refuse nurse porn. In the IV went.
Now it starts. The first bag was the Cyclophosphamide. It would take 40 minutes to drip in. The side effects of this drug during infusion (while you are sitting in the chair) is what they call wasabi nose. Your nose drips, the area around your mouth can feel tingley – kind of like freezing at the dentist. They want to avoid that. So, they start at 40 min for this first time, and if you do ok with that at chemo round 2 they’ll try 30 minutes. I was ok – no wasabi anything. Once the IV is in, you don’t feel anything. You just sit there and wait.
I am so grateful for my friend who is coming with me. I like to laugh. We both do. As she says, if you can’t laugh you’ll cry, so let’s laugh. We had a bunch of good belly laughs during that bag of Cyclophosphamide. The other two patients were clearly ‘old pros’ at this and were there on their own, without a buddy. One was using a smartphone to play games. My friend and I chatted the whole time, (making sure we didn’t annoy/disturb the others).
After 40 min it was time for the next bag of stuff. This was Docetaxel, a more toxic drug, and the one I’d been taking the allergic reaction prevention drugs for over the past day. This was the drug for which I’d need to wear ice gloves to save my nails from falling off and the nerves in my fingers from being injured. The ice gloves went on 15 min before the infusion. I’d need to wear them for the next 90 minutes. This was not going to be any fun. Those gloves were freakin cold. It’s like sticking your hand in snow and leaving it there for an hour and a half. Ugh. They changed them twice during the infusion to make good and sure they stayed cold all the way through.
The bag went on the IV pole. This drug has a strict 1 hour timed dose. No changes. Ok – ready. Now I have to sit there for the next 90 min and I can’t use my hands (and they’re freezing). Gonna need some good belly laughs and distractions now, that’s for sure.
The drip started, and I don’t know if it was psychological, but within a couple of minutes I felt it in my left breast where my tumour had been. I asked the chemo nurse if people could feel this drug, and she did say that some people felt it where their tumour was. It was fleeting, and it didn’t last, but I did feel something. I took it as a good sign that those assassins were in their doing their job.
60 minutes and two glove changes later, the drip was removed. 15 more minutes with the gloves on. My hands were so cold by now I’d stopped thinking about them. That point passed within the first 20 min or so. When they brought the second set of gloves they were so cold, I couldn’t keep my hands in there without taking a break.
Finally, all done. Gloves off, IV out (a side benefit of the ice gloves is the wrist did not ache as much). Let’s blow this pop stand. And wait for the side effects. And engage the internal clean up crew. Get ready sweepers – lots of water coming and nasty dead cancer cells to flush out.
So far, so good. I felt kinda weird, but ok.
By now it was around 5:30, so we headed out to dinner. But, first we went hat shopping. After all, my hair was going to be falling out in a couple of weeks, I was going to need some warm head gear. We had a ton of fun trying on hats, tucking up my hair inside. I picked out three.
More anti-nausea drugs with dinner and LOTS of water. Then an early night. Give those sweepers a chance to do their job and get that stuff outta me.
And, tomorrow is a big day – I am chopping off all my hair to super short as a pre-emptive strike.