The day started nicely enough. I decided to rock the Sienna blonde/hat look for chemo round 2. And of course, the periwinkle wrap. Seamus did his snugly kiss goodbye thing (“Chemo is nothing, mom. Stay strong”) and we were off. Yeah, remember in my last post I questioned that the doctor was cutting back the steroid anti-nausea medication–actually cutting it in half? And I was thinking “Why mess with a good thing?” Yeah. I should be a doctor.
Here’s me getting started–still looking “up” and ready to go. The nurse is getting the IV feed needle in and situated. I was still game, but uh, the needle was “dull”–and let’s just say it took a few trys. Nice start. She put the IV needle on the side of my wrist. I don’t think I prefer that, although I appreciate that they try to use different veins (I still have a bruise on the back of my hand from the first one, so I can hardly wait to see what this one will look like). And she asked if I wanted the sedative again, and I, thinking “less meds the better” said “Nah, it went fine last time, so let’s skip it” (Hint: don’t ever pass on pro-offered sedatives when you are getting a medical procedure. Just don’t.)
There was a very nice lady in the chair next to me. She has leukemia and basically will have chemo the rest of her life. But she was so positive and calm. This is her third round of chemo…not third treatment, the start of the third time she’s gone the whole round of chemo. Her hair had grown back from chemo round 2, but now she was going to start 3 and it was going to fall out again. I can’t imagine. She has a “port” in her chest and gets the chemo fed through there–her veins can’t take it anymore. And she had bruises all over (because leukemia, among other things, causes really easy bruising) from their St. Bernard! And again, she was just so cheerful!
Some familiar characters you may recall. The beanie babies are still there, but some have been changed out and some were “hung” a bit less shockingly. I had the same chair in the same corner, but new beanie babies. This IV poll featured two Mighty Ducks (ducks in a row, get it?) and a sacrificial lamb. Charming, right? But this also gives you a nice view of my office set up–see the books, the writing notepad and the snacks and Gatorade? All set.
Elizabeth and her mom were there again. This was her mom’s last treatment. She got a “graduation diploma” at the end, and some applause–because we all want to be her. Here they are at the “end” of her chemo (mom’s still in the chair, awaiting the check out).
And yep, Chatty Cathy was back and seated next to Elizabeth’s mom. But she was less chatty and I eventually had quite a bit of empathy for her when I learned all of the following: she was very ill post chemo (although I could have done without the vomiting in the shower story), she can’t drink anything cooler than room temperature or it feels like glass shards in her throat–even opening the refrigerator and breathing in cold air had that effect on her!), and she takes chemo pills for 14 days after the chemo infusion, which keeps her pretty sick, without an appetite, and means she has to flush the toilet at home after use twice for 14 days (she has little kids at home, so this becomes extra important). And, she’s 34. With colon cancer. And most of her family has died of or had some form of cancer. A crazy bunch of them. All of that allowed me to get over the fact that she was reading a book called “When God Breaks Your Heart.” (Okay, I’m not totally over that; I’m just refraining from totally mocking it. Sort of.) She did get this one break though–she’s getting the kind of chemo that doesn’t cause hair loss. So she still has her hair. Not sure that’s such a good trade, but at least she got that break.
I did learn from the chatting in the room, that scraping my tongue will help deal with the metallic taste. Hmmm. And also, many of the chemo patients were patients at San Antonio Community Hospital and were quite pleased with their care. Good to know. In case of an emergency, we had always planned on driving straight to UCLA (no matter how many Riverside hospitals we passed on our way). But now we have another closer option. One we hope we don’t have to use!
My chemo started at about 10:30. Chris stayed until eleven and then left to go do some errands and pick up some wine necessary for the wine website/blog he’ll be launching soon. Because, you know, all had gone so well before we thought I’d be fine. So, he missed all the drama. You may recall in chemo round 1 I mentioned an older gentleman that had some sort of reaction and all the nurses were huddled around him? That was me this time. I think I made it only about an hour into the chemo when I started feeling “tingly”, and a little warm, and slightly sick, and I was thinking “Maybe I should tell the nurse” so I flagged her down and before she even made it over to me two things happened: 1) everyone in the room went “oh my god, you’re all red!” and 2) I got a very sharp pain in my lower back. As you might guess, none of these things are good. They immediately stopped the infusion, pumped in some Benadryl and more Decadron (the steriod they had cut back the dosage on…right, the decrease I was worried about). Then gave me a saline solution. All of that took about another hour. An hour I wasn’t getting chemo. She started me back on the chemo again, but with a slower drip. First twenty minutes went great. Then she increased the drip speed and “Houston, we have a problem” again. Stopped again. More Benadryl. More Decadron. More saline. Start me up again. But slowly. We kept the drip going slowly.
Chris returned and got the update. The one that meant, yeah, we’re gonna be here awhile. And by then, all the others were starting to finish up and head out. Next up for me…chest pain! We had to stop again and they gave me Tagamet (in the IV). By the time we finally got all the Taxotere (the chemo) in me it was nearly 4:30pm. Yeah, it took over 5 1/2 hours. It was supposed to take 2, maybe 2 1/2. And there was still Cytoxan to go. The Cytoxan takes another hour or so.
That’s when I slept. I’d had enough. Then I woke and read The Widow Clicquot (great biography of the woman who made Veuve Clicqout champagne what it is today) and I’m only about 20 pages from finishing. Plus, somewhere in this day I got a few thank you notes written as well (if you get one, and my handwriting is a mess–you’ll know why). So I eeked out a little productivity. At 5:45, here’s what things looked like:
Yeah, that’s me getting the IV needle removed (it hurt a little, I’m not gonna lie), and then the empty, empty rooms. There was one other patient left. She was new, but her chemo didn’t even start until about 2, so she was only 3 1/2 hours into it. As opposed to my 7+. Long, long day.
We left, got a pizza, picked up Seamus, ate said pizza, I took all my meds (Decadron and Tylenol) and zonked out for about an hour. Hey, I had to be awake to watch The Office and 30 Rock. And type the blog. Can’t forget that. Because you were worried right?
Tomorrow I have to go back to the doctor’s office for the Neulasta shot. The one of “30% of patients get mild to severe bone pain.” They give me a shot at 4pm tomorrow. An hour before I’m supposed to take the “Neulasta cocktail”–Tylenol, Benadryl and Claritin. Good, good times. But again, we’re looking forward to smooth sailing on day 12. No white blood cell count crashing. Oh, and I now know how bad the crash was. My white blood cell count on crash day was 16. Now it’s at 3,800+ Those 16 worked really, really hard. We’re calling in reinforcements this time. Ducks in a row and all. More ducks. Less lamb, please.