So, Thursday finally came. I was scheduled to be at the cancer center at 7:45am. I hung out at Alex and Max’s house the night before. We had fun and did everything we could to keep my mind off things. When I left, I felt the momentum of the world pushing me to this appointment and just stopped resisting it.
Alex drove me to the cancer center. I had two bags, one with all my doctor paperwork and one with items to keep me busy. I signed up for some resources from the LIVESTRONG foundation, and one of their guidebooks gave suggestions on what to bring.
- Music player and headphones
- Reading materials
- Crossword puzzle or other activities
- Lip balm
- Water bottle
- Body lotion
- Calming teas
- Notepad, journal, and pen
- Bootie socks or slippers
- Cookies, crackers, or other snacks
- Stress ball
- Something to cover the head
I got most of my supplies at the dollar store.
Upon entry, I had to get my blood drawn. I checked in with the receptionist. She said to me, “Good morning, Joann.” I was taken aback. That was my mother’s name. She has been dead for 12 years. She was probably last there 13 years ago. I corrected her and sat down. Alex pointed out that Rosanne was on the TV. It was an episode where Darlene was in the hospital after an appendix burst. Rosanne was all kinds of crazy, but you knew she was concerned and loving to her daughter. Alex was like, “I think we are in the twilight zone.”
When my mom was scheduled for her first chemo infusion, I actually went with her. I remember them hooking her up. She was so scared. I made her come with a stuffed animal. It was the last thing I did before returning to Chicago to end my FMLA leave. Maybe she was just letting me know that she was there for me too.
After the quick and painless blood draw, we saw my doctor. She is a wonderful woman. She made sure I didn’t have any questions, checked my incisions, and went over my CT scan results – which were good.
The last stop was the infusion room. Usually the cancer center is bustling with activity, but we seemed to be the first one in. We had our choice of where we wanted to sit. The patient got a nice recliner and the poor guest had to sit in a hard chair. My infusion was scheduled to last for 6 hours.
The care that these people put into your experience is exceptional. They put my arm on a pillow and warmed it up with a heating pad to get the blood vessels ready. A big IV stand hovered next to me. The nurse got me in one poke. The first medicines were anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, anti-histamine, and steroids to help prevent allergic reactions.
I sat as restfully as I could. I had swapped my shoes for comfy slippers. Alex was having some difficulty in the hard chair. He had some intestinal distress for the last few days, and he was feeling it again today. He had brought knitting needles to re-teach me how to knit, but the IV placement limited my hand moments. He went to the bathroom and spilled stuff on himself. You could tell he was getting uncomfortable and bored. Still, his spirit put me in a great mood.
Too often, these cancer centers feel like funeral homes. People aren’t really happy. They have cancer. I have walked in the building alone and have felt the weight of this dark energy before. It isolates, it terrorizes, and it can make uncomfortable situations feel worse than they need to be.
Walking in with one of my friends is the best way to counteract this. Alex and Max are always my first go to. They are my best friends, soul sisters. They know where I am at and what will trigger me into another thought pattern. I have noticed that our humor always puts the doctors and nurses in great moods as well. This can be a huge benefit.
My first chemo drug was Taxol. The whole infusion for that drug was 3 hours, but they were going to test it with 2 fifteen-minute batches. I was doing well with the first batch. I even got up and went to the bathroom. When I returned, I started to find it harder to breath. It felt like someone was starting to sit on my chest. I than began to feel pain in my hipbones. Not sharp, but achy. It made me want to get out of my chair to get pressure off of them.
I hit the nurse call button, and soon I had two next to me. They stopped the infusion, which immediately ended my symptoms. I had a reaction, but it was at the end of 15 minutes. They gave me more Benadryl and steroids, let me rest a half hour, and tried again.
I was pretty good. Alex traded out with my sister who brought me lunch. This is a great plan. Having a back up switched things up and made my helpers feel less pent up. I tried to get a little sleep. The liquid Benadryl gave me restless legs. Apparently, I almost kicked my sister a few times. My legs didn’t hurt; I just could keep them still.
I completed the Taxol and finished off with 30 minutes of Carboplatin. This was the drug that was going to take my hair in 15 days. At some point, I saw my sister and asked her if she was cold. She had a sweatshirt on, and I was feeling warm. A nurse overheard and poked her head in. ”Which one of you are hot?” I said I was and I had two nurses around me again.
I got my blood pressure taken, pulse oxygen, temperature, and glucose measured. One nurse brought me cold wash clothes for my forehead and neck. Apparently, my blood sugar was high. They supposed that it was from the steroids. One of the side effects is overheating. They chose not to give me insulin because it wasn’t super high, but they kept watching me. No more cookies from the volunteer cart. J
At the end of the infusion, I got a little gift (a plastic cup) and the nurses joked around with me. They pulled out my IV and my sister and I took off. I was tired, but feeling halfway decent. She dropped me off at the boys’ house so someone could watch me.
I felt a little bit like a space cadet. I wasn’t super tired. I wasn’t nauseous. I didn’t taste anything metallic. Being tired has been the biggest thing, and even that hasn’t been too bad. I have to saw, I am surprised. I really thought it would be a lot worse. Of course, side effects can be accumulative. I am going to be hopeful and try to wrap my brain around it staying this easy for now. Worrying just wastes good time for nothing.
So, one out of 3 infusions are done for this session of chemo. I can do this!