Posted by: Sarah | June 1, 2005

Round 1 of Chemo

Am exhausted. It was a very long day. My appointment at the oncologist’s was at 9:15, but I ended up being there until nearly 3:30.

The oncologist showed me a paper (presented at a recent oncological conference) that said that the type of chemo I’m having this summer gives an 82% 5-year survival rate. I don’t think the paper narrowed down the chemo recipients’ cancer types to node negative or node positive, er/pr negative or positive, or aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, so we all must not sit there and assume this means that I, Sarah, have an 82% 5-year survival rate with this chemo regimen, but on the other hand, those are really good-looking and hopeful numbers, no?

He looked at my most recent surgical incision, pronounced it looking very good, and then checked my arm lymph nodes (calling me skinny yet again — do I love these doctors or what?), and gave me an Rx for sleeping pills in case I need them.

Here is my starting lineup for the next six rounds (once every two weeks = a round, so with no delays or problems, I could theoretically complete my chemo by mid-August–although it is kind of a bummer that the boys’ first birthday looks like it’s going to fall on a chemo day):

  • epirubicin (same as the Adriamycin that all-but-guarantees hair loss, except this is easier on my heart)
  • Taxotere (same family as Taxol, which you usually hear about for breast cancer chemo)
  • Cytoxan dunno, it’s just another part of the cocktail.

Then they took me to the chemo room where there’s all these La-Z-Boys and one TV (which was NOT tuned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show — I would think all her dancing would be a happy-making thing for chemo patients to watch). They hooked up an IV to my port and gave me lots of pre-Chemo meds, like anti-nausea drugs and a little relaxing drug. Then they brought in the epirubicin, which looks like cherry Kool-Aid (just like Adria), and they had in a big syringe. They pushed that drug into my IV over about a 20-minute time period. The other two drugs were just IV bags that dripped, but they couldn’t drip simultaneously, so we put one bag up, let it drip for an hour, and then switched bags and let that one drip for an hour.

I did crossword puzzles, I talked briefly on the telephone (someone please remind me that the La-Z-Boy by the room entrance gets terrible cell reception. I will try the one closer to the window next time), drank water, dragged my IV pole down to the ladies’ room four times to see my pee turn pink from the epirubicin, took a nap, and was playing Tetris when Tom came to get me after the chemo was all over.

Oh, and the cancer center’s women’s support group met today — I would’ve gone except it was my first chemo and the nurses said they needed to observe me for reactions. But the support group leader made it a point to come over and talk with me, and then later sent another woman, Mary (not really her name, but she reminded me of my mother, whose name is Mary), to talk to me. Mary was wearing a scarf under a baseball hat…she’s just finished her chemo and is doing a few weeks of radiation, but other than that, she’s done done done! She is not my age (she has a 19-year-old daughter), but she was the closest patient in the place to my age. I think Mary and I are the Young Folk at my chemo center! All the other people getting chemo today had a good 40 or 50 years on me. I don’t think they knew what to do with me.

One woman’s granddaughters brought in a baby to visit (great-grandson?) and all the chemo patients just lit up at the sight of him. Makes me think maybe I’ll bring the boys down there sometime, see if their sunny faces can cheer up some folks.

So now I’m home again, I’m really tired, not nauseated, but TIRED, and looking forward to sleep. Tomorrow I have to go back to the oncologist’s to get a shot of Procrit. Maybe you’ve seen commercials for it on television? Chemo patients use it to keep their red blood cell count up, thereby avoiding anemia and accompanying fatigue. Then I go again next Wednesday for more bloodwork, and (I assume) the following Wednesday for Round #2 of Chemo.

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