Posted by: Sarah | July 10, 2005

What Happens at Chemo Stays at Chemo (I wish)

Meg made me realize today that I haven’t really explained what all goes on At Chemo. Since I’m unlikely to come home from treatment on Wednesday ready to sit down and type up a big description, I figure I’ll try to work on it before the next treatment.

My appointments are generally at 9 a.m. or somewhere around then. They call me back to the treatment room — a room full of big La-Z-Boy recliners — and access my port to draw some blood for bloodwork. They leave the port line in (I’ve learned to wear something open-necked that can be pulled aside, like a polo shirt or a button-down and not a crew-neck t-shirt) while the bloodwork is processed onsite. After about 20 minutes, I go back to meet with the oncologist, or sometimes the nurse practitioner, who reviews my bloodwork results, talks with me about how I’ve been feeling, what symptoms I’ve been having, etc., and then orders the treatment.

Back I go to the La-Z-Boy room, which is often slam-packed with patients, and after a while, one of the nurses reconnects my port line to an IV and starts some IV fluids. Shortly before my chemo arrives (I think it’s prepared at an offsite pharmacy, though just across the street), they add my pre-meds: Benadryl, Zantac, and Ativan, plus something else, I believe. It’s quite a cocktail, let me tell you, because this is the point where things typically get hazy for me on Treatment Day (this is on purpose). I’ve fallen asleep for one treatment and just sort of spaced out for the other one; I think it’s the Ativan/Benadryl combo that does that.

Once my pre-meds are finished, they connect the first of my chemo IV bags. As I described in my June 1 post, there are three medications in my chemo cocktail: taxotere, cytoxan, and epirubicin. Taxotere and cytoxan are in the IV bags, and must drip individiually, each of which takes about an hour. Then when those are done, they get the syringe (a BIG one) of epirubicin, which is injected slowly–over a 20-minute time period–into my port line. Epirubicin is also called “the red devil” and it makes you pee red for a day or so–not blood red, just pale cherry Kool-Aid red.

All of this takes most of the day. It’s really sort of hazy, thanks to the pre-meds, but it’s not upsetting and it’s not painful and I don’t mind it, really. I like visiting with the nurses and the other patients and listening to my iPod and reading and napping. And I especially like it when Tom brings me McAlister’s for lunch. Hint Hint, honey.

Around 2:30 or 3, they pronounce me All Done, and Tom comes to get me and bring me home, where I watch the boys play for a bit and then Nancy makes me go lie down and rest or eat or something. Because while Day Of treatment isn’t too bad, you’ve really got to watch out for Days #2 through #5. Ugh.

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