I will have to edit this on the fly … my head is pounding and I can’t figure out why it is featuring the lunch menu on Facebook rather than the chemo photos! I can’t look at my own FB feed because the photo now makes me barfy *Fixed! This blog post isn’t for the faint of heart … first chemotherapy session!
Choppy writing because I can’t find my notes and my chemobrain has kicked in the doors. Oh … and two days in emerg … but more on that later!
Monday, April 10 … one month since my Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) lumpectomy and sentinel node surgery and I was back at the Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC) for a final Pharmacy consult, bloodwork and to see my Oncologist Dr. F.
They have scanned every crevice of my body … can tell I have fibroids, a very sore toe, a breast recovering from surgery, a bladder full of radioactive dye. I was also told that I had a post-operative sac of fluid that they would keep an eye on in case it bothered me … Queue the music that makes you wonder what is around the corner!
I do have the heart of an athlete with a sweet beat of 50-60 bpm. The gym pay off!
Tuesday morning I took the two anti-nausea drugs plus steroids provided before my chemo treatment, and I tried to eat a little breakfast and get them down. I rushed around trying to remember everything I needed and stuff it into my bag. I will do a whole blog post on what is in the Chemo bag … You would be surprised!
I have to take powerful anti-nausea medications for three days, and also have extra and above-the-call-of-duty anti-nausea drugs to take care of any queasiness that comes up after. The second I feel sick, I have to take one to “get ahead” of the wave … so far it has worked! TMI is not part of this blog, people …
My first appointment at the DRCC was to get my PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line inserted by two lovely technicians who loved dogs. We talked about rescuing dogs the entire time. Good thing because they had to refreeze my arm and retry to get the PICC catheter in far enough so it was close to my heart. You really don’t feel a thing!
PICC in on two tries and then … that long walk down that long hallway to the Systemic Therapy Unit for my first Chemotherapy infusion.
I was terrified to walk in … after my experience with the tour … it was almost like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flashbacks. In fact, I don’t recall if we walked right in or someone came to get us … Sherri will have to fill in that detail.
I do recall the volunteer being extremely nice and gentle in getting me settled in a private corner so I could look out into a park. She got me tea. Then she asked me what colour I liked for a blanket … Pink, blue, black I said.
Well, she found a crochet blanket with all those colours and handed it to me … It was mine. The chemo infusion is colder than room temperature which is much colder than body temperature so that is why we cancer patients wrap up during chemo. Then she handed me a box of knitted hats and sewn scarves and told me to pick two. All were made by volunteers. Bless them.
I chose two spring scarves … One scarf, I swear … my Mom whispered over my shoulder that she loved the green and mauve one … they were her favourite colours and I was immediately drawn to it. The other was also springy and cheerful. I didn’t want any knits to itch my soon-to-be-bald head.
I will volunteer in the DRCC once I am done. Because I want to give back that experience that my volunteer gave me. Immediately redirecting my thoughts to cozy and warm and protected.
My Nurse came by to introduce herself and began to get us settled and set up in my reclining chair.
I have decided that each chemotherapy session will be a “theme” for me … you know how I love to dress up! My first chemo was to pay homage to the one person who makes me want to go on … my son. He and I have fought through it all and have been a team since day one.
So I brought his baby blanket, the light blue corduroy blanket, and his Love Frog. Love Frog was a last minute Valentine’s gift when he was 7 or 8. Matt was never really into stuffies but I just loved something about that frog. All the kids were ga ga over Ganz stuffies who had online personalities.
I gave him to Matt and he loved Love Frog! We moved his head, we had Love Frog ask questions, we had him talk … he was our bedtime buddy for years.
Matt obviously grew out of Love Frog after a few years, but the love never left. He stayed in a safe place in our home and came out hiding to go the hospital 10 years later. He made the chemo more fun for all of us.
My nurse brought over the first drug of the Chemo Cocktail … referred to as the Red Devil due to it’s bright red colour and how sick it can make you … It’s real name is Doxorubicin or the trade name Adriamycin … So it is the “A” in my dose dense AC-T Chemo Cocktail. This stuff is so toxic to my heart, I can only have so many doses in my lifetime. So this cancer needs to go away. My friend – and fellow cancer warrior – Virginia says it reminds her of something a mad scientist would wield in a cartoon. That giant syringe is just so…ridiculous! Well said!
It will block an enzyme that cells need to grow … unfortunately, it just doesn’t target cancer cells.
The Red Devil is so toxic that the nurse is pretty much wearing a hazmat suit to administer the drug, which she pushed in via a large syringe and took about 45 minutes. I had red pee and have to flush the toilet 2 or 3 times so as to not contaminate my family with my chemo cocktail.
I felt no effects as it was going in, except the emotional. We video taped the “push” and I will share at a later date when I am able to view it … I am not ready myself yet.
Was that the start of chemo or the end of cancer? Or am I already cancer free and we are just making sure? Mindset … mind games … mindfulness … mind numbing …
Time for the “C” in my AC-T Chemo Cocktail … Cyclophosphamide or Cytoxan. This drug will interfere with the duplication of DNA in my cells and suppress my immune system.
I will get 4 doses of “AC” in 8 weeks, so once every two weeks. “T” doesn’t start until the end of this regimen … where I get 12 weeks of 12 infusions of Taxol. The day after each AC chemo infusion, I get a white blood cell booster shot called Neulasta to kick start my bones into producing the cells.
This “C” stuff gave me the chills … literally. It felt like an ice cream headache in my chest. The PICC line delivers the chemo to the large heart vein (thumb sized) so that there isn’t damage to the vein. Sherri said it was the first time she saw me look scared … I thought my heart was having a headache! They had to slow down the drip, and that relieved the ache in my chest for a less stressful infusion … sit back … drink tea … chat about the weather … This mix of the cocktail took about an hour. Where is the patio?
They flush the PICC line with saline, then helped me get ready to leave! I was done! No incidents other than the ice cream headache in the heart! Yay!
I WAS STARVING.
Believe it or not … I chose Thai as my First Chemo lunch! Brave girl! Yummmm … Cream Curry Chicken. Can anyone read my tea leaves?
We shopped (for fashionable PICC line covers) and I bled so I had to buy them all. We went back to the Chemo Lounge to have my PICC line checked … all good.
At home, Sherri … my Angel … made us a wonderful dinner of Chicken, Orzo with Lemon & Parsley and Asparagus. Fran stopped by to check in on me and joined us dinner! So happy to be surrounded with love and comfort.
I was given three anti-nausea drugs, steroids, frozen (for the PICC line), salined, Red Deviled, Cytoxan’d, salined again and sent home to take anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills. But before I crashed, I noticed that my lymph nodes were all popping up, so Sherri left a message for my primary oncology nurse.
Later that night I was so ramped up on the steroids that I cleaned out a bag of chips with onion chip dip, then fell asleep … ASLEEP … with a granola bar in my mouth.
I crashed hard.
Sherri says I sleep walked through my bedtime and tooth brushing routine and flopped into bed. Good night!
Fuck you Cancer!
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© Lisa Jobson 2017