The day before chemo has become known in Casa Benison as “Ativan Day.” Honestly, there is nothing I can do that keeps the anxiety at a distance. I deploy countermeasures like prayer, breathing, meditation, a nice walk, but the stress is overwhelming. Largely that is due to the port-induced drama-fests of the first two chemo treatments. Chemo Day Three was not so bad. In fact, it was quite boring. Incidentally, the doctors talk about cycles because chemo day itself is just the beginning of physical abuse and monitoring/managing the side effects.
On Monday, I went in for 9:45 labs to make sure I was healthy enough for the onslaught of chemo. I was. There is quite a lot of waiting, then the warm blankets–the silver lining of the whole deal. Happily, the new port was accessed with no fuss or bother at all. In fact, I will turn down the freezing spray next time because it just makes me itch, like a burn. They puncture the skin to access the port which is still better than an IV. Once that poke is done, then it’s more waiting while pre-chemo meds are administered (anti-nausea and a steroid). The in-house pharmacy mixes and dispenses the chemo drugs after the labs come back clear and all the data is reviewed by both nurse and doctor (I only see the nurse at this particular event).
I get two chemo drugs, Taxotere and Cytoxan. If they sound like poison to you, you’ve got the idea. Each is administered by itself because they each have allergic reactions that must be monitored (hence the steroids). I have been fortunate in not having those reactions, and that means they can administer each of those more quickly now than they did during the first two cycles. One hour each. Once they are hung, I can wander the building as I please (though I don’t really please), and there is a beautiful patio outside that is reserved especially for patients like me to use (which I do please). Before I go outside, the nurses cover the chemo bags with UV blocking shields. Delicate creatures, they don’t like sun (they probably react poorly to a stake in the heart, too). But the fresh air, the large planters, and the downtown setting is really refreshing for me. And Jim goes with me.
At the end, the nurse will flush the port with heparin to prevent clots and stuff I barely understand but it must be done. Doesn’t feel any different than the other meds. I have chosen to receive my Neulasta shot in person the next day instead of wearing a device that administers the shot automatically. I used the device for cycle one and disliked it intensely. If I lived an hour away from the doctor, it would be a blessing, but I’m 10 minutes out and it isn’t worth the hassle. So, the nurse reviews my upcoming appointments and schedules my shot, and we are on our way. We were told at education class that all of this would be less than 4 hours. This last time we clocked in at just under 6 hours, and this time had the fewest hiccups.
Chemo Day 3 having been the best of the bunch, I am hopeful that Chemo Day 4 will be similar. Because of the steroid pre-meds, I felt pretty good and enjoyed a short walk before taking up residence on the couch. My mouth tastes terrible by the time we get home, but for a brief time, life is good. Day 1 post-chemo is when things get lousy. Days following chemo are grim and need their own post. For now, the day of chemo is largely boring and spent in a not-private, could-be-worse kind of place. It can be quite noisy–oppressively noisy with lots of alarms pinging and very loud TVs over a variety of conversations. Think of hanging out at your doctor’s office for a whole day. Oh, and having Drano poured into you.