AC Round #1 - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
So I started chemo last Thursday, 1/27/11.  Happy belated birthday to me!

Actually I was very excited to get this show on the road.  I think my doctor/nurses/everyone had no idea what to do with me because they kept asking “are you OK?  How is your anxiety?” 

And I was all, “I’m GREAT!  Let’s get this party started!”

Then they’d look at me like I’m nuts (because I am) and I’m fairly certain they made hand signals behind their backs so I couldn't see that translated loosely as “let’s give this chick loads of drugs… this isn’t normal.”

Anywho.  Here is how my first Chemo treatment went.

My mom and I got to the hospital around 10:30 for an 11 meeting with Tara (Dr. Yee’s Physician’s Assistant).  We leisurely strolled over to the hospital, got ourselves some latte’s and got to the waiting room just in time for our appointment.

I was only expecting to talk to Tara, but Dr. Yee was waiting for us.  Too bad for him, his nurse had to get my vitals and ask all those important questions “Are you taking any drugs we should know about?  Could you be pregnant?”

That took us about 10 minutes and we laughed because the nurse and my mother seemed to hit it off and used a lot of nursing humor that I totally didn’t get.  Then my mother would say “OK, I’m going to behave now…. Who am I kidding, no I won’t.” 

And they’d LAUGH. 

And I sat there shaking my head, like “is this for real?”

So the nurse eventually left and Dr. Yee and Tara came in.  They were both very serious.  Like in a “the dog has died and I have to tell you” kind of a way.  I assured Dr. Yee that I was perfectly fine and wonderful and happy and this is where I think he wrote orders for lots of anti-anxiety meds… because who claims that they’re not nervous before pumping their body full of chemo drugs?

Then my mother gave him a wind up inch worm. 

No.  I’m not kidding. 

It was this little green inch worm that you could wind up and it’d crawl along.  Her comment to go with it was “because I’m sure with your job, you sometimes feel like you’re just inching along, but always remember that you’re getting somewhere.”

And then I think Dr. Yee put some more drugs on my order in hopes I’d sleep through the car ride home with this crazy woman.

I really don’t think anyone knew how to handle us.  I mean, I know this sounds awful, but I don’t understand why cancer treatment is so sad.  Yes, it sucks to have cancer.  It sucks to stand face to face with your own mortality and wonder who will win.  But how can you NOT be excited about being handed the weapons that will help you win that battle?

50 years ago, cancer was a death sentence.  Now, 75% of people emerge victorious!  The battle is hard, it’s exhausting, but every single treatment is just one more step towards life.  If the drugs do their job and luck is on your side, you will just have a some scars and hopefully can make up a great story to go with ‘em. 

Like “this one time I got into a fight with a bear, and the bear ONLY WANTED MY BOOBS!”

OK, kind of off topic there.

So after meeting with Dr. Yee, Tara walked me through the potential side effects of the chemo.  Lack of energy, possible nausea, reddish orange pee for 24 hours after chemo (b/c one of the drugs is red) are all pretty common side effects.  All were things I expected. 

Then we got a little pager (kind of like when you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant) and we were told that once it went off, head up to the infusion room.

Approximately 3 minutes later, we were getting beeped and off we went, up to the brand spankin new infusion room.

And in my usual awesome fashion, I got a private room.  WOOT!  WOOT! 

I'd say it's kind of like being upgraded to First Class on a plane... only I didn't get a meal or free booze.

Anywho, we met our nice nurse, Pat (boy, not girl) and he's been doing this stuff for like 20 years.  I felt I was in good hands.

Then I got hooked up to the IV and begain waiting for my drugs.  Since I was a chemo virgin, they had to check, check and triple check all the chemo orders and dosages.  Which means I was waiting for quite awhile to start getting drugs.

The first things they give you are the side effect drugs.  One of the biggest side effects of chemo that everyone is aware of is nausea.  So they give you 2 different drugs to help with this (or at least they gave me 2 drugs).  They both affect the absorbtion of some chemical in your body that induces nausea.  One blocks absorbtion of it to your stomach and the other blocks the production of it in your brain.  At least that's the really dumbed down version they gave me :)

The Ativan (one that blocks something in the brain) also makes you tired.  And HOLY GUACAMOLE did that sucker hit me like a freight train.  I'm happily sitting there working on my cross word puzzle and suddenly my brain got all fuzzy.  I looked at my mother and said "Well I guess I can start using Chemo Brain as an excuse for being dumb now."

My mother's response was something along the lines of "Well I'm not going to believe that one!"

I guess she didn't want me making excuses for why she kicked my butt at puzzles (we were racing). 

Later, when she figured out I was seriously fuzzy, she apologized and we laughed that I know where I get my competitive spirit from.

Chemo in total took about 3.5 hours the first time.  From what I understand, this time should shorten a little with the future infusions since the orders will be in the system and not just being processed for the first time.

I can say that it's been relatively painless.

Main side effects: very mild nausea, lack of appetite, and being tired.

It's kind of like when you're getting over the flu.  You know that feeling when you've been sick and your stomach just isn't ready for real food yet?  That's what I mean by mild nausea. 

And the appetite is AWOL.  I mean totally gone.  It's like food and I used to be friends, and then food ticked me off and my body still isn't speaking to it.  In fact, my body refuses to even acknowledge that food exists.  I didn't think I'd miss having an appetite as much as I do, but MAN this sucks.  (Update as of Wednesday, appetite is BACK!  YAY!)

The last is the tiredness.  Right around 2:30 every day, my body is all "naptime!" and the brain turns off.  Which would be cool if I didn't have a job... or a child... or a life in general.  So now I am attempting to figure out coping mechanisms for how to work through the period with no brain.  Like doing all the hard stuff in the morning and saving all the brainless stuff (as if that actually exists) for post 2pm. 

Aside from all the complaining I just did, I truly do feel thankful that chemo is this under control.  10-15 years ago (or less) people were sick to the point of puking during infusions.  I just sat there and worked on Sudoku and crossword puzzles.  I even ate dinner that night. 

Now if they could just come up with a solution for losing your hair... the world would be AWESOME!

So long blog made short, Chemo wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and 6 days later, I'm feeling pretty OK.  Actually, with my appetite back and the nausea gone, I feel like I could conquer the world.  I'm happy, I'm positive and if I could drink large quantities of coffee, I'm pretty sure I'd even have a pep in my step.

First round of AC conquered, three rounds to go!
Amanda
2/2/2011 10:15:29 am

Hey Cyn, Glad to hear that chemo wasn't as awful scary as it seems! Sorry about your loss of appetite. Its sort of like that scene in Romey and Michele's High School Reunion, where Romey tells Michele that mono was the best diet ever. Although I would rather you have mono than cancer... Hugs and kisses from us all we miss you.

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2/2/2011 12:29:29 pm

SOMEONE needs to video tape this experience. I'd LOVE to see your mom giving the Dr. a wind-up INCH WORM! Hilarious! So the question on everyone's mind is... how shapely is your head?

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Jamie
2/2/2011 06:35:06 pm

Glad to hear that your first fighting drug experience was not too bad...now a possible solution for your 2:30 pm tiredness...maybe you can put for the boss (or you in that case) to hire a secretary/assistant to do everythign for you in the afternoon, so you can get a good nap in before going home...AND still be paid for it...oh, and maybe a cook to cook for you while at work so you can take nutrious food home in a doggie bag...do you think they would go for this??

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hazel
1/24/2014 11:51:29 pm

Thanks so much. My mum in uk. Me in nz. Mum recently diagnosed with lymphoma and starts chemo next week. Wanted to send an upbeat message. You have really inspired me. She's extremely positive and I am proud of her fighting spirit. Thank you again and I wish you future good health with many sparkling moments x

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