I’ve had computer problems and a few family things so this post got quite delayed. But I’m back to report on my first chemo treatment. Bottom line: it wasn’t that bad at all.
On chemo morning I was a bit apprehensive but it all went fine. We were shown into a lovely sunny room with a window, and a very nice nurse took care of me. My husband was able to hook up with the wireless and to work. Since it was my first time, there was a lot of stuff to go over, but it was pretty much reviewing things that I’d gotten in the pre-chemo class or through my reading of all the materials they have given me. I had had to take an anti-nausea med an hour before going in, then was given a handful more when I first got there. The pharmacist stopped by and went over all the meds I needed to take at home.
I got settled in the recliner, and the port was thoroughly cleaned (they use 3 separate alcohol swabs) and then hooked up. After a lot of flushes and saline, they started the first drug, affectionately known as the Red Devil (Doxirubicin). The nurse gave me the three large vials by hand – this is a pretty toxic drug and they have to be careful that it goes easily into the vein, so it took a while. Then the bag filled with the second drug (Cyclophosphamide) was put on an infuser and set to go in over 30 minutes. I sat and read a bit, and knit, and listened to relaxation tapes, although I gave up halfway and switched to some more kick-ass music (David Bowie, actually). It was all very smooth and we were out of there in 2 hours.
We stopped for a sandwich, then I came home and rested for the afternoon. I had a little nausea, a headache, and some body aches. I took some ibuprofen, and realized just as I was swallowing them that I was supposed to be taking tylenol. I did fine until 2 am, when I woke up from a sound sleep ready to hurl, but the ativan that I had for that situation did the trick and I went back to sleep quickly.
Basically, days 1, 2, & 3 they load me up with anti-nausea drugs (which, unfortunately, have their own potential side effects and which may have caused the headaches). After that, I have emergency pills to take in case things get bad. For me, it was just pretty much low grade nausea for the first week. Cooking smells bothered me, and I’ve been careful to eat pretty plain food. I also have to give myself shots every day from day 2 – day 8. These are to build my white count up before the next treatment. As long as I was taking the shots I felt a bit crappy, and had some dizziness for a few days. We actually think that my blood pressure was going too low, so I’ve discontinued one of my BP medications and it seems to have made a difference.
On week 2, I felt great! I got out and did a lot of things: I had a lovely although short visit from my cousin Louise from the UK; a fun lunch with my high school friend group; and I attended a Look Good Feel Better seminar given by the American Cancer Society, where they demonstrate makeup and styling and wigs for cancer patients. It was a fun afternoon, but I overdid just a bit and ended up pretty tired for chemo #2 yesterday.
I had seen my oncologist on Monday and she is pleased with how it is going, so much so that I won’t need to go back until I switch to the next drug in a month, unless, of course, I need to see her. She did ask me what they were saying about coffee in the pre-chemo class. I told her that they discouraged it because it was dehydrating. She went off on a mini-rant and made a note to talk to them. No one should go without coffee! If coffee still tastes good during chemo, then we should drink as much as we want! She doesn’t know how she’d make it through the day herself without coffee! I was glad to hear that. I had already decided to keep drinking it. I think that my headaches after my first chemo may have been exacerbated by caffeine withdrawal.
So all in all, it was fine. Manageable. Still a bit difficult not knowing what each day is going to bring, and it is cumulative, so this week is likely to be harder than the last cycle. The worst parts for me? My mouth tastes like an ashtray and is pretty chewed up feeling, although there are no sores yet. I am very sensitive to smells. Salt sprinkled on food tastes nothing like salt. And I think that the tiredness is starting to hit, although that gets along really interestingly with the massive insomnia.
But I’m doing just fine.