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Chemo 101. Going down the rabbit hole...

Episode XIII: Real courage is...

Well, here goes. I had no idea what to expect!

About an hour before my chemotherapy treatment, I began my port prep at home. I cleaned and washed my port area since the stitches are still in. Then I used the numbing cream generously over the area where the port would be used (or where I guessed it would be used). Then I covered it with some Saran Wrap... yes the clinging clear kitchen product. It keeps the cream on the area and your clothes off of it.

We arrived at the Cancer Institute and it was the same routine. Check in - check. Lab for blood work - check... however, that was a bit different. Instead of the needle going into my arm to take the many vials of blood, my port was finally used. The nurse removed the clear Saran Wrap and wiped the area clean. Then she gathered new needles and tools. She had me take a deep breath and then... nothing. I felt nothing. The needle was in, the blood was flowing into the vials, but I really felt nothing. What a relief! Then I got the best news, that was the needle and tubing used for the chemo treatment. I was not going to have to have another stick... well, at least for that day!

Blood drawn, port in use and ready for chemo...

They covered up the port because others do not want to see a needle and tub hanging from my chest - gross. So, I went and waited outside the door to be called. Once called I got my blood pressure taken and weighed (yuck). Then I made my way to the physician assistant who was there to ask a few questions and prep me for my treatment.

While it was mostly the same-old talk, I did get a few prescriptions written for potential issues. Nausea - Zofran. Should have asked for Phenergran (did the next day). Pain - Morphine. And of course, I could call if anything else was needed.

I was walked to the treatment area. The back of the facility was designated for chemotherapy and short term treatment. They had rows of chairs and rooms with windows that overlooked very pretty gardens. The lazy-boy type chairs leaned back comfortably. There was a locker of warm towels for our use. There were volunteers who walked around with trays holding treats, water, coffee or magazines. If you wanted privacy, there was a curtain that could be pulled around you. Overall, there were some perks!

AC Chemotherapy - learn more... click here

So, I picked my chair (section 6) and it was time to start. I had a nurse, who was very nice, began my AC Chemo 101 lesson. There were handouts, information sheets, and booklets provided. My mom wanted to go along for the first treatment, so she got to hear some of the gory details of treatment and potential side effects.

Interesting facts:

I would be toxic for 48 hours. Kinda cool, in a weird way. That means things that would come out of my body would also be toxic for that time frame. So, I would have to refrain from playing with my urine, having sex, and use safety gloves to clean up anything of mine. Also, I found out my wash needed to be separate from everyone else in the house. And I would need to close the lid and flush twice after I peed or pooped. Like I said, kinda cool.

I am the female Toxic Avenger!

There were side effects. Really? Like I had no idea that nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and general GI problems could occur. But there was more... hair loss, fingernail discoloration or loss, skin rashes, mouth sores, fatigue, red urine (and it was), as well as generally anything else could occur. And of course the AC can potentially cause Leukemia (blood cancer). Great to cure cancer, I could get more cancer - go figure!! My mother's eyes about popped out of her head.

Chemo Side Effects - learn more click here

Many more things were discussed, but it was time to get me pumped full of anti-nausea medicine, steroids, and more anti-nausea medicine...

Let's get this party started!

Now that I was good and prepped for the bad stuff, it was time for the bad stuff. First out of the chemo bag was Adriamycin or  the "Red Devil" named for it's appearance and affects. The crap was so powerful that it had to be pushed into my system via hand and with a saline drip. The nurse had to cover my body and herself before using it because if it touched your skin it was so dangerous it could potential require plastic surgery. And that was going inside my body?!?!

Round 1 - Adriamycin "The Red Devil"

Then I got to take in the Cytoxan casually for my second treatment. That chemo was done through the IV rather than by the nurse directly. While the side effects are similar, the way it was administered was different. Just a nice slow drip into the IV. My tummy did turn a few times, but I was unsure if it was a potential sign.

Round 2 - Cytoxan... almost over.

With a deep breath, the nurse removed the needle from the port and I was officially released to go. First round of chemo complete!!!

I spent the next few hours feeling alright, but with a slight queasy stomach. My taste for food dwindled to only the most bland of flavors. And eventually, my stomach got more upset. I started taking the Zofran, but it dissolved in my mouth and tasted bad. It only made the nausea a bit worse. Eventually, I got a bucket and began throwing up water and crackers, the only thing I could get down.

Me a bucket and a cracker.

Mostly, I hung out in bed and on the bathroom floor. It was not the worst stomach pain I have had, but it was not a fun night. It was moderately bad. Except for a brief period from 11 pm-1 am where I was pretty sure I felt down right BAD. Me with loud burps, vomiting water and cracker, and general stomach cramps. There was that feeling that you needed something to come out - either end - but something was better than cramping. However, I was unable to do either... well, most of the time. That combined with pure exhaustion made for a long night.

In my head....

It could have been worse. That was all that kept running through my mind. It really could have been worse. It was moderately bad. I believe that Phenergran would have worked better for me and I would ask for that prescription at my Chemo Shot visit tomorrow. My taste buds had definitely changed and I felt tired. Those feelings were going to linger throughout the treatment process. I kept saying to myself all night: "It could be worse. This isn't that bad. You can do it." I was like the little train that could, reinforcing myself to hang in there.

"But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay."
- Dante, Divine Comedy - Inferno, Canto VII

Episode Reference: Real courage is... "It's when you know you're licked before you begin 
but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
- Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird


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