Round two of chemo is tomorrow at 0930 at the Queensway Carleton. People often ask me what chemo is like so I thought I would share with you what chemo is like for me. My chemo cocktail consists of two different chemicals that are given to me intravenously: Cyclophosphamide (aka Cytoxan) and Docetaxel (aka Taxotere). The chemo cocktail is personalized to the characteristics of me and my breast cancer.
The day before chemo I start three days of a steroid to minimize the side effects of chemo. I was not thrilled about having to take a steroid because of the horrid side effects, but hopefully the limited duration won’t really do me any harm other than the insomnia it causes. I also have to have blood work done at least one day before to ensure that my blood counts are safe enough for chemo to proceed.
I am asked to arrive 15 minutes early before every appointment at the cancer centre to complete a “symptom checker” which is an electronic questionnaire asking me to rate my levels of pain, nausea, depression, fatigue, wellness, etc. on a scale of 1 to 10. I have completed four of these and to date not one person has actually read them or asked me about my answers.
When it’s my time to go in, I am weighed (YAY!), my vitals are checked and then an order is placed with the pharmacy to prepare my chemo. The pharmacy takes about 30 minutes to prepare it. I am then given a choice as to whether I want to receive it lying down in a hospital bed or seated in a chair (I choose the bed). We are all spaced out around the perimeter of a module (of which there are several) receiving our chemo and there are curtains that I can pull around for privacy. Movo brings her knitting and sits beside my bed.
We start with the Docetaxel. Although my first round was given to me at a slower rate to ensure that I would not have an allergic reaction, it will normally take 1.5 hours to drip. During this time I have to wear ice gloves and ice slippers to protect my nail beds from the effects of the drug. The theory is that the ice restricts the blood flow to the nail beds, which in turn limits the amount of the drug that reaches these areas. The alternative is nail loss. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t read or do much of anything. The Docetaxel is what has caused my hair loss.
Once this is complete, I receive the Cyclophosphamide, which only takes 30-45 minutes. It can cause sinus pain and blockage so they tend to want to slow it down, but by that point I just wanted to get out of there so I tell them I want it dripping as fast as possible. By the end my sinuses feel like I have snorted hot pepper, but otherwise I can handle it.
That’s it. From start to finish, I am there for about 4 hours, assuming everything is running on time. After chemo, I have to drink A LOT of water to flush it out. It is actually toxic so there are precautions we are required to take at home such as flushing the toilet twice after I use it and movo wearing protective gear if I get sick. I receive injections of a drug called neupogen for five days post chemo to stimulate white blood cell production. It causes me to have really sore bones. I have medication that I can take for nausea – Hopefully it works for chemo better than it did for appendicitis!
7-12 days post chemo, my immune system is at its weakest. If at any time I develop a fever that is greater than 38 degrees Celsius, I am to go immediately to the emergency room.
I sincerely hope that this round of chemo is much less eventful than the first round. I don’t think I can handle another curve ball. My medical oncologist said that he has never in his career had a chemo patient develop appendicitis!
Please think of me tomorrow.
PS. I got this awesome hand-made dream catcher and card from Hanna in the mail today! Perfect timing! Thanks so much Hanna! I love it and will be keeping it very close by!