Welcome to this week’s freshman level class in handling three popular chemotherapy drugs: Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. Today, we’ll be discussing infusion times, side effects, Michelle’s emotional state and the massive number of snacks she brought to the appointment. Pay attention, because there will be a quiz. On the snacks. I take cheese and crackers seriously.
I barely slept last night thanks to a combination of steroids, eating everything in the house (thanks to said steroids), and anxiety, and I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach at my impending day. I am happy, however, to report that the loss of my chemotherapy virginity was totally and completely uneventful. My medical team is amazing, because I don’t feel even the least bit under the weather…for now. The side effects usually strike on days 2, 3 and 4, and generally include nausea, fatigue, stomach upset and taste changes. It’s anybody’s guess how many of those I’ll get, how severe they’ll be, or if I’ll get some super weird side effect no one’s ever heard of, but if how I feel now is any indication, I think I’m going to be okay.
So let me back up and start at the beginning. I started off the day with some eggs, a muffin, a banana, two dexamethasone pills, an Ativan and an hour in Los Angeles traffic trying to get to USC. I wasn’t stressed, because Ativan truly does what it says on the box. I was still relaxed even as the nurse let me pick out my recliner, applied a tourniquet to my elbow and punctured one of the veins on the side of my forearm. She really kind of dissed my veins, which no one’s ever done before, and scolded me a bit for opting not to get the PortaCath (which I forwent after the double mastectomy and egg retrieval surgery proved to be enough anesthesia for me). Considering that I only have the one arm now that Lefty’s off-limits with a compromised lymph system, she’s probably right that I should spare my veins – even if I refuse to believe they’re as horrible as she says, because seriously, I’m offended on my veins’ behalves – so I guess we’re revisiting the option of the PortaCath.
Despite the nurse’s irrational hatred for my veins, she was able to place the IV with just one poke, and the set-up was actually quite comfortable for me. The morning started off with my pre-med combination – Benadryl, IV Pepcid and an anti-nausea medication called Kytril – which took about half an hour to infuse.
Then, two other nurses came over to begin administering the actual chemotherapy. First off, did you know that chemotherapy was actually discovered accidentally during World War I, when soldiers exposed to mustard gas suffered serious damage to their bone marrow? Modern chemotherapy was literally inspired by poisonous military weaponry, when some doctors realized that specific doses of the gas targeted fast-growing cells while leaving normal cells untouched. When they didn’t, you know, kill people. So, yeah, I was super excited about getting this stuff injected directly into my bloodstream, especially when the nurses donned full-body suits and latex gloves before so much as handling the baggies.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover, however, that the infusions were completely painless. There was no tingling or burning, no nausea and no discomfort throughout the entire six-hour ordeal, including the IV set-up – not with the Taxotere (which took an hour and a half to infuse), not with the Carboplatin (an hour) and not with the Herceptin (two hours). I didn’t really mind the whole afternoon at all, actually. I spent some of it listening to Pandora on my phone, reading a new book and chatting with my parents, before I turned on the TV and realized that there was actually a Law & Order: SVU marathon on. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I must have a guardian angel over at the USA Network.
It’s been about three hours since I left the infusion suite, and I’m still feeling more or less normal. So far, the worst side effect I’m experiencing is a little bit of facial flushing. I know the other shoe will drop, but for now, I’m going to stuff my face with the cupcakes my mom and dad picked up for me to celebrate my first day of chemo. CUPCAKEEESSSSSS.
Okay, POP QUIZ TIME. What, you thought I was kidding?
1. What’s the scariest part of chemotherapy?
A) Its historical relationship with deadly military gasses
B) Having to wait to find out which side effects you’re going to get
C) Needing to take steroids, and then needing to eat EVERYTHING IN SIGHT (MORE CUPCAKEEESSSSS)
D) All of the above
2. What’s the best part of chemotherapy?
B) Law & Order: SVU marathons
C) Not changing out of my jammies all day long
D) All of the above
Hint: The answer is DD, because this blog is about boobies.