Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chemo Day Five

Another one down. And as always, another surprise occurrence, but I survived. However, everything was just a little bit off for this treatment. 

On the way there, my mom and I saw a woman bending in the middle of busy Route 10 to peel a hot, fly-covered dead opossum off the double yellow line of the street. Gloved hand alone, no mask or bucket, she picked the thing up by its rubbery tale and carried it to her truck. An unmarked truck, mind you. We weren't sure if she was planning on cooking it up in a stew or adding it to her taxidermy collection. Whatever she was doing, all I could think was: "and I thought I was having a bad day ... ." At least I wasn't scraping road kill off the steamy pavement. 

It was a Thursday, not the customary Wednesday, which means that the entire staff at the Cancer Center was different and I knew no one except the oncology nurse who gives me my Neup shots every other week. Luckily, she is the sweetest nurse I've met and I was so happy to have her inject me. When we arrived, all of the computer systems were down so they did not have access to records of my prescribed dosages, nor access to my past blood counts. My white blood cell count was low and they considered not giving me treatment, but it was decided that I could go ahead with it ... thank God. Nothing worse than getting yourself pumped up for something only to not get it over with. I didn't see the doc since my doc wasn't working, but 
somehow they were able to draw up my dosages and all was good. 

Also different, I did not wear my Minnetonka moccasins and I wore cropped yoga pants. This was not good. I forgot how cold I tend to get with some of the drugs passing through me, plus the AC was cranking. Next time, I will not venture away from my moccasins which always keep me feetsies at the perfect temp, despite the July heat. 

Despite all of these elements being out of whack, I received a flawless IV insertion ... a one shot deal. No wriggling and failed attempts. This made me breathe easy. She again felt through many of my veins noting the hard and collapsed ones, but was able to find a useable entryway to my circulatory system. She also gave me preventative Tylenol, which she said helps to counteract the flu-like, achey symptoms that I end up with as a result of the Bleomycin. I was then instructed to take Tylenol every six hours for the next 24 hours ... this was news to me. But I guess that's the bonus of getting to work with another nurse and getting another opinion. 

Though the insertion was good, the vein couldn't hang with the Adriamycin. I had what is called a vein "flare." The Adriamycin is one of the chemo drugs that is so strong that the nurse needs to administer it as a slow, push syringe, rather than through the IV drip. The nurse needs to sit with me through the process. Suddenly my arm started developing a red rash as a result of this "flare." She had to stop administering the drug and coated my arm in hydrocortisone cream then also started me up with an IV bag of Benadryl to decrease the flare-up reaction. Though the Benadryl didn't make me fall asleep as she suspected it would, it made me feel very woozy and uncomfortable. I was ready to leave after that, but still had the long and slow Decarbazene to go, my least favorite of the four. This is the one that burns through the veins, but with the help of a couple instant ice packs, the feeling is numbed. 

My mom and I popped in the DVD of the final Broadway performance of Rent. This helped greatly to pass the last couple of hours of what felt to be a marathon chemo session. I've seen the show I believe five times --- on- and off- Broadway, but now I see it in a whole new light. The songs and the lessons have always been meaningful and moving to me, but now being in a similar state of life, a person "living with, living with, not dying from disease" the lyrics ring true all the more: 

"No Day But Today." 
We hit up the Simsbury Farmer's Market on the way home (after a delicious bacon, egg and cheese on cheddar everything from Brookside, obv.). I picked up some snap peas, but had to sit on a bench shortly after getting there. The Benadryl really wasn't settling well. Then we had to pick up my meds at CVS and I thought that I might hurl right there are in Pharmacy "Pick Up" line. I did my yoga breathing and grabbed for a pack of peanut M&Ms, which instantly curbed the nausea ... crisis averted. 

Then it was home, finally home. I curled up with my prayer shawl and a Guiness glass of Miralax-filled apricot juice and settled in for a long, hard drug-induced coma. Sammy by my side as always. 


  1. Here's some notes about my treatment which seem to help me a lot. Maybe you can ask your doctor about the differences between my treatment and yours:

    1. I always get Benadryl. It reduces the risk of that flare up and other side-effects. I thought it was standard to get it with chemo, but I guess not. And it always knocks me out, which means I sleep through a good chunk of my treatment. A blessing.

    2. I have them slow down the Dicarbazine drip. It usually takes about 2 hours or more. The first time I got Dicarbazine it burned like hell, so they slowed it down on treatment 1. Now, they always use a much slower drip for me.

    3. My doctor's were pretty insistent on the port insertion. I had to wait to get mine because I have SVC Syndrome - my tumor is restricting my veins and blood flow in my chest. But once that cleared up, they rushed me in to get the portacath. I was worried about it until I read that 4 year olds get portacaths and it is a blessing to take the pressure off of your arms. No rashes or burning with a port. But my port has been slow to heal so I've only been able to use it once (hoping I can use it again this week).

    Email me anytime. Glad you got another one behind you.

    -steve dickter

  2. I'm sorry that this isn't getting much easier. I love you very much, and I would love to visit sometime soon. Let me know when you are up to having company! Love, Jess

  3. I'm thinking about you Karin! Stay strong and keep smiling :)