The apprehension was much worse than receiving the drug itself. I must confess that I was a wreck during the 24 hours leading up to my first infusion of SGN-35. I had visions of the drug hitting my bloodstream and instantly causing a seizure of mass proportions, of sparks shooting out of my eyes, my skin changing to putrid colors of green, my eyes rolling back in my head and foam oozing out of my mouth. My imagination was out of control. I have never been so on edge. This led to a few mental and emotional breakdowns and a final goodbye, worried that I really wasn't going to make it, to my husband. We were both snippy, on edge, tearful and angry and worst off, didn't know how to express it to each other. And we didn't realize this until after it was all over and done with and low and behold, everything was fine.
It turns out that none of the bad things my mind imagined happened and all of that turmoil was for nought. In fact, the infusion was quite uneventful and we sighed a huge collective sigh of relief along with the chemo nurse. There were no fireworks or frantic nurses coming at me with defibrilators. I almost felt a little gipped. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of House. How could I not imagine these things, however, knowing how advanced this medicine is and how it is unlike any other kind of chemo that I've had. I just imagined all of these stealth missiles rapidly flooding in and attaching to the proteins immediately blowing up all the cancer cells at once. I didn't think my epidermis could contain all of the action. Turns out, I was fine. More than fine, I've felt no effects whatsoever.
In total, the entire December 30 ordeal took seven hours of travel and six hours of waiting all for a 30 minute drug infusion. Craig and I rode the train in with his school's art teacher and her husband enjoying creative and interesting conversation about books, arts, holiday traditions and the intrigue of serial murderers. This was a welcome, welcome distraction as had it not been for them I likely would have been pacing up and down the train cars.
The line for vitals checks at Sloan was incredibly backed up and only added to my intense anxiety. We met with Dr. Moskowitz to go over final questions, sign the consent forms for my personal study and for her to check me over and give me the go-ahead. Again, she was so blazze about everything that it put me a bit at ease. I don't even have to go in for blood work during my two off weeks. I have no medical obligations until the next infusion, scheduled for January 20. She smiled and told me that I could have some slack on my tight leash. This blew my mind ... . I only have to call if I'm having complications or odd symptoms. This is such an extreme shift from what I've been used to for the past nearly two years. As Craig said: "See, you're not going to die today."
I was sent for a quick baseline EKG as part of the study protocol then it was to hurry up and wait while the chemo was mixed. We now know enough to just give the attendant my cell phone number and go out for lunch rather than sitting in those chairs for multiple hours. Plus, I had lots of nervous energy to burn.
We were told that it would be at least two hours (it was closer to three in reality), so we went for a walk and grabbed some Mexican for lunch. Nothing like a solid vegetarian burrito to sate a nervous stomach ... . We then settled back into the waiting room and watched some stand-up comedy videos until my name was called.
My infusion took place in a spacious private room with an extremely competent and kind nurse who is currently working with three others receiving this novel drug (or a placebo as part of the double blind study). She accessed my port as has been done so many times before and hung the drug to drip. I thought I would explode in eager fright. There were no pre-meds needed. No anti-nausea or steroids or Benadryl. Just straight to the chemo.
It hit my bloodstream and nothing, nothing happened. I felt completely fine. The nurse smiled and gave me a call button to squeeze should I have any strange feelings. Craig and I settled into our chairs and laughed together at Grumpy Old Men streaming on Netflix. After 30 minutes, the infusion was over. They kept me for monitoring for another hour and when I showed no signs of hives or chills or fever, I was sent on my way.
Still, nothing has happened. I've had no side effects whatsoever. But the kicker is I have developed a whopping sinus or upper respiratory infection. We're treating it as both. Finally I receive a chemo that doesn't knock me out, and I somehow pick up a virus that does. It started with a scratchy throat on Thursday, which I alerted the doctor to, and has progressed into a deep cough, achey joints, sinus pain, and blows of mucus of all colors and thicknesses.
Instead of the party we planned to attend, New Year's Eve was spent driving to CVS to pick up the antibiotic called in for me by the on-call doctor at Sloan. We had confetti of crumbled tissues and noisemakers of the natural kind. But that's okay, Craig and Sammy and I were together and that's all that matters.
As a cancer patient, even a minor cold is treated with alarm. My body can't fight invaders as well as "healthy" people can. I am drowning myself in tea and orange juice, taking steam showers and laying as low as I can. I can't afford for this to blow into anything bigger. I think my immune system already has more than enough work to do. Let's hope this antibiotic will kick this and kick it good.