Sunday, 4 December 2011

1 down, 5 to Go. (from June 8th, 2008)

I'll try to be brief. I've already stayed up later than I intended, but a side effect of one of the anti-nausea drugs is that it gives me a bit of a buzz.

Chemotherapy session number one took much longer than I expected. I knew that there would be a big preamble before getting down to the injections, but the drugs themselves took longer than I thought.

I arrived at the BC Cancer Agency at quarter to one, with my mum. We were shown into the chemo Room by my chemo Nurse, Barb, who asked if my mum was my friend. Mum liked that. The chemo Room at BCCA is not like ones I've seen in videos or in movies. They always seem like these dark little cells, and the patients seem to depressed. The chemo Room at BCCA is bright, with lots of windows. Outside are lots of trees, so you feel like you are in the middle of a little Gary Oak Meadow. During your chemo you are allowed to eat and drink and get up to pee (towing your IV stand behind you) and there are volunteers who come around with a tea tray and offer you coffee, tea or juice to drink, and a choice of soda crackers or digestive biscuits to eat. Our volunteer, Erma, is probably in her 70s and she was the same volunteer who gave me the tour of the place when I went for my chemo Teach session.

After going through all of the details of what to expect and explaining in detail all of my anti-nausea meds (I have four different levels of anti-nausea pill, starting with the big guns that I take before chemo and ending with regular gravol, which is for use in-between the in-between pill, because the big guns can only be taken every 12 hours, and only for the first couple of days), an IV was started - Barb took a good look at my arm and informed me that we would be feeding my Sea Horse (I didn't correct her and tell her that it is a Crayon Pony Fish - which of coarse doesn't exist, except for in the mind of Wes Anderson).

My chemo Drugs are abbreviated as FEC. I remembered the name of it from day one, when my oncologist told me what I would most likely be getting. It's not hard to remember. I wish I was good enough to remember what it stands for. I probably will by the end, but right now it's nearly 1:30 in the morning and I can't be bothered to go find the sheet with it all written down. Basically the three letters stand for the three drugs I'm getting. The "E" is given first, and it's the worst one. It has the worst long term risks which include a 1% chance of heart damage and between 1 and 2 % chance of giving me leukaemia. It also can burn my veins and cause irritation in my urinary tract. And it's bright red. (The night before my chemo I had beets for dinner. I knew that I might be getting a drug that would make my pee red, and I seriously debated whether I should avoid the beets so that I would know which thing was making my pee red. But Kurt was coming home and he hates beets, so I had to eat them before he came home. The chemo drug made my pee exactly the same colour as the beets. I still don't know which one is still tinting my urine.) Anyway... The first chemo Drug gets pushed into the IV by hand. Three huge syringes of it. It took about 15 minutes. I had to pee before the third went in. I was told to drink lots of water to flush my system. I think I was doing okay. I peed about 4 times while I was at the clinic.

The second chemo Drug was the "F". It was also pushed in to the IV by hand. Only there was just one smaller syringe and it was not red. And finally the "C." It was dripped in over about 45 minutes and made me feel like I had sinusitis. In between each medicine the IV was left to run with just saline so that my vein could be flushed and again at the end. Then the IV was removed and as soon as it mostly stopped bleeding (I'm a bleeder) I was allowed to leave.

My mother and I had some lovely conversations with Barb, my chemo Nurse. She worked as a traveling nurse for many years and seems to have had a very interesting life. We talked about animals and how they react to their people going through illnesses - she told us about a breast cancer patient whose husband was blind, and his seeing eye dog would refuse to leave her side while she was getting chemo. She was even hospitalized over night once, and the husband had to go home with a friend because the dog would not leave.

There were three other patients in the chemo Room while I was there. They all seemed much more subdued than we were, and my mum and I both wondered if we were being a bit too boisterous. Each of the other patients had a companion, but they would just sit and read to themselves.

There was one man receiving treatment for, what I think was stomach cancer. At my chemo Teach session they showed us this device they call a "baby bottle." It is used for chemo Drugs that need to be administered slowly over a few days. It looks like a baby bottle with a tube coming out where the nipple should be. Inside is a balloon that holds the chemo Drug and slowly pushes it out over two to three days. The patient carries it around with him. The pharmacist who did our chemo Teach session said it's mostly used for drugs to treat stomach cancer. Many of the odd and unpleasant exceptions to the stuff she was telling us was to do with stomach cancer. Anyway, this gentleman had had 3 bags of stuff hooked up to his IV at one time, and as we were leaving I saw his chemo Nurse hooking up the "baby bottle." I'm really glad I don't have stomach cancer.

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