The poisoning begins

My chemo is officially underway. The actual infusion was yesterday, but the process started Monday, when I began two-a-day doses of dexamethosone (Decadron) a steroid to help reduce side effects of the chemo.

Yesterday I started the day with some more Decadron and an application of EMLA cream over my port to beginning numbing the skin for the needles to come. Saw the nurse first. She sterilized the port area, inserted a sort of connector for access by all parties during the day, covered the site with a sterile patch, and drew some blood for standard pre-infusion testing.

Then I saw the medical oncologist, my primary doctor now, who showed me the images from the PET/CT scan. The only spot that showed up as possible cancer were the lymph nodes in my chest, just behind the bone where the tumor was removed. He said the brightness could be either cancer or inflammation from the surgery. Obviously, it will be attacked as though it’s cancer.

He then explained the chemo drugs he was going to use, and why he made those selections, and it tracked with everything I’d been reading and had heard from him before. It will be a sort of modified TCH* regimen. Normally the so-called TCH regimen is Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin. In my case the C is Cytoxan, similar to Carboplatin but easier on my heart. (Turns out my heart is in good shape for my age; ejection fraction is 62.7%. Neither of us wants to mess that up.) My first four “cycles” or infusions, 3 weeks apart, will include those three drugs. Then it will be Herceptin alone every three weeks for a year. Sometime in October or thereabouts I’ll get the radiation, 5 days a week for 6.5 weeks, while the Herceptin continues.

I can only describe the infusion center as beautiful. Cheerful yellow walls, west wall almost solid windows overlooking a broad balcony and garden (numerous, beautiful potted plants and shrubs). But for some haze, could have seen the mountains between the buildings. A total of about 38 treatment stations, mostly in cubicles (actually more like rooms, with divider walls going to the ceiling) with two stations in each, separated by privacy curtains if you want to use them. With good luck, which I had, you get a private cubicle with only one station. I had a view, a table full of magazines, plugs for computer, wifi, a small private TV with headphones, heated blankets and pillow if I wanted. There were three nurses’ stations, one directly behind me. A bit farther away, restrooms, private bedrooms if someone got really sick, a snack bar with assorted snacks, soft drinks, fridge, and microwave. Two cafes downstairs if my daughter-in-law wanted to go down for something. We ordered lunch in with delivery directly to the infusion center from Jimmy John’s. Talk about first class accommodations!

Best of all, I had no adverse reactions to anything. Just lay there passing the time and went home. I was fully stocked up on all the drugs I might need to counteract the side effects of all the chemo drugs (about half of which were to counteract the side effects of the TCH drugs). If it sounds a bit insane to you, imagine how it sounds to me!

I even got a great night’s sleep last night after adding Benadryl to the Ativan and Ambien.

This afternoon was fun in a different way. I was due back down there at 4:30 for my Neulasta shot (chemo seriously reduces your white blood cell count, leaving you vulnerable to infections; Neulasta stimulates production of the cells for a faster rebound to normal levels). I had no sooner walked in and signed in than the ominous skies became a full-fledged tornado warning. Hospital loudspeaker telling everyone repeatedly to institute emergency procedures, which meant moving everyone to interior hallways. About the time we got settled in the hall, every cell phone in the place started sounding its alarm. (I’d heard about this happening at my son’s office and couldn’t imagine that many cell phones sounding off simultaneously. It’s pretty bizarre. And yes, I know, I’m years behind the curve when it comes to cell phones.)

So we all hung around in the hallways for maybe an hour. Fortunately there were lots of little offices and cubicles along the corridor with lots of chairs. The DIL was on the phone off and on checking on the kids, who were home alone for one of the first times, and there were storms out there too. But they were fine; the house has a basement and the kids are old enough to follow instructions. They even managed to get most of the 7 (?) dogs and cats into the basement.

The cellphones kept warning about flash flooding and flooded streets, so after I finally got my shot, we ate at the cafe downstairs while the streets drained a bit. I finally got home about 7:30 this evening.

I’m trying not to be too confident about how well things are going. Fatigue is supposed to set in a few days from now but I’m not sure how that will affect me since I don’t do much anyway. How does fatigue ruin a couch potato’s day?

However it goes, it will be three weeks before I do all this again. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the rest!


*The acronyms for the different drug regimens get confusing because although they are based on the first letter of the drug names (some of which start with the same letters), they sometimes refer to the generic name and sometimes the brand name.


"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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