Saturday, March 5, 2016

In the Midst of the Dreaded Weekend, And Feeling Pretty Fine

Three big things happened the past three days: I had my chemotherapy port placed, had my first chemotherapy infusion, and got a first shot of Neulasta (the medication that makes my bone marrow start churning out those white blood cells).  Each offered possible horrors.  Some delivered WAY more than others. 

Let's discuss.

When last I left you, I was literally about to walk out the door to get my port placement at Lemmen-Holton - the one-stop cancer shop.  I had to arrive at 7 a.m. for my 8 a.m. port (oh the times before and since that I've wished that was a wine). 

So once again, for the (I think) 18th time since 2016 began, I stripped to some extent for strangers.  It's also the third time I've had to pee in a cup to prove I'm not pregnant. 
You'd think I'd be having more fun. 
After changing into a hospital gown (no air conditioning in this one), I got another IV in the back of my hand (I'm such a wuss), and met each of the people who would be helping with the placement of my port.  The port sits under my skin and connects to a line that goes up over my clavicle and into one of my major arteries.  This allows for much easier access during chemotherapy and protects me to some extent from the big hitters, i.e., red drugs, that are excellent at killing.  Of course that means that if it were to touch say ... my skin ... it would cause severe burns.  And this is going INTO my body.  Alrighty then. 
It also colors your pee red/orange for a day or so after, so don't freak out about that. 
I was wheeled into the procedure/surgery room and helped myself onto the narrow (always so narrow) surgery table, where there were discussions over the weather while some guy cleaned the area that would be accessed, i.e., my right chest and neck. 
FINALLY, rightie is getting some action!
I was covered with a surgery tarp that had a cut-out of that area, and then the lovely lady handling my sedation created a bit of a window for me to look through, off to the side, since I was on my back with my head looking to the left.  I asked beforehand to make sure that I would not remember what happened.  You might, but you'll be comfortable.  Hmmmm.  Usually people will go to sleep.  Hmmmm.

Folks, I was awake throughout the whole thing.  I had focused on keeping my eyes open because I wanted sedation Sally to know that I was NOT yet sedated.  I heard the doctor say he was going to be giving me the shots to numb the area but I'd heard all of that before and it was usually right after when I'd be just ... out. 

Nope.  I heard that I'd feel some pressure - yep.  Now, I didn't FEEL any pain or anything like that.  I just  hadn't expected to be conscious.  My mind wandered so I was out of it to a certain extent, I suppose.  But soon I was helping myself onto the bed again and being wheeled into recovery.  I asked how much of the sedative I'd been given.  The answer:  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being a minimum someone would have before going to sleep on the operating table, I'd been given around 10.  Apparently, I have a high tolerance.  Go figure. [Looking innocent.]

This time in recovery I had shortbread cookies while I quietly pondered what a weird experience being assimilated into the Borg had been.  Oh, and I took a picture that you can see here.  I have to say, port placement was not a treat. 
Now, if you're reading this about to get your own, don't fear it.  Everyone is different.  And while the first day or so was not pleasant (read: a bit painful), it is now two days later and things are perfectly fine.  One tip: some of your discomfort MIGHT be from how they placed the dressing over it.  Just call into your oncologist's office and a nurse can walk you through pulling just a bit of it down and repositioning it.  It really did help.
Cue Friday.  THE day.  My first chemo infusion. 

I arrived at the infusion center at 8:15 a.m. and waited to get my blood drawn.  They have to check your blood counts to make sure you are able to safely get the infusion.  My name finally gets called:
                            Two of us get up.
Kimberly M.?
                            Both of us take another step toward her.  [Really?]

I pipe up with my full name.  I lose.  I sit back down.

A few minutes later I lose again when my tech is unable to complete my blood draw 'cause I'm a wuss with needle-phobic veins that will dive for cover any chance they get.  So I left with a pain in my right elbow and another on the tip of my finger where the tech had to prick it, then milk it like a cow to get the necessary blood.
But hey, I got TWO Scooby Doo band-aids, dammit.
Then I waited until I got called back, weighed, and escorted to my pod.  My pod had a recliner, extra chair for a visitor, TV and remote, and a table. Hell, let's move in.  Across the way from me, in another pod, sat Mary, who was getting her first infusion as well.  She was already hooked up and had calmly unplugged her IV station and rolled it over to the bathroom while I was waiting, hunkered down under my Star Wars chemo quilt, to meet my nurse. 

My first impression of my nurse (I'll call her L) is fabulous.  [Thank God. Can you imagine not liking your nurse who will see you through months of chemo horror?]  My blood pressure and temperature were checked.  Then she removed the bandages from my fresh port and prepared to access it.  I had been told this part would be a bit painful and she agreed.  I asked for numbing spray.  She already had it in her pocket ready to go.  The spray is freezing cold.  And then it was done.  She'd already accessed the port and I felt nothing.  Yay, L!!  She checked the return (to make sure my blood was flowing through it fine) and then I ended up getting a couple anti-nausea meds up front (about 20 minutes each) before any of the chemotherapy drugs were introduced.

When it was time for the big guns, another nurse came up with my nurse L to double check that she had the right chemotherapy drugs for me.  She would repeat this process across the way for Mary a bit later (I'm not sure how I'd jumped ahead of Mary by this time but I did).  Then L sat with me while she pushed through the red drug.  Now, I will say that I could feel this one.  It didn't hurt but it didn't feel pleasant either.  I made sure to tell L anything that I noticed since I wanted to make sure it was normal and not the start of some bad reaction.  It absolutely made me feel better knowing that my nurse was literally right in front of me in case anything went wrong.  So, uncomfortable feeling going in yes, but also normal.  This took about 15-20 minutes. 

The second drug took about an hour and she did not have to stick around for that one.  I read, looked online, talked to my stepmom, talked to Mary, went to the bathroom, drank some hot cocoa, and ate some ginger snaps.  All in all - it went pretty well.  When that drug was done, L flushed the port and redressed it for me, and I was on my way.  Now, about half way through the last drug, I noticed that I felt a bit ... drugged/drunk.  Mary concurred.  We both felt it but I was otherwise fine.  I stopped at the pharmacy right in the same office to pick up my numbing cream (which I'll use next time), and my anti-nausea medication.

I was told more than once to take the anti-nausea meds as SOON as I noticed any queasy feeling. 

But first - since I felt fine and since we were downtown - I introduced my stepmom to LaughFest Central.  I'm volunteering this year for LaughFest - a yearly festival that brings multiple comedians to town from across the nation and/or across the street, where they entertain us all while raising money for Gilda's Club, right here in Grand Rapids.  If you live near, please check it out.  The festival runs March 10 - 20, 2016.  I got a t-shirt. And I still felt fine.

I felt fine until about two minutes after texting my friend Robin that I felt fine - just a bit woozy.  And as soon as that woozy made me question my stomach, I took one of the pills.  Done.  I'd learn the next day that Mary did NOT take the pill as soon as she felt nauseous.  The result did not sound pleasant.

I still felt off when it was bedtime last night and I admit I did not sleep well.  But I did not get sick.  I just felt off.  I was tired but could not sleep.  If I slept, I'd jerk away like I'd been drugged. 
Which, really, I had.

Cue Saturday. Today. The day of the Neulasta shot.  The shot that would help my bone marrow make more white blood cells so that my immunity would not stay too low during chemotherapy.  See, the killer chemo not only kills cancer cells but any other fast-reproducing but short lived cells in your body.  These include things like your white blood cells, your hair follicles (hence my soon to be Sméagol look), and a variety of cells in your digestive tract from your mouth to your, I don't want to think of a different name for butthole right now. [I'm sure the urban dictionary has many if you're curious.] Higher immunity - yay!  But Neulasta can sometimes cause bone aches since your bones are suddenly being told to mass produce more white blood cells than they're use to doing.  I'm envisioning an angsty teen being prodded into weekend lawn duty.  Angsty teen can cause headaches.  And so can Neulasta - since your skull has loads of bone marrow.  Nope, I didn't know that either.

I waited around, talked with Mary and found out about her need for nausea meds that hit sooner than mine and the result of her waiting a bit too long to take them.  When I got called back, the physician's assistant explained the shot to me and asked if I wanted it in the back of my arm or my belly.  She just needed to squeeze some fat.  I almost laughed.  Let's go for easy fat access, shall we? So now my belly is bandaged.  I had to wait for about 20 minutes to make sure I wasn't allergic to the medication and then we went on our merry way to await bone ache.

The bone ache hasn't hit yet.  I took Claritin yesterday, today, and I'll take it again tomorrow, because for some reason, it is known to help curb the ache.  We'll see. 

I've also been told that tomorrow is often the worst day - or beginning of the worst days - post chemo session.  So, it's another wait and see for me.  I'm planning to work as much as possible during this time.  If my worst days end up being later rather than sooner, I might need to change my chemo days from Fridays to Tuesdays.  It's all a wait and see game right now.

But right now, I'm feeling fine.  Today, after the shot was over, I just felt hungry.  We went to my favorite diner for a late breakfast, went to get groceries, and watched Season 2 of Younger on TV Land.  [Seriously - good show - check it out.]

And I just had grilled cheese for dinner.

Living the dream, people.  Living the dream.

Now to see what the dreaded day three brings - hopefully only unfulfilled warnings about day three.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Fascinating post. I'm glad you haven't had any really bad effects so far. Coincidentally enough, I have a friend Christopher in Arizona who's just blogged his first chemo session as well. I thought I'd introduce you. His site here:

    Thinking of you both!