Let me just say that you people have a real fascination with how chemotherapy works. I had the most page views on my blog ever from the chemotherapy post that I posted a while back with pictures. I don’t blame you at all, in fact, it is a pretty fascinating process if you ask me. I could compare it to a car wreck on the highway, your eyes wander to the awful site out of sheer curiosity yet somehow you can’t help but take a glance even if it is startling. That’s how it is looking at pictures of the chemo process, it’s bloody, it involves needles, and it’s just plain freaky at times. No matter how peculiar and stomach churning it may be to look at, those four chemotherapy drugs are saving my life.
I used to think that chemotherapy was this torturous procedure where people vomited, passed out, and were incredibly sick looking. Never before had I known anyone with cancer so I was not familiar with it at all other than what I had seen on television or read. I started using my best friend Google back in October to teach myself what chemo was like, JUST IN CASE I HAD CANCER, good thing I educated myself early on, right? In a way, it still is torture. Sitting in a chair for six hours getting my veins infused with four toxic chemicals is not easy or relaxing. No matter how relaxing they make the “infusion suite” look, it’s not. It is full of other cancer patients receiving toxic intravenous drugs under fluorescent lighting. The nurses run around frantically like they are waiting tables at a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, responding to each and every patient’s needs. Some of the patients moan and whine, calling the nurse over because they feel “off” only for the nurse to reassure them that they are perfectly fine and that they need to relax. I am an easy patient, the second that Benadryl begins to flow through my port, I am out for hours.
The chemo chairs are a lot different from sitting in a reclined beach chair on the sand with a margarita in hand. I think that will be my future career, to re-design chemotherapy infusion suites to resemble beaches. I will even have Jimmy Buffett or steel drums playing in the background. Unfortunately no margaritas are allowed, but faux-margaritas will do. I am not sure if it is sanitary to have sand instead of tile floors but I am sure I could make it work somehow.
Yesterday at chemo I met two nice ladies. The first one was in the room where they take your vitals before you are brought into the chemo room or “infusion suite”. She was about thirty-years-old and had a full head of hair so I assumed it was her first day. I wanted to reassure her that she would be OK and that it’s not as scary as it seems. Then, she suddenly turned to me and asked me what kind of cancer I have. I responded “Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkins” and she responded back “Me too, I’ve been cancer-free for two years now”. She was there for her two year check up. I congratulated her and she wished me luck with the rest of my treatment. In the end, she was the one that was reassuring me. It was encouraging to meet a two year Lymphoma survivor. As my mom and I were leaving chemo we were stopped by another younger woman still sitting in the chemo chair. She complimented my bright blue scarf. I saw her earlier and her husband was with her but he later had to leave. She also had a full head of hair. It turns out it was her first time at chemo for breast cancer. She asked my mom and I a lot of questions and I was so happy to be able to answer them. I hope whatever we told her helped her to calm down, I could sense the anxiety and fear in her eyes. That’s what I used to be, the nervous patient hyper-sensitive and aware of every single twinge and pain. Now I go to chemo and look forward to the nap instead of panicking like the first chemo session I went through. I could relate to both of these women, it felt so nice to speak with them. Only they and other cancer patients truly know what it’s like to go through all of this.
Chemo #5 is done. The side-effects with come on within seven days or so. June 13th I will be receiving my very last chemo treatment and then two weeks later I go for my PET scan to see if all of the cancer is dead, gone, murdered, and killed off.
For now though, here are some more pictures because we all deserve a little entertainment.
This is my friendship bracelet for the day. I was number 1000004 763325. The nurses read off these numbers to each other making sure that they correspond with my drugs which are labeled with my number. This way they don't give me the wrong drugs because you know, that would be pretty bad.
These are the blood vials, port access "stuff" (I don't know what else to call it because I don't even watch it be accessed or I'd vomit). I will tell you though, that it feels like a sewing needle getting jabbed into my chest. The port catheter runs near my collarbone down to my chest where a little circular piece about the size of a quarter is located under my skin. They puncture it with the needle, that is how I receive the drugs. It's like an under the skin IV. Are you grossed out yet? I am just typing about it.
This is what my port looks like when it's accessed. The plastic covering is phenomenal because then I don't have to see any needles. They also put tape over it for special effects, or...so it doesn't fall out?
This is me after getting my port accessed. I am thoroughly grossed out. Note that it looks like it's on the opposite side now because this photo was taken on Photo Booth on my computer, it flips pictures around. I only have one port and it's definitely on my right side.
This is me contemplating on something very important: what kind of bagel do I want my lovely mom to get me? Should I go for sweet cinnamon raisin or savory everything bagel? I opt for sweet. I think by now the other patients think I'm super odd taking awkward pictures of myself by myself. I think they secretly enjoy it.
I am then handed these pills, I forget what they are. They probably prevent me from throwing up, awesome. I take them.
This is my face after taking the pills. They are not coated, the only taste buds that seem to be picking up on the flavor of these pills are the bitter ones
I get pouty. Can I just have my IV of Benadryl already so I can take my five hour nap?
I get bored waiting for my chemotherapy drugs to arrive so I snap a picture of the infusion suite and my fuzzy socks. It's freezing in there, I'm covered in two blankets. My nurse loves me and always hooks me up with the corner chair. This is the best seat in the house, people.
Here is the Adriamycin (two large red syringes), it made my hair fall out but it saves my life so I'll take hair loss over death. It also makes your pee red for the day, it's like a science experiment. The Vincristine is the single clear syringe. I'm given these drugs through my IV line in a syringe. The Rituxan and Cytoxan are administered through IV bags after the two "pushes" or syringes are given. They drip incredibly slow.
Here is my nurse pushing the Adriamycin through the IV, into my port and directly into my bloodstream. Creepy to see bright red fluid going into me but also fun to watch. It reminds me of the Hulk, like I'm going to go crazy after having this weird red chemical injected into my veins.
This is me saying "Hello chemo #5! One more down to go!" That Adriamycin must give me some super energy for a while.
Uh oh, I just went Hulk on you. I even try to show off my biceps but then I forget I haven't lifted weights in about five months so they are weak little arms for the time being.
I keep asking the nurse "when is the Benadryl, when, when, when!" They do not give it until before the Rituxan (which causes allergic reactions in some people). When she finally hooks it up, she tells me sweet dreams.