Yesterday after my drain removal (etc.), I had two hours to kill before I was scheduled to take an informational class about chemotherapy. The appointment with Dr. FixIt was in Rancho Bernardo, and the class was in Torrey Pines. I thought about going to Nordstrom to check out their bras – I’ve been told they’re the best place to go for mastectomy bras – but I decided that it would not be very courteous of me to show up with two oozing bandages from my visit with Dr. FixIt. As I was driving down Carmel Valley Road, I passed what looked like a nice restaurant and decided what the hell, I’d treat myself. So I ended up at Seasalt Del Mar at 11am, seated at a table with a great view, all by myself. I ordered a sushi roll, a salad, and a delicious glass of Spanish Fillaboa, a light white wine. (Getting my fill of things I can’t have during chemo.)
The class was ok. Tad was able to join me, which was nice. There were three other cancer suckers besides myself, two of whom had their significant others with them. (The third was a much older lady, wearing a big sun hat, who asked a LOT of follow-up questions about how long after chemo you’re allowed to have sex.) The class reviewed who’s who in the oncology department, what numbers to call and when, and local and online resources for nutrition, wigs, support groups, etc. We talked about how to manage side effects and when to call in for them; what to expect on chemo day; and info about all the meds involved.
Between this class and the one-hour firehose session Tad and I had previously with Dr. Cancer, here are the highlights of what we’ve learned.
Regarding the chemo itself:
- I will be receiving my chemo starting August 16th in the Rancho Bernardo clinic. They’ll be every third Tuesday for six cycles as long as things are going well.
- My drug compound is called “TAC” (Taxotere, Adriamycin, Cytoxan). Judging from the forums I’m scanning these days, this seems to be a pretty common regimen.
- I will be given Neulasta to stimulate the growth of white blood cells.
- Those drug links I added are from a website called chemocare.com, which has tons of additional info.
- Since I will have a port installed, I can do my blood tests the morning before chemo. The blood test will ensure that I’m ok to proceed with the chemo infusion. I’m not to let anyone fuck with the port other than the oncology nurses.
- I check in at 8am on the Tuesday of my chemo day for the blood test. At 9am I meet with Dr. Cancer, who reviews the results, then proceed to the chemo treatment area, where I get to pick a chair or a bed. It was gently suggested that we save the beds for the olds.
- I should bring snacks with me. There is a microwave and a refrigerator. I can unplug the IV from the wall to walk around. (I was tempted to ask if I can walk the floor to get some steps in on my Fitbit, but I figured the answer would be “no”.)
- I’m welcome to bring a laptop and up to to two friends. The laptop is not counted as a friend.
- I should NOT drive myself home from chemo, since they may give me a sedative.
- I’ve been prescribed various anti-nausea and anti-anxiety drugs, along with complicated dosage instructions that will require me to make more charts and checklists, which I will get a wee bit of pleasure out of.
I’ve also learned the following:
- No multivitamin or grapefruit juice or green tea – these have anti-oxidants in them that actually help keep the cancer cells healthy. We don’t want that.
- No alcohol or sushi or caffeine. SHIT THIS IS SERIOUS!!!
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly; become one of those paranoid people who carries around Wet Ones and hand sanitizer gel everywhere; steam-clean the children when they come home from school.
- I have a list of OTC meds and lotions and potions that I should obtain ahead of time
- Any unusual or significant side-effect, call them. They can manage most side-effects except the ones they don’t know about!
- Drink 2-3 QUARTS of water per day. Be sure to know where all the bathrooms are at all times.
- Become familiar with protein smoothies and shakes, like Ensure (yum).
- No dentist during chemo. I’ve rescheduled my fall dentist appointment to just before chemo starts.
- I might get constipation. Or I might get diarrhea. Or maybe both … ? In any case I can be assured that pooping will be a big deal. I’m not kidding: the booklet they gave me has a FLOWCHART (I love flowcharts!!!) for how to take anti-constipation meds.
- Worry about: Infection. Fever > 100.5. Coughing. Heart racing. Bleeding. Anemia. Neuropathy. Global warming. The Middle East.
- Keep a journal, as how I react the first round of chemo will be similar for subsequent rounds (albeit progressively worse each time). Record my temperature twice a day (I don’t remember why I’m supposed to do this; I assume it’s not to figure out when I’m ovulating, although maybe that’s a side benefit).
Oh, and in case you’re curious, wait 48 hours before having sex. You don’t want your sex buddy to get a second-hand high from your chemo drugs.