Today, on my last infusion day, I’ve decided to keep a play-by-play of the day. Here goes.
5:00am – Woke up with enough time to get outside. Got up, brushed teeth, bundled up (45 degrees out there, and damp from recent rains), remembered to get a ratty towel from the linen closet. Headed out for a short walk, then a 30-minute yoga session after drying off the yoga platform with the towel. Yes it’s chilly to be doing yoga outside but I just so much prefer it to doing it indoors.
6:00am – Shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, start packing for the day.
6:40am – Get the kids up and into the shower. We are leaving ON TIME today, so shower and get dressed first – let them eat breakfast in the car.
7:30am – Roll out the garage.
7:45am – Roll up to the school, just in time for the gate to open.
8:30am – Arrive at the clinic on time!
8:40am – Blood pressure (good, a bit low as always) and temperature check.
8:45am – Blood draws. This is the real beginning. Andrea, my oncology nurse today, uses my port to do this, but there is a preservative that she injects into it, which has a strong chemical taste that I hate. At this point in the game it makes me feel a bit sick, which is probably 90% psychological.
9:25am – I’m led into Dr. Cancer’s exam room to don the breast patient’s cape. It’s pretty chilly today – usually I don’t start getting chilly until the cool fluids start infusing in, but I’m already chilly and disrobing to put on just a little cape doesn’t help.
9:35am – Dr. Cancer arrives and we chat. These chats are scheduled for 15 minutes so I try to prioritize my list of questions. Since this is my last infusion I do have more questions than usual:
- I showed her my potential lymphedema swelling (yep, that’s still there) and range of motion limitation. She will refer me to a physical therapist who specializes in lymphedema.
- The next step with the current treatment is for me to see Dr. Cancer in 6 weeks, at which point we’ll start the tamoxifen, which I expect to take for ten years. My cancer is estrogen-receptive, and tamoxifen blocks uptake to estrogen receptors.
- She says I should have the port removed in three weeks (yeah!) so I’m scheduling that.
- I had questions about some non-traditional supplements that people keep telling me about so she referred me to an integrative medicine specialist.
- I can start eating normally (green tea, multivitamin, caffeine, sushi, etc.) in about six weeks – but per my earlier post on this, still should really drink as little alcohol as possible. Once this is over I’m going to work on losing the ~ten pounds I’ve gained over the course of my treatment, and drinking less will help with that anyway.
- I have heard a few anecdotes recently of people having cancer in one breast, no genetic mutation, and doing a prophylactic mastectomy of the unaffected breast for peace of mind … and the pathology coming back with early stage DCIS. This has thrown me for a loop. Dr. Cancer reassured me that this is random. It’s true that I have (obviously) shown myself to be more susceptible to cancer than the general population, and we’ll monitor the heck out of Lefty, but she definitely does not think I should revisit my plan.
- As to when I should see the first new hair growth, and when my red blood cells will get back to the normal range (they are actually not that low – today’s lab report said 3.04 M/mcL (that’s millions per microliter – I looked it up), with normal range being 4.0-5.2 – but I can definitely feel it). Not surprisingly, her answer was that everyone is different. Hmph.
9:55am – Done with Dr. Cancer.
10:10am – Labs came back.
10:40am – Decided to eat my sandwich. I’m hungry but that damn preservative is making me feel yucky. I ate it anyway; I figure it’s better to eat now than later, this is only going to get worse.
11:00am – Finally started the infusion. This took longer to get going than usual, probably because the labs took a while and then Dr. Cancer has to write the orders. Andrea started with the pre-meds: fluids, Pepcid, Emend, and Aloxi, one at a time. After she got the drip started, Tad took off. He plans to go have lunch at Islands where they’ll let him sit there comfortably for hours and get some work done on his laptop.
12:05pm – Started chemo drug #1, Doxorubicin. This is the one that is red (turns my pee red!) and is a vessicant so has to be injected manually. I also suck on ice chips when I get this drug. Keeping my gums as cold as possible helps to prevent mouth sores that are common with this drug. Seems to work. Sometimes I start to feel sick when they give me this drug – during Round 1 I got a headache; during Round 5 I immediately started to feel my “malaise” side effect. Today it was not so bad.
12:20pm – Started chemo drug #2, Cytoxan. Back to the normal drip – no need for manual push. I was looking up this drug today on Chemocare – it’s a mustard gas derivative! Gotta love chemo drugs. Those clinical trials back in the day must have been something! Toward the end of this infusion I was definitely starting to feel woozy and groggy, not-quite-right (but now in a familiar way).
1:25pm – Started chemo drug #3, Taxotere. This is the nasty one; I’ve heard of women with a more aggressive type of breast cancer who typically get drugs #1 & 2 together quickly over short cycles, and then do the Taxotere slowly over six months. So glad that’s not me. There are lots of potential reactions to this drug, which is why I need to take the hated steroid a couple of days before and after receiving this drug. Taxotere is derived from several plants, including the Asian “Happy Tree”. That’s nice.
1:30pm – Ok, time to get up and take a walk with my dance partner Patrick Swayze (my lovely IV infusion pump developed locally in San Diego by CareFusion). Took a potty break (red pee!) and visited my best friend Heather who answers the phones here and schedules next appointments. I get to talk to her a lot. Today she gave me a printout of the appointments she’s able to schedule, and phone numbers for the ones she can’t.
2:20pm – Infusion #3 nearly over. Feeling very nappy and groggy. A wee bit headachy (my go-to reaction to most things). Mentally summoning up the energy to stand for the neulasta, pack up my stuff, and walk out the building… Besides writing this blog post, I spent most of my time today working my way through this New Yorker article on Obama – worth a read (I’m not quite done yet).
2:30pm – Infusion done. Tad got there just in time to take pics of Andrea sticking the Neulasta injector onto my abdomen.
2:35pm – Andrea stepped out of my cubicle for a moment and came back with a certificate, a glass bell, and the entire oncology nursing staff! They sang, “For she’s a jolly good fellow.” It was very sweet, and I got a certificate signed by all the nurses.
2:36pm – The Neulasta injector needle inserted. Ouch. Actually it’s not that bad. It inserts a catheter here at the clinic, and the medication will be injected through the catheter tomorrow, in 27 hours.
2:40pm – And we’re done. In the car, headed home.