After each chemotherapy session, I was given a drug called Neulasta. The drug works to boost the white blood cell count, and it seemed to work really well; at each of my chemo sessions, they did a blood test and my WBC counts were always above the normal range. Initially I was careful about contagion and not eating fresh produce, etc., in case I had become neutropenic, but as time went on I definitely became less cautious, and so far seem to have survived (the normal cold I’m fighting now notwithstanding).
The down side of this drug (besides the rumor that it costs thousands of dollars per dose – thank you health insurance) is that it must be administered 27 hours after chemo ends. The oncology clinic is over a half hour away from home, so driving up there during the worst of the post-infusion malaise did not sound like fun. Fortunately, the folks who make Neulasta offer an on-body injector device. So at the end of every infusion, the oncology nurse would stick this thing on me. It had to go either on the back of my arm, or on my abdomen near my belly button. I knew it would really bug me on my arm, so I had her stick it on my abdomen. By round three I’d figured out exactly where to place it that would be the least annoying: on the right (I tend to sleep on my left), above my pants’ waistband. It became pretty easy to show the nurse exactly where I wanted it, because my skin had dried out to the point where the injector branded me with a scabby, dry-skin mark. Very sexy.
Once the injector was stuck onto me at the clinic, it would beep, and a few moments later (just long enough to startle me – thank you, sickos who designed this thing) a needle would insert a teeny catheter. Twenty-seven hours later, it would beep again, and start infusing. It took about 45 minutes for all of the medication to be injected, with a little “full/empty” indicator, and fancy lights (green = good, red = bad).
I was told when I got the injector that I should NOT, under any circumstances, throw it in the trash. I was also told that they DON’T WANT IT BACK. It needed to be disposed of as a “sharps” item, and that the clinic could not dispose it for me. Gee, thanks. So after each injection was complete, I would pry it off (not easy) and drop it into an empty Spaghettios can (from an odd once-only craving during chemo round #1), which sat, for the past 18 weeks, on the kitchen windowsill. Cancer-inspired interior design!
After my last chemo round, I hopped onto Neulasta’s website and ordered a sharps disposal kit, which arrived the other day. It was packaged in no less than four layers of protection: outer box, inner box, plastic bag, and the sharps container itself. It came accompanied by generally idiot-proof instructions, except for the actual step to put the container in the box, which I thought was kinda funny. Fortunately I was able to figure that out for myself, and my hazardous waste has now been safely disposed of.