Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In The Chemo Room

I have been drafting this post since my last chemotherapy, almost three weeks ago. Before I head off for this much-anticipated vacation, I figure I should post it. When we return, I'll be anticipating another round of chemo, and the information will likely change. So, for those of you wondering if I haven't left yet, the answer is "not yet," but in two days. And thanks for all of the warm wishes and good thoughts following my last post.

Some of you reading this blog know more about receiving chemo treatments than I do, but lots of you who know me have asked me questions about receiving chemo, what it's like, what happens, what the two different chemos are like, etc. So, I thought I would share a few of the details I've observed and experience in my two rounds. Those of you who have been there, feel free to comment on your own experiences!

In addition, I'm remembering that Leroy (of Leroy's blog at NPR) was interviewed and filmed in the chemo room for a special scheduled to appear this spring on TV. Last December, he had a fellow journalist write in his blog about her observations in the Chemo Room, and those are worth reading if you have no prior experience. The documentary will be on Discovery Channel, and whenever it will be, I should get a heads-up from Leroy's blog, and I can mention its air date when I learn of it.

The Chemo Room at Beth Israel Deaconness, where I go for chemo, is a great big room with a nurse's station in the center, and chairs that can recline all around the outside wall. Most of the chairs can be curtained off, if need be, although I haven't felt the need, and so I've been able to observe lots of other folks receiving their chemo treatment who are also not behind curtains. As Elissa Rubin, the journalist mentioned above, notes, folks are dressed in street clothes. I would guess the only reason to be in a hospital jonny would be because you were already admitted to the hospital. Some folks even dress up for the trip to this hospital, reminding me of my favorite aunt, Win, who still loved to dress up and wear a stylish hat when flying on airplanes before she died early in this decade.

The session starts with checking in with the chemo nurse, Linda, and possibly the oncology nurse, Sue, who may come by. This last time I talked with Linda about slowing things down from the first session (where the infusion took about 2 hours), and she agreed. She put the IV in, and gave me decadron IV (anti-nausea med), then benadryl (because I'd had a hive during the first session), and she brings me a pill of anti-nausea med, whose name we can't remember. When it's time to actually begin the infusion of oxaliplatin, the chemo nurse and one other person come together to confirm the dose and medication and that I'm the patient it's designed for. This last session, they did slow down the infusion, and I think it took more like 3 hours. But I think it was still too fast, given how I felt after. But I get ahead of myself.

Patty and I bring along a bag of snacks and things to do, but there are also volunteers coming around offering food. Does that seem strange, that someone would eat during chemo? I thought so, at first, but then found that snacks and a lunch tasted pretty good during the time I was sitting there (having already been pumped with anti-nausea meds). After lunch, they came by offering ice cream, and I remembered readily that eating ice cream would not be a good idea, so both Patty and I declined. I find that I like listening to music with my iPod, sometimes I'll pick up a good book (if i have one), sometimes Patty and I will chat, especially at the beginning. And I watch people, the others in the chemo room with me.

On my last visit to the chemo room, there was one man who seemed to be dozing through his infusion (I was envious - Does that make it go faster?), one woman who came in to receive platelets (they were very yellow, and Patty could read the bag), and another woman who received transfusions, two, of blood, while she was there (the blood was easy to spot from across the room, with the big "O" on the bag). Sitting next to me was a man receiving oxaliplatin also, plus one or two other drugs. He looked like an old hand at this, and had a port in his chest for the infusion. (A port is inserted as day surgery, separate from the chemo, and means that when something needs to be inserted (chemo drugs) or withdrawn (blood), a new IV doesn't need to be started in the arms or hands. Apparently a lot of folks have trouble with their veins, and I have also heard that the port can ease the infusion. Since I had a rough round with infusion #2, I will be learning more about that.)

So what happened during the second infusion? I guess it was just too much, too fast, and somehow my body couldn't tolerate it well. I've already written about how I came home and spent the rest of the day in bed, and also about talking with Sue last week about the possibility of doing some things to make it easier next time.

I still haven't touched base with the oncologist about the next infusion and whether or not to do a port (I'm leaning toward yes), and with the urologist about the stent. But my CT scan pictures did arrive by FedEx yesterday, so I got to see for myself. I could see those funny little plastic loops at either end of the stent, and that my kidney looked less swollen than last time. I feel that I'm heading to vacation feeling about as good about my current state as I can. And after vacation, stay tuned for updates on future chemotherapy!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Lynne. Once again you help to bring those of us outside the world of cancer, closer to your world. I tend to read your posts thinking they would make a wonderful book, but with this entry especially, I'm thinking documentary!

Wishing you all a fabulous vacation filled with fun, relaxation, and a sense of peace.

Love and blessings,

Anonymous said...

hey lynne- leroy's got nothin' on you girl !!!!- nice description of the grownup chemo room-
at the jimmy find, each kid has a bed (or a recliner of you're old enough for the teen room- lexie has decided to use the chair and the teen room exclusively)- there are curtains there too,- most people use them- the kids all have tv/dvd players- they just can't read that well- and they mostly eat, too- nothing else to do-
what is curious to me is that the anti-nausea meds usually don't last the afternoon- the kids usually barf by the end of it all- hence the prolific pink buckets (they're actually basins, but who's splitting hairs????)- maybe they give you grownups better stuff- just kidding-
and by the way, i think you're wise to seriously consider the port idea- but do talk to lexie- she's the expert-
anyway- thanks for sharing and HAVE a GREAT TIME IN THE SUNNY LANDS !!!!!! please take great pics like last ime so i can live vicariously though you for this one- it's my dream vacation you're embarking upon- i tried to get lexie to go to ST. JOHN for her makeawish, but it was back to the princesses AGAIN !!!! live it up for me, please???
love you-

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the view! Gosh...I guess I can't imagine doing ANYTHING without food (being italian )Snack is my middle name! ha! As a matter of fact.....growing up I distinctly remember when I said I didn't feel mother ( italian through and through!) would say..."Have something to eat!...You'll feel better!" ...and usually, ( imagine!) I DID! Gosh..looking back it's a wonder I didn't end up 500 lbs!
Eat when you feel when you don't...have a snack before you go to bed....a little something with your coffee...sigh!
So..yes...I can imagine eating during chemo...although I can't even imagine chemo...even with your descriptions. You have my thoughts and prayers as you make your way through this journey, Lynne! HEY! ( is for horses as my nonna would say..)....speaking of will be on your journey to brighter skies and warm breezes tomorrow! yaaaay! ( said while jumping up and down clapping my hands in glee). Have FUN!

Anonymous said...

Lynne - I wish you 10 days of sunshine and sand and giggling kids, with chemo so far off on the horizon that it vanishes into insignificance.