The first round of chemo

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One of the chemo drugs administered to me is a deep red and looks like a toxin.

It is now time to write about my first round of chemo. In the last post I documented my experience getting a port installed in my chest. With the port installed I was now ready to receive my first chemo treatment. In this post I will share how this first round of chemo went.

It was Monday, September 10, when the surgeon installed the port into my chest (just 12 days ago as I write this). During the surgery my wife discovered that insurance had yet to pre-approve all of the chemo drugs. That is another thing we learned. Chemo as a whole is not what the insurance company has to approve. Instead the insurance company had to approve all four of the chemo drugs the doctor was prescribing. It was late morning before I was released from the hospital for surgery. My chemo was rescheduled for Tuesday morning with the expectation that insurance would finish pre-approving all of the drugs. Luckily the insurance company did finish their pre-approval process later Monday afternoon. My annoyance with the insurance company will be the topic of a future post. I really should have had my chemo started that day.

On Tuesday my wife put a numbing cream on my port. Since the port had just been installed the surgeon has prescribed a cream that could be used to numb the port during its first use. I remember she was nervous about not getting enough on, but I don’t remember feeling the needle at all when they hooked up to the port. My wife did great.

At the cancer center they took my blood right away. I was told that would be done every time I had treatment to ensure my numbers were good enough to proceed. As time goes on I hope to better understand what numbers are actually being followed to determine if I am OK to receive treatment. My numbers were apparently OK, because a needle was inserted into my port and an IV bag was hooked up to me.

Going into chemo I was very nervous. I had heard so many bad stories about people going through chemo and was sure I would have to endure mind-numbing pain. In my mind I had pictured the chemo entering my body like fire and I was prepared for my veins to burn. Well, nothing like that actually happened. I believe before receiving any of the actual chemo IV bags I had a bag with some antibiotics. After that I received a bag of the first chemo drug. Each of the bags were set to drip very slowly. This was being done because it was my first time receiving these drugs and it was unknown whether I would have a bad reaction. Luckily I did not have a bad reaction. My previous fears had been unfounded.

That day I received three of the four chemo drugs. The fourth drug would take the longest to administer and the oncology staff felt it would be best to do that fourth drug the next day. At the time I really didn’t care either way, but looking back I’m glad it was scheduled the next day. My wife was already having a long day. As it was we got out of the hospital in the early afternoon.

By the time we got home I was getting a bit tired. I laid down for “a few minutes”. Three hours later I woke up. The odd thing is I could have sworn it was the next day when I woke up. My wife and neighbor had to work hard to convince me otherwise. It actually took them quite a while to make me understand it was still Tuesday. I’ve heard other chemo patients will have similar stories after receiving treatment. Some say it is a part of “chemo brain”. I don’t know if that true, but I do know the same exact thing happened the next day after receiving the rest of my chemo treatment.

That night I slept better than I had in months. Unfortunately my wife didn’t sleep much at all. She kept checking on me all night long. I believe she was expecting some sort of bad reaction. It didn’t help matters any that she was not sleeping in the bed with me. One of the side-effects of chemo is that my body excretes toxic chemicals. This includes the sweat coming out of me at night while I’m sleeping. For about 72 hours after chemo the rest of my family basically has to stay out of my bedroom and the bathroom I use due to the these chemicals. I was not able to smell these chemicals, but my wife said they were toxic smelling. That smell could also have contributed to her lack of sleep.

One other reason my wife may have been concerned is that she would not be at my side during the second day of chemo. Our youngest son is being diagnosed for some sort of debilitating muscle disorder. Months earlier an appointment had been setup for him to see a geneticist in Sioux Falls who specializes in such disorders. She did travel to Sioux Falls with our son, but she wasn’t happy about leaving me behind. The staff in Sioux Falls said in the future they would work around chemo days so both of us could be at his appointments and she wouldn’t have to choose.

It was a brother-in-law that took me to chemo treatment on Wednesday. I still appreciate him doing so. He gave my wife constant updates, which made her feel better about leaving me behind. Since I only had one drug to be administered that day I thought it would take less time. I was wrong. That last drug was in a very large IV bag and it was being dripped very slowly. At regular intervals (I think every half hour) they would increase the speed of the drip, but it seems like that bag would never empty. The staff was dripping this bag slowly because it has some very nasty potential side-effects. Luckily I did not experience any adverse reactions to the drug.

About mid-afternoon I was finally done with the chemo treatment. I really don’t remember much about that treatment. I vaguely remember my mother-in-law bringing me a roast beef sandwich for lunch. Also, I think I remember getting a Blizzard from Dairy Queen on the way home. Really though most of that day is a blur to me.

Just as I had the previous day, when I got home I took a nap. One again I was out for a few hours and was sure it was the next day when I woke up. Those chemo naps are sure something! Some time that evening my wife and youngest son returned from Sioux Falls. She let me know what had happened during his appointment, but I had to have her tell me again a few days later. It appears anything told to me during chemo days was unlikely to be remembered.

I’ll end this post here. In this post I shared my experience going through chemotherapy. Luckily I did not have any adverse reactions to any of the chemo drugs. It appears the main side-effect for me was being  tried and being put into a very deep sleep. That really isn’t such a bad side effect. In the next posts I will share some experiences from after chemo.

PS. In the future I will blog about the specific chemo drugs.

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