One down, seven to go

So, I had my first chemotherapy treatment this morning. When she brought the IV bags over to me each time, she would read off the bag and ask me to confirm “Gina Karasek?” and my birthday. That was a reality check – they knew my name, they had medicine set up just for me. This is really real.

So, since I had labs done last week, they started the meds right away. Normally they do a blood test to check all your blood cells levels before they will start the chemo.   If your counts are too low they may delay the chemo until you recover some.

Your white blood cells fight infection, most people probably know this. Your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Your platelets help with blood clotting. This is why chemo causes susceptibility to infection. We are told to stay away from sick people, large crowds, and carry hand sanitizer with us anywhere.

*Edited to add- I was writing this post from memory last night while tired and a little fuzzy and totally forgot to mention neutrophils! Neutrohils are phagocytes in your blood that are the “first responders” to an injury or inflammation. Phagocytes, you learn as a kid, “eat” the bad stuff and clean things up for you. You can read the adult version here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phagocytosis – granted it is the Wiki version, which normally I hate to use as a reference, but I’m too lazy right now to find a true scientific reference, and actually this one will do because the first paragraph tells what you need to know: Phagocytes eat the bad stuff 🙂 So, neutrophils are a type of white blood cell, and it is actually the one they are most interested in tracking during chemo, for obvious reasons stated above. The day after each chemo treatment, I will go back in to receive an injection of neulasta, which helps promote the growth of neutrophils.

Chemo meds target cancer cells by attacking and killing any fast growing cells, which cancer obviously is. Other fast growing cells in your body are: hair, digestive tract, and bone marrow. When I read that, it made sense as to why the most common side effects of chemo are hair loss, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, and anemia or infections.

Chemo treatment is yet another waiting process. I arrived at 9 am. They took me back and got me settled in a chair that is like a Lazyboy. They started an IV right away with fluids for a while, then an anti-nausea medicine drip (Zofran) – that took 30 minutes. Then they gave me a steroid drip (can’t remember the name)- which took another 20 or 30 minutes. Finally they gave me the actual chemo med- a red medicine that they inject into the port in my IV which took about 10 minutes, then the 2nd chemo drug which was an IV drip bag, which took about another 55 minutes.  The chemo drugs were Adriamycin and Cytoxin. I can’t remember which was the injection and which was the drip bag. I was totally done at 12:30 pm.

I’ve had a bad headache behind my eyes the last two days, so with the IV my head was hurting worse. Not sure if it was from sitting so long, or the meds. They did warn that the Cytoxin can cause a headache in some people. The lady who administered the meds told me to press my fingertip hard on a point right in the middle just above eyebrows and hold it for 15 seconds. It helped a LOT, I was surprised. My headache just eased tremendously, which made a big difference.

Challis drove me home and we stopped at Taco Bell on the way home. I had brought a couple small peanut butter sandwiches in case I got hungry. As much as I really wanted to eat some spicy Taco Bell, I was afraid it would be pretty ugly if by chance it came back up. So, I ate my P.B.’s and got just some chips with cheese, and drank water. So far, so good. I did not eat a real dinner, but had crackers, grapes, and water. Chemo is very dehrydating so they want us to drink at least 64 ounces a day – easy enough if I am feeling decent, but I’m sure I’ll be in the bathroom a lot.

When we got home, I was so tired, I lay down on the couch and zonked out right away. I was able to go to Chris’s baseball game, although Challis came and carried the chairs for me. My friend, Juanita, was there since her son is also on the team, and her husband coaches. It was great to spend some time visiting with her – very heartening!

I am not feeling great, but I am not feeling bad. So far the anti-nausea medicine is helping. I have two additional anti-nausea medicines I can take regularly to help. They said the first 3-4 days will be the worst. A friend told me it always hits his sister bad on day 2 and 3, but the medicines kept her from being entirely miserable.

So I understand that the worst part of chemo is not the IV, it’s the few days afterward when the medicine starts to kill cells. So, even though I am done receiving the first treatment, I am not done handling it yet.

Still, I am hopeful.

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8 thoughts on “One down, seven to go

  1. Hi Gina,
    My dad’s Oncologist was across the street from where I worked, so I would visit him during my lunch hours while he was receiving his chemo treatments.
    He said the sitting and the waiting was irritating to him so he would bring books, magazines, and other items to keep him occupied. Then he said the sounds would disrupt his concentration so we got him a portable cd player (yes this was in the 90’s before mp3) so he could listen to his blues music and some Pink Floyd while he read lol.
    Oddly, into his second round of chemo, he once asked me for a jacket or a blanket because he was frequently getting chilled.
    Just some little things that came up from day to day so by the end we had a nice travel bag made up of a throw blanket, music, books, drinks and snacks, our whatever else he felt like having to keep him occupied and comfortable.
    I wish today’s portable devices were available back then. He really didn’t care much for tv, but he would have loved to have been able to write a blog such as this.
    My prayers and best wishes to you and your family.
    Steve Y.

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  2. Thanks for the info Steve! I’m sorry your dad had to go through this! My cancer center has gathered a lot of information from their patients over the years, and gave some similar advice- they offer warmed blankets and pillows, they have an adjustable t.v. at each bed, and you can pull curtains around your chair to get a little privacy if you want. They also have a little fridge and kitchenette area you can drag your IV to and eat something. They have some “Boost” and other such drinks for you, soup, and other snacks.
    I brought a bag with my tablet, phone, some “first day of chemo” sheets they’d given me, and my P.B. sandwiches. Turns out I had such a bad hormone headache that looking at my tablet or phone made it worse, so I just finished up some work stuff on my tablet, then lay back and closed my eyes.

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  3. So glad it hasnt been horrible yet. I know when either you or deb got dad a dvd player and movies it was great but he usually would fall asleep. Didn’t get to stay with him but a couple times and I hated sitting there so long but would do it again a million times foe any of my family! Love you and again let me know if you need anything!

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  4. Hi Gina, I went through all of the chemo and radiation, thank God it’s been 8 years now. The thing that surprised me the most about the whole treatment was not the chemo or the nausea or even the hair loss, I guess I was somewhat prepared for that ( as much as anybody can be prepared). It was how upbeat the office atmosphere was. I guess I expected it to be gloom and doom and very somber. The exact opposite was actually true. That made it sooooo much easier. My friend and I got into playing an electronic game and were laughing so much the nurse came in to see what we were up to. We laughed about me getting “kicked out of chemo”. When you are in the middle of it you can’t imagine ever being on the other side of it. One day you will be looking back at the whole thing and thanking God, it can be an incredible time of growth. Hang in there, it does get better.

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