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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gut Feelings Part Six, The Chemo begins

I was up bright and early on the morning of May 27, arriving at the  oncology department at around 8:30 AM.  I was nervous, anxious and in desperate need of unloading the cup of coffee I’d had earlier, so went in search of a restroom.  I found one down the hall, seated myself in the stall and was nearly scared out of my wits when I heard a great whooshing noise- the stupid toilet was flushing violently with me sitting on it! Quite unnerving! I returned to the waiting room and was telling Mr. G about  the scary experience when I was summoned to the lab, where I was weighed, had my blood pressure and temperature recorded, and then was  asked, “Do you have a port?” Out came syringes, tubing and a can of icy cold stuff they sprayed on the port area before sticking in a needle with tubing attached then using a syringe to withdraw blood.  I turned my head during that part because I’m a wimp. After they taken all the blood they needed (which seemed like a lot to me at the time) they flushed the line with a saline solution, handed me a little plastic cup and told me they needed a “sample.” I wish they had told me that before the experience with the wildly flushing toilet. Thank goodness they directed me to a rest room that had a normal, non-threatening toilet that flushed only when the flush lever was pressed. I returned the tiny sample to the lab, asked for a copy of the blood work results and was told to go down the hall to the treatment room where the doctor would meet with me.

Dr. Vance, the oncologist went over the results of the PET scan and an earlier blood test that showed my CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) level as 8.7, quite a bit above the normal level as a result of the cancer.  She said we were using a more aggressive form of chemo in an effort to shrink both the rectal and liver tumors.  She was pretty confident that I was a good candidate for either a liver resection or for ablation to get rid of the liver tumor. We discussed the possible side effects from the chemo, one of which is peripheral neuropathy, numbness, tingling and cramping of the hands or feet, often triggered by cold.  Thank goodness it’s summer! After she checked my heart rate and   such, she sent me across the hall to the infusion room.

  There were several people there already, including one very young teen-ager who was apparently there for her first treatment too and an older woman, a baseball cap covering her bald head, who was in a very good mood because this was her final treatment. 

 I picked out a chair and the nurse came and gave me papers to read, describing what drugs I would receive, what side effects to expect, etc. She then stuck a name label on me and began to hook up bags to the line going into the ports.  The first infusions are of corticosteroids and antiemetics to help prevent nausea and allergic reactions to the chemo drugs.  When it was time for the actual drugs to be infused, which in my case are Oxaliplatin, Avastin and Fusilev, the nurse donned a sterile gown in addition to the gloves and hooked up the bags containing the chemo drugs.  Since there is an excellent wifi connection in the clinic I was able to pass the time by reading and watching a video on my Kindle Fire, checking in with facebook, unplugging the pump attached to the IV stand and wheeling it into the rest room.  Evidently, all of the liquid   being pumped into me was overtaxing my walnut sized bladder.   By the time the four hours were up, I was pretty adept at navigating the IV stand past the other infusion patients, around the corner past the nurse’s station and into the rest room.

Finally, the bags were empty and the nurse once again donned her sterile gown and gloves and brought out a portable pump that I am to wear around my waist for the next 46 hours. The pump is inserted into a pocket on a waistband after being hooked up through my port. We were able to run the tubing  under my shirt to avoid  having it catch on something and get pulled out This pump will infuse a drug called   Fluorouracil (5 FU for short) into my vein over the next 46 hours. I was instructed to return to the clinic on Friday morning to have it unhooked.  After some final instructions: stay out of the sun, do not drink or touch anything cold, do not reach into the fridge or freezer without gloves, avoid people with  colds or coughs, etc. I was sent on my way. Here’s a pic of the pump- it reminds me of the jetpack Wonderman wore, but other than that Wonderman and I have little in common!