Saturday, 16 June 2012

What is the first Chemo like?

Saturday June 16th, 2012 - 8AM
Well I do believe in trying everything once and not being afraid of anything.  If I find out I am afraid of anything I tackle it head long to beat and overcome that fear.  Most of you remember my fear of horses and riding in 2006 which I fought to overcome and then eventually got married on a horse ranch in 2008.
I am not sure Chemo Therapy falls in the same category.  Certainly I've never tried it, second I am afraid of it - petrified is probably a better word and after my first session I'm not sure I'll every manage to overcome this particular fear.
Lets start with Thursday morning.  I woke up happy as I do most mornings, the middle of the night tears gone, but this was a unique morning, I guess as many have been in the past week.  I Had my shower, still singing, then thought hmmm. today's a big day.  What does one wear for Chemo?  Something comfortable I would imagine, something not too flashy, certainly no jewellery oh and what of my lovely "virgin showing" hair?  Well I won't have that for much longer, so I'll wear it down and shiny.  No make up of course, too many tears are going to flow this day, but what girl can go anywhere without her "Vetiver of Haiti" by "The 7 Virtues Fragrance Collection".  Wade brought me a lovely cup of coffee and has even learned how to make my protein/greens shake, so as I dressed for the slaughter, he chatted to me and made sure I was fed.  All in order to keep my pecker up and stay strong for today.  I brought a great book to read, my Mac to work on and a list of all pain relievers I had taken overnight.  I was ready to get on this horse.
The long drive to the hospital was a bit rocky, I got car sick which is not what you want prior to chemo, and I was beginning to get very scared and sad a little.  I am trying so hard not to cry throughout all this because it only makes others cry and this is not their burden.  Wade has a hard enough job keeping his own career going and looking after my physical needs, he doesn't need the burden of my emotional needs.  We get to the chemo ward just on time and got to the nurses station at the back.  They are expecting me, and the lovely long hair is a dead give away.  They are also ahead of the game and know about the wrong medication that I was originally prescribed last night and have it all sorted out.
They ask me to lie in the bed right across the from the nursing desk.  The strong me decides she's going to fly the coop or go hang in the lobby and people watch because suddenly there I am staring at this stark white bed with all the machines and I think, there has got to be a mistake.  Surely this is a joke, but no, the nurse Gabi, sees my distress, gets me up into a sitting position on the bed and speaks to me very kindly.  "You will be Okay" she says.  I will be your nurse and I'll sit with you and we will you get though it.  I will explain everything before it happens and what you are to expect.  It takes an hour to mix my chemo medicines in a closed lab.  They don't do this until you get here because the medicines are so toxic and expensive and they don't want the technicians to mix them for no reason.  So Wade and I sit and do the crossword.  Another nurse comes in and puts in the IV shunt, they use this to provide the two types of drugs I am getting today.  One is pushed in through a shunt via a massive and I mean massive needle, the other is dripped in over the course of an hour through the IV.
A half hour later the nurse comes by with a wack load of medication for me to take.  Pills for Nausea (lots and lots of those), pill for skin rash...that sounds gross, and a pill to calm me down, I guess they've noted I'm a little on the ups and downs side and I guess I need to be calm for all this.  A few other pills to prevent certain allergic reactions, by this time most have gone over my head.  Finally I'm beginning to calm down.  Gabi comes over and introduces me to the people who are sitting next to me.
A soon to be 43 year old South African woman who at the age of 39 got Inflammatory Breast Cancer, but they found it too late, they found it in her liver.  It had already metastasized. Her story certainly put me in my place, she was happy, pretty, had short hair and was there with her mother and father.  She was the main bread winner of the household and for the past 3.5 years has not been able to work as she went through her treatment.  The worst was that the doctors gave her the wrong drug at the very beginning which put her into intensive care and then eventually she was put on life support and into a coma, however her mother was strong like bull.  When they said that her daughter may never come of life support of live a proper life again, her mother kept saying no way! Not my daughter.  And here they were today, 4 years later, she still has to come in for Herceptin shots every three weeks for the rest of her life and they keep having to have PT Scans to see if the cancer has spread anymore.  And she is LIVING!  She is back working now 22 hours a week is really all she can handle, but she is now supporting her family again and she says that there are mostly good days ahead.   
I cannot thank them enough for their story and hope to see them again every three weeks.  Being a South African myself made me attracted to speaking to them in the first place, but to hear their battle and their courage and their happiness now, it was just wonderful.
So here comes beautiful Romanian Gabi.  "Are you ready now", she asks gently "Ready as I'll ever be and thank you for the introduction to my roommate", Gabi smiles.  We are going to start now with the bright red radioactive drug.  I will sit with you for about 20-30 minutes while I slowly push the drug into your vein and watch for any allergic reaction.  I don't watch, I turn and hold Wades hand and we have mundane conversation most of which is long since forgotten, but he was there and he held my hand and it was good.  A few little tears shed, nothing more.
Later my roommate comes back all smiles.  Her PT Scan is clear, the family is ecstatic, all smiles and happy.  Dr. S suggested they go out and have a bottle of champagne after the Herceptin has been administered, but she just wants to go shopping.  I am thrilled for her, give them all a big hug when they leave.
Soon Gabi is back with the IV drip of the next exciting cocktail I am to have today - where's the champagne I am thinking - however truly I think I'd throw up any alcohol that came near me right now.  This one she hooks up to the IV line and sits with me for a few minutes watching for any reaction.  When it looks like all is good, I send Wade off to eat and I go to sleep for a while.  It's not a very restful sleep as the councillor comes around to talk to me, which is nice although I'd rather sleep.  She tells me about support groups that I will need to get through this and the yoga days etc.  I know it will be important later, but I am a rather private person (don't particularly like group activities and like to make my own friends), so for now this is hard to get excited about.  She is very kind and eventually realizes that I'd rather be sleeping and takes her leave.
At around 1pm Wade is sent to the pharmacy for more drugs for me to take home and by 1:30 a green zombie machine and a lovely handsome husband are on their way home.  It's almost like coming home from the hospital with a new baby.  Wade must have wondered who mixed up his baby with a green marsian baby?  Weird.

Green....but not with envy
The next few hours and day are pretty gross.  I will save the details, suffice it to say, the poison is running though my veins and into every cell in my body.  I am exhausted beyond believe, one minute I'm burning up, the next minute my pajamas are soaked though with sweat.  My urine is burning red and I am drinking bucket loads of water at their recommendation.  Wade spends Thursday at home with me, but then on Friday Morning he has to go to work for a week or so.  My dear friend Chantal stops by on Thursday to see what I need, and when I wake on Friday morning, she is downstairs cleaning the fridge and putting in small portions of health soups, fresh cut fruit and vegetables and all the goodies a person going through chemo could need.  Chantal you are a god send.  
Mum arrived just as Chantal was leaving - perfect timing because being alone right now is a little difficult, and I needed to be at the hospital in 15 minutes for the Neulasta shot that I needed to get.  Remember the $2700 shot I need after each chemos session to help bring my white blood cells up to normal. the one that causes serious side affects of spleen rupture and serious lung problems, along with the more common side effects of severe bone pain and muscle aching.  This was a pretty easy injection to get as it was sub-cutaneous, I have done many of those when I was having my babies.  However the short trip was enough to send me over the deep end, so off home we went and back to bed I went.  What a whimp I am becoming.  I slept for most of the afternoon, then later my friend Lara - super Lara, came in to give my legs and lower arms a calming massage to help ease the bone pain, which actually hasn't hit until now (Saturday morning), but I did very much enjoy her loving touch.  It also made me very emotional as all loving touch does, so I was a bit of a bundle of tears for a while.  
Later in the evening Auntie Annelle and Uncle John arrived as John is doing the Test of Metal race tomorrow morning, this brought over a gaggle of girls (my daughter and 3 friends to see the invalid), Kate got all teary eyed, with led a few of them to do the same.  It was a short visit, including little ginger, then I had to ask everyone to leave as I needed to sleep.  Annelle and John went out and had a yummy dinner and I had some of Chantal's amazing soup.  All in all, one could I guess call this a good couple of days.  Only a few bouts with vomiting and nausea which I managed to catch quickly.  The tremendous weakness I feel is the hardest and now the bone pain that is starting is a little worrying.  A photo now is not a pretty shot, however, here is one of me with my loving pal Waldo, who isn't leaving my side.

My constant companion


Unknown said...

June 16, 2012 | Michele copied from previous blog page:

Be home soon to come and help
In any way I can
Love you

Unknown said...

une 16, 2012 | Jennifer Powell copied from previous blog page:

You are so loved Michelle! Be strong enough to let the emotions flow. xxoo Jen

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