Having a positive node made me a chemo candidate. Because of my age and my type of cancer, I would have "the big guns." I was scared. I had always seen movies with gray-faced bald people, struggling to eat or move. I didn't want to be one of those people. But did I have a choice?

Subj: Re: Really Wondering
Date: 12/25/98 2:51:44 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: QueenReg


Pam,
I'll tell you everything about my chemo. Probably you will experience a similar scene. Have you been in the treatment room? I hadn't seen it until my first treatment. I told my oncologist later that I wish I had gone in there, just to be prepared. Anyway, the treatment room was a large area with several "recliners" around the periphery. This room was rimmed with glass-doored private rooms, with beds, I assume for very ill patients. What I wasn't prepared for was the openness of the room. I would have preferred more privacy.

Anyway, I was seated, and the obligatory blood pressure and temperatures were taken. I was given a pillow for under my arm, heat packs to help my veins pop up, and a blanket. I was always cold there. My nurse (you'll probably have the same nurse every time) came and started my IV with a saline solution. She then injected Ativan into a port in the IV tubing. This was optional for me. Ativan is a tranquilizer/anti-nausea drug. If it is offered to you, you might want to consider taking it. It makes you very relaxed and makes the 2 hour infusion time go by much quicker.

I then took 4 pills: 1 Kytril, a very potent anti-nausea drug, and 3 Decadrons (steroids). Once that was done, the nurse started injecting the adriamycin into a port in the IV tubing. I was not prepared for what those syringes looked like. They reminded me of something Warner Brothers would use in a cartoon - they were very big! And very red! I would say they were about 5 inches long and about 3/4 inch in diameter. A lot bigger than your average syringe! That went in quite slowly.

I would suggest that you ask your nurse to inject it mid way in your tubing. It is quite caustic and can burn skin. During my second infusion, my regular nurse didn't do my adriamycin. Another girl did it and injected right above the needle in my hand. The port leaked and she had to mop up bits of "the red devil" so it wouldn't burn my skin.

Once the adriamycin was in, a very small bag of cytoxin, about half the size of the saline, was hung from the top of the pole and allowed to drip. That was that. I went home with more Decadron, which I took for 3 days, and Compozine for anti-nausea, both pill and suppository form.


My treatments were usually at 11:00. My husband went to every one with me. Then we went out to lunch every time! Once I got home, I would go to bed for the afternoon.

Pam, I didn't have a bad time with chemo at all. I took the Compozine religiously for about the first 3 days, whether I needed it or not. I NEVER really needed it. Sometimes, I felt a bit queasy, but that was all. Some foods didn't taste good at all. I am a coffee drinker - big time - and I couldn't drink it during chemo. It tasted nasty! I even went back to work at my teaching job after my second treatment. I would have gone back sooner, but my plastic surgeons wanted my to stay home for 6 weeks (I had a free tram). I did get bad canker sores, which I get anyway, and on the 14th day, every cycle, I spiked a high temperature - 103. The drs. didn't like that. But it happened every time and lasted for a day. I worked through the fevers too.

One thing that helped me - and made other people think I was nuts - was that I got dressed up for chemo: dress, hose, dress shoes, evening-style makeup and always, always, my wig. I didn't look like a cancer patient then. And when I didn't look like one, I didn't feel like one. I also brought a water bottle with me to my treatments. They will tell you to drink lots of water (and you will pee red for a while). I wrote "4,3,2 and 1" down the side of the bottle and at each treatment, my husband and I would X off the number of the treatment. It was great to see the numbers being crossed out; it made me feel like I was accomplishing something.

When do you start? Refresh my memory: what kind of BC do you have? What has your treatment been so far? I was diagnosed at stage 1 ductal carcinoma, but path reports put me at stage 2, grade 2 because of metastasis.

You'll make it. Allow yourself to cry and scream. Just know it will get better. Write ANYTIME! Telling people about my experiences, feelings and fears helps me too.
Enjoy your holiday!

The University of Rochester Cancer Center

Subject: Re: First Oncologist appointment
Date: Fri, 02 October 1998 10:49 PM EDT

From: QueenReg

Dee,
I had the "hit me hard" variety. It wasn't at all like I had imagined. It was quite tolerable. You know what? I'm glad I had that kind. I defy cancer to mess with me and that AC did some major butt kicking. They gave me all kinds of drugs to take home with me to stay comfortable and nausea-free. I didn't need them. My side effects were mouth sores, a fever on day 14 of each cycle and, of course, a bald pin head. And I was pooped - but I could still work.

Don't worry, Dee. Think of this as John Wayne heading 'em off at the pass. Go with those big guns!

Subject: Chemo does end!
Date: Sat, 19 June 1999 03:36 PM EDT

From: QueenReg

For those of you who are just beginning or in the midst of chemotherapy, hang in there. It does end. One year ago today, I had my last chemo treatment. I brought Godiva chocolates for all of us to munch on while we armed ourselves with cytoxin, adriamycin and a host of other cancer-fighting weapons. It was a celebration, for sure. I had done something I
never thought I could have done. The light was very bright at the end of that tunnel. It will be that way for you too. You'll see.

Regina

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