Chemotherapy. Round 1.

Friday, August 9 began like every other day in that hospital bed; Ariel on the fold out chair beside me, the TV on with the speakers by my pillow as low as possible, nurses coming in to check my vitals, me struggling into position to try to pee into my bottle so the nurses can monitor what my kidney is doing. The IV had been removed from my left hand since the port went in. Tubes were dangling from it for blood collection and to administer things to keep me hydrated and to help relieve the kidney thing. I got to be a pro at dragging that IV pole around when I had to get up to use the bathroom.

Today was the day. At first there had been a question whether I’d get my first chemotherapy in the hospital during my stay, or would have to come back as an outpatient, but it was all settled. The main thing was, the doctor wanted the first one to take place there, just in case there was a problem, like if I had a bad reaction.

Breakfast came, I’m not sure what it was, but I was enjoying everything I’d ordered since dinner on Monday. I had no restrictions so I was having a field day. I’m sure one or more doctors came in just to check on me. One of them, Dr. P, an associate of Dr. David’s, after seeing my deformed’ness said it was cosmetic and it would return to normal. I seriously had great doubts then and quite frankly it had become the least of my worries.

Before the R-CHOP chemo started, (it’s quite detailed if you click here), one of the nurses who was going to administer it came in with a stack of papers describing what the R-CHOP chemotherapy was, what I could expect as a result–nausea, hair loss, pain from the shots I would get after it. At first I would be getting a 10-day course of shots of Neupogen. It’s to help increase the white blood cells to ward off infection since the chemo kills those off and they have to be replenished. In the meantime they warned to try to stay away from people with colds, large enclosed public areas like a theater or mall and to stay away from babies especially because the little buggers are just incubators for germs. Of course the doctors weren’t as concerned about those things, so who do you listen to? I was to get the Neupogen for 10 days at least for this round of treatment because the Neulasta, a timed released one-time version had not yet been approved by my insurance company, but should be all set by my subsequent treatments.

There is a question of timing how long my first session lasted but given the average length of my remaining ones, which, between prep and the actual treatment, clocked in at around 6 hours, I’d dare say my thoughts are more or less on the money, that it began around 11am and ended somewhere around 8 at night.

My two chemo nurses came in, Anita and the one I would proclaim as my favorite from then on, Niki. I’m not sure what it was about her, but she was my favorite. They explained what they were going to do, in which order they would do them.

The kick off was some pills and a bag of antibiotics. Following that was a bag of Benadryl. Once that was done, two syringes, about 7 or 8 inches long and about an inch around filled with a red solution (which later, I would fondly refer to as cherry juice) would be shot into the port by hand, one at a time and timed at about 5 minutes each, then the last bag would be set on drip and run its course. Later, as I got my subsequent treatments and the nurses saw how I handled it, they bumped up the speed of the drip of that last bag and so I’m thinking since it was my first one in the hospital, the drip was set to very slow and that was why it took so long.

I was by now accustomed to having my wrist band scanned every time I got something, either pain pills so I could sleep or a Colace to help me poop (I was terribly constipated from all the pain meds I needed) but what fascinated me, every time a new drug was given to me during the chemo session, my wrist band was scanned and I was asked to recite my name and my birth date.

It was a long day and I was not the worst for wear for all of that. Not yet!

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