I spent my first weekend in the hospital getting hopped up on Benadryl (more on this later) and filling my veins with my first round of chemo. As the chemo was slowly dripping in, I wondered… what is this stuff doing? You hear the word chemotherapy and you think “yeah, the stuff that kills cancer,” but like – how? How does it kill just the cancer and leave everything else relatively untouched? It scared me a little to think about it, but thankfully the internet has an answer to everything. Basically, the chemicals attack cells that are growing and dividing quickly, as cancer cells do. Other cells that grow and divide quickly also get attacked, hence why I will lose my lovely locks. So, there is your lesson on chemotherapy for today as brought to you by the internet; the rest of this article is my first hand take on it.
Mort the port
Something I didn’t know when starting this journey was that I was going to need a chemo port placed in my chest. On top of everything I was going to have to go through, I thought, “ugh – another surgery and something implanted in my chest?” My doctor assured me it was the best route to go and would make getting chemo a really smooth process, and he was right. About a week ago today I headed into surgery to get my chemo port (if you watch my video below you can catch some of this experience and how much I enjoyed my anesthesia). His name is Mort, by the way.
I was given a local anesthesia for this procedure, which scared me at first – I didn’t want to be awake for this thing. But, I don’t really remember much about the procedure, just the beginning when the surgery techs were talking about how their weekend was and that they had a really bad cough they couldn’t get rid of 😬.
So that was that. I had a new piece of flare living in my chest. It was a little sore for the first couple days, but has made itself a nice little home now and I can barely tell it’s there.
Let’s get on with it
Last Friday, I walked into the cancer center bright and early at 8am, ready to “get on with it” (a phrase my oncologist uses a lot). I met with my doctor to review my treatment plan, side effects, and to answer any burning questions I had before starting treatment. I then headed up to my room on the 7th floor to see where I would be hanging out for the next couple days.
I’m usually a very anxious person. On the outside, people would never say that about me. My positive attitude and demeanor hide it well, but I have dealt with anxiety most of my life. I only say that here because at that moment – sitting on my hospital bed, getting ready to start chemotherapy – I wasn’t anxious. I felt a fighter in me, ready to do what I had to do to get better and I was ready to deal with anything that was going to stand in my way.
Over the next couple hours, I met my nurses who quickly became my friends. I could not imagine going through this without an amazing team by my side. They laughed with me, kept me informed and talked to me about their lives. I kept thinking – “I really hope they are all here next time I stay, so I get to hang out with them!” That being said, I really hope they would feel the same way… if not, they don’t really get a choice 😂.
Round one, part one
It was time to put Mort the port to work! As my chemo nurse started hanging all of the goods on my IV hanger thingy (there is probably a more proper name for this), I was very interested. She let me know what each of them were and what their job was. Over the weekend, fluids were the biggest thing that was entering my veins. They were there to keep me hydrated and keep those kidneys working (which means I had to wiz basically every hour, on the hour).
To help with side effects of the chemo drugs, I was also given some anti-nausea medications, and one of those was my new friend, Benadryl. As the nurse started pumping it into my port it hit me like the first time I took a drag of a cigarette in high school (sorry, Dad). Throughout this whole thing (thankfully), this was the only drug to hit me with some (wonderful) side effects. I was instantly loopy, tired, and calm. Since it hit me so instantly and hard, throughout the weekend, the nurses would make sure it was a good time to give it to me (do you actually want to talk with your guests?), and also dilute it a little so it didn’t smack me in the head so hard.
I got three different chemo drugs (Etoposide, Methotrexate, and Dactinomycin) throughout the weekend. The length of time and amount they were administered varied, but none of them made me nauseous or sick, something I was very worried about. I remember just sitting there waiting to feel sick and I never did. One of my visitors even asked the nurse “are you sure you are actually giving her chemo?” I’m hoping that this trend will carry on with me throughout treatment, but I know that sometimes it can vary with each round. I didn’t have much of an appetite throughout the weekend, but still managed to get some tacos, pizza and cookies into my system.
I was in the hospital from Friday to Sunday. On Sunday, my oncologist visited me and was very happy to see that I was feeling well and learn that the chemo hadn’t made me sick. Adam commented that it was the happiest he had seen him throughout this whole ordeal, and that made me smile.
I was sent home around 1pm on Sunday and immediately hit the couch. I stayed that way until about Tuesday, when I started to regain some of my energy back. The chemo hit me hard after I left the hospital. I felt weak, tired and was ready to get some uninterrupted sleep.
Ready for round one, part two
It’s now been 5 days since I had chemo and I’m feeling good. My energy level isn’t at full strength, but I’m ready to feel like a normal human again. This entails getting out of the house, enjoying a beer and taking the dogs for a walk. Currently my body is working on building up healthy cells again so I have to try as hard as I can to avoid getting sick.
I will start part two of round one tomorrow. This will be at the cancer center and will be two additional drugs (Cyclophosphamide and Vincristine). I wont have to stay at the hospital for these and hope that I react to these in a similar way I reacted to the first three.
I want to end by saying thank you. As I walked into the cancer center to start treatment last Friday I was flooded with messages and well wishes. How could I not smile at that moment? I feel like I am being carried through all of this by all of the people that surround me in my life and I am so grateful for each and every one of you. You’ve lifted me up, you’ve made me smile and you will get me through this.
Xoxo (with hand sanitizer of course)
If you would like to see me hopped up on anesthesia without makeup on, then watch this.