Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spa day...Chemo #5

So today, I spent 7 hours at the chemo "spa". My dear friend Deborah who shares my diagnosis of Triple-Negative breast cancer and has the same protocols as me, calls her infusion room the "spa". So Deborah, mon amie, I'm stealing your name for "that place".

I arrived at 8h30am yesterday, signed in and was met by Daiquiri (yes, that's her real name - like the drink). I was weighed and my temperature was taken. She led me into the exam room where she then checked my blood pressure, took my pulse and asked me about all of the pills I am currently taking: L glutamine, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, B6, Probiotics, Lexapro daily, and then there are the anti-nausea meds for the 3 days after chemo: Kytril, Decadron and Phenergan in case of emergencies. There are also pain killers like hydracodone if needed. Now mind you, I hate taking pills!! My favorite nurse, Candi, usually then accesses my port-a-cath with a needle, draws blood, and hooks me up to go into the infusion room. However today, Candi was unavailable and I had another nurse. Before I even leave the house in the morning for my appointment, Evan treats my port site with a numbing cream and then tapes a cover of saran wrap on it keep keep it clean and warm. By the time Candi accesses the site, it's numb and pain free. In 4 treatments, it has NEVER hurt! However today, new nurse made a big deal about pressing on the port (my little alien), cleaned it profusely and then jabbed the needle in crooked. It hurt, oh yes it did! The Rock Star, Dr H then comes in to discuss my past 2 weeks since I last saw her, answers all of my questions and tells me new stuff....then, it's off to the "spa".

Today, I had to choose a recliner near the nurse's station as I was starting the second part of treatment, a drug called Taxol. My days of the dreaded A/C are over. I now have 4 rounds of Taxol, once every 2 weeks for 8 weeks. Taxol is made from the branches of the yew tree and can have severe allergic reactions in some people. The first round is done very slowly. First, I set up my "spa" site...I removed my shoes and put on my cozy socks, I got out my blankets, had my reading material, cell phone and computer at hand. I had my lunch and drinks ready. Evan set up his work table next to me. The nurse explained the new drug and the possible anaphylactic shock-allergic reactions they would watch for...great...At 10am, the infusion began - an IV line attached to my port-a-cath. The port is about the size of a quarter and is a plastic stopper that was surgically inserted in January before I started chemo. It is under the skin just below my right collar bone. It is painless and since I am boney, you can see it clearly. So today the infusion began with a double dose of benedryl to combat allergies followed by a dose a anti-nausea Decadron. Then they start the Taxol drip - the first one is very slow. They watched for every reaction. After about an hour, I started to have severe hot flashes. The taxol both fights bad cells and rebuilds white blood cells. It's a foreign substance entering my body, so my system spikes a fever. The body accepts it, the fever breaks and then I have chills. This happened every 15-20 minutes and it even woke me up. I slept, I dozed, I read nothing. The nurse stopped the infusion and let me recover but then dripped in it more slowly. So from 10am to 3h30pm, I sat in my very elegant naugahyde chaise lounge and was infused. Thank goodness, I didn't have any itching, flushed face, intense back ache, heart palpitations and heaviness in the chest or difficulty breathing. I am scared to death that my finger nails or toe nails may fall off by treatment #7. I can do chic/bald but missing finger nails creep me out!

Anyway, home by 4pm...spa day my ass! So where was my pedicure? my manicure? my mud wrap? my hot stone massage? Maybe next time...


cd0103 said...

You know, the clinics should have the mani, pedi, and massage therapy while you are getting the treatment.
It would probably help.

C.G said...

Personally I think midway through these Toxol treatments you need to treat yourself to a massage and a facial, and after the last Toxol treatment send yourself to the Spa for a full day treat!

That is rough, but you are handling it like a superstar

Rock on pretty lady, rock on.

Karla said...

As spas go, rather lacking in amenities, but perhaps its purpose is rather more noble.

Keep your chin up, honey.You are halfway through.

Samera O said...

Gail, working in such proximity to MD Anderson this year, I have many patients who have fought their individual battles with breast cancer. While I can't know what you all have and are going through, for what it is worth, you all share in common a tenacity that inspires me daily. Here's to your health!

Todd just showed me a photo of you and Evan from last night, and you definitely do chic/bald well; you both look amazing as always! Here's to hoping your fingernails stay put so you can get your well-deserved legit (without quotations) spa day as soon as possible!

deborah d. lattimore said...

"spa day my ass" is so right! i'm glad you could accept the taxol, even though 7 hours is just horribly long. i'm planning REAL spa days in MEXICO once this crap is over--a family trip to la paz, a week at the beach in an all-inclusive resort. YES! we're almost there, mon amie!! let me know if you have any side effects the next few days. for me that was so difficult--the taxol bone pain. i hope you are spared that! xoxox