February 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
Chemo Countdown – 1 day! Tomorrow is my last (hopefully forever) “infusion” (that’s the fancy word for getting a treatment).
I will appreciate getting back to a normal state of energy and stamina, although I’ve heard it can take six months to a year. Yesterday I did more than usual, which is why I probably conked out last night and wrote such a wimpy post. Yesterday morning I drove into town and had an acupuncture treatment, came back home for lunch, then out again to run a couple of errands (post office and groceries). Came home and baked the layers for a carrot cake. Even with Phil getting Chinese take-out for dinner, I still crashed after cleaning up from my baking project and went to bed. I know there are cancer survivors who work during their chemotherapy treatments and they amaze me; I could not have done that.
A month passes for surgery recovery (more waiting) and I meet yet another doctor! Dr. H is my oncologist and hematologist; he’ll be responsible for monitoring and managing my chemotherapy treatments. Again and lucky me, I find him knowledgeable and compassionate; I learn later from a friend who has been under his care for almost ten years, that he is a recent cancer survivor himself.
I have a lot to do before the first infusion. A CT scan provides a fairly detailed picture of my internal state of affairs; there are a couple of lymph fluid collections (lymphoceles) from my surgery that show up, but key is “no evidence for metastatic disease”. A blood draw shows white and red blood cell counts and blood chemistry to help monitor how my liver and kidneys will tolerate the treatment. After all, the goal is to destroy any renegade cancer cells, so this is a systemic treatment that will negatively affect pretty much everything. Blood work will happen before every chemo primarily to make sure my white blood cells (mainly neutrophils) have recovered enough from the last chemo blast to provide me with some level of immunity. Lastly I decide to have the chemo drugs administered via a port instead of an IV line in my hand or arm; after all the needle sticks I’ve already experienced (both good and bad) I need a better way. A port (or portacath) is a small medical device installed beneath the skin of your chest. A catheter runs from the port and is surgically inserted into a vein ending just upstream of the heart. This location allows the drugs to quickly mix and dilute in the blood stream for delivery throughout the body. The port appears as a bump under the skin and has a “wall” into which the nurse inserts a special needle to draw blood samples or infuse the chemo drugs. This can be done many times without the damage to veins that can happen from repeated IV procedures. I will need six infusions, one every three weeks; it’s worth having the minor surgery to get a port. I’ll have my first infusion October 28, 2011 and the last one February 9, 2012. I’m afraid it will feel like a long winter.