At 6:30am I was up to apply my Elma anesthetic cream to the surface area of where my port sits on my chest. It needs to be applied at least an hour before the needle is inserted for treatment to allow enough time for it to be comfortably numb. We arrived at SJOG by 730am and were waiting outside the Pathology Centre for a blood test I desperately needed done before treatment started. It was to be couriered within 48hours to PMH for my genetic testing. The Pathology center opens at 7:30am and the girl had still not arrived by 7:40am so I was starting to feel a little anxious waiting outside a dark locked door knowing I had 20 mins before chemo started, plus the fact that there were several people in line infront of me to have blood taken. Finally she arrived. Obviously a bad start to her morning because she was in a horrible mood and being very unreasonable to the older people who had arrived before me. One lady had driven all the way from the country with suitcases in hand, had been fasting all night, then to be told ‘this is a Clinipath’ blood form we don’t do it here. In a rude tone. Anyway the girl was wrong and it was all fine and I was finally up next. I passed the girl my forms (which had been given to me at 6pm the night before and told to come here for it at 7:30am before chemo started). ‘Look. I cannot do this here, its a PathWest pathology form, you will have to have it done else where… I felt the rage build up inside me.. ‘I was given this form last night at 6pm and told to have it done here this morning, I start my first chemo session in 10 minutes next door and I must have this done before any toxic drugs enter my body. She was a bitch. I was left waiting as she slammed doors made rude phone calls infront of me and other elderly cancer patients. I was fired up to tell her to do her job in a calm manner as shes dealing with people who have major illness’s and maybe arriving on time to work would be helpful. One of my nurses came in and had a word to her and I was taken through within a minute or so and nothing more was said apart from her trying to act sweet and nice.
Next I went through to the Ivy Suite where treatment started. Its a long (width), slim corridor kind of room with lots of lazy boy chairs separated by a curtain, then some bed wards for people in for longer stays. The room was reallllllly nice and extremely clean. Staff were walking around in big blue capes with gloves, goggles and other protective gear. Much like radiologists (those who work with patients and xrays everyday) they need to be protected by the poisonous drugs as they are exposed to them every day. I was taken to a bed ward and as I had found out yesterday, I was computer randomised for the trial to just be on the normal chemo treatment for my kinda of breast cancer, which meant I wasn’t going to be having the fourth drug – Avastin. This was fine, it meant less time in hospital and one less drug to worry about. Anyway, because I wasn’t going to be recieving Avastin, I was only going to be in for 7.5 hours instead of 9.
The needle was inserted into my numb chest and I didn’t feel a thing. First drug up was the Docetaxel. This drug has the side effects of causing split, paper thin yucky nails. They say that having your nails exposed to sunlight makes this worse, so I have to constantly have black nail polish on for 4-5 months to help prevent this. I also had to wear one pair of black cotton gloves, then a pair of rubber gloves and THEN what looked like boxing gloves. They had icepacks on the inside of them and were unbearable to wear for the first 40 mins. My finger tips felt like they were being burnt in an oven. This soon subsided as the icepacks warmed up from melting. I had to leave all these gloves on for 2 hours whilst the Docetaxel was being infused. Adam was with me and we fell asleep for about 1.5 hours of this time, next to eachother on my hospital bed. When we woke up my nurse was telling us she wished she had a camera because we looked so cute cuddled up on such a tiny bed!
I felt pretty good, the nurse told me I should feel fine whilst receiving treatment, its just within a couple of days or so of going home is when side effects will kick in. She also said that she was glad I wasn’t sick during the Docetaxel because it normally would be the one that would make you sick during treatment. I had a little bit of nausea but not enough to complain about. Maybe I was just hungry? We ordered a toasted ham and cheese sandwich each which was really delicious. We were well looked after and given diet lemonades upon request which I enjoyed. Ginger ale is supposed to be really good for chemo but unfortunately they didn’t have any diet ones 😦
Jenny is pretty much my favorite nurse so far. She is the lady who sat in for all of my appointments with breast surgeon and visited me many times.. She came in to see me which was great. It was unexpected and she had a good chat to us. She also brought in some prosthesis boobies and really nice mastectomy bras for me to look at. She has given me some information for some ladies to come out at see me at home and fit me for a free prosthesis and what ever bras I would like. Its so amazing the voluntary work people put their hands up for. I will definitely be putting my hand in for help when I am better to help anyone thats in similar positions. I made Adam hold the prosthesis and say ‘Well what do you think!? does it feel reaaaal?!’ haha
Carboplatin was next, only 45 minutes – another drug which can have nasty side effects. By this point I was up wheeling my drip around every 20 mintues for the rest of my stay because I had to wee so much. After each drug is infused they flush it out with lots of saline. So my bladder was blowing up very quickly.
Soon a pharmacist came into see me, she got all the names of all the meds I am currently on and came back later with a big list of everything plus more I needed to start taking after I got home and all the directions. Two pages long! I was given lots of different things like anti-nausea, gastro stop, more dex etc. Heres a picture of a few things I was given.
So far so good, finally Hereptin was being infused, this was for 1.5 hrs and current time was at about 2:15 pm. In this time dad came for a short visit and as he left, mum and Jess arrived and Adam went. Adam had been there as long as I had and I couldn’t be more proud of him for keeping me company between nanna naps, eating nice snacks which he also went and got a few! and watching the last 4 or so episodes we had left of season 2 of Partks and Recreation. 3:30pm came and I was pretty much done. Thank god my first long session was over! We now know that the next 5 treatments can be done faster as I didn’t really have much of a reaction to my first one.. well, yet…
Mum and Jess took me home and I wanted to grab a few things from the grocery store before a little nap. We bought so many bottles of diet ginger ale, diet lemonade and my favorite, diet saxby’s ginger beer. We also bought some watermelon/pineapple flavoured frosty fruits – thanks to Emma for introducing these to me a long time ago, they are so delicious!
I got home, showered and Mum n Jess had prepared the meal I requested – a very, very bland chicken with lettuce cucumber and avocado. It was hard to eat and I wasn’t hungry but I needed to eat to be able to take medication. I noticed I started to feel quite cold, yet I was hot to touch and my face was swollen, very flushed cheeks and from the bottom of my breast bone all the way over my shoulders looked like moderate sunburn. I got through to my Oncologist as I was told any reactions must be reported. She said some people have skin reactions but not all, I’d had a reaction to the Docetaxel but not too much to worry about unless I had a temperature of 38 or higher. Phew. No hot showers, and must apply vitamin E cream so it doesn’t go dry and scabby. GROSS!
Other than all that I was pretty fine, a few tummy aches and lethargy. I find it hard to bounce up the stairs as fast as normal. I have to stop half way take some breaths and continue. Today I am grumpy. My red demons are due which is bad timing, but what can you do. Also some side effects to Dex can be mood swings. I’d say its a mixture.