Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let the Chemo Begin!

I'm home, resting comfortably, as they say. And all in all things went pretty well with chemo round 1. Tomorrow is the real test, but I'm happy to know I didn't start feeling nauseous and vomiting right away. I'm sure you are happy to know that too.

So the day started, as all days, nights, hours, minutes and seconds must,with Seamus. He gave me his best "good luck, stay strong, chemo's nothin'" cuddle and then we took him over to Shawna D. and Destiny. Then we were off to the oncologist's. Not at 9a.m like we thought, for the 10 a.m appointment that we scheduled with the "non-training" nurse. Instead they called last night to tell us we had to be there an hour earlier to meet with the doctor before the 10a.m chemo appointment. So we had to leave at 8a.m. Yet another thing non-training nurse did not know.

We arrived about 5 minutes late thanks to traffic (but hey, that's their fault, we tried to schedule a later appointment!). And then another 5 minutes late driving around searching for parking. Which doesn't exist. Popular place. Chris dropped me off and then parked here:
(photo is taken from the back of the building--look way down to the palm tree in the center; yeah, our car is past that.)

Good thing he dropped me off, because of course there was more paperwork. A questionnaire about my health. My favorite part was the "Do you consider yourself to be well?" Huh? I'm um, here for chemo. Is this actually a psychological test? But the super good news upon arrival (and after paying the $804.60; yeah, they're all over the money part) was that we met with the nurse practitioner Traci Young (that's her in the picture below to the left; and yep, that's me in my paper top!). And now I know why everyone thinks Wilshire Oncology is so awesome. It's the nurse practitioner--and she's primarily who I'll be seeing from here on out (we learned the doctor is leaving for Switzerland shortly for a couple of weeks; right. Today. We learned that today.) We were able to discuss with Traci all of our concerns (the ones you careful readers know so well--the fast-talking doctor, the "wig program" and the lack of training; I did manage to hold my tongue over the holiday decor). Traci was wonderful and did explain that on both occasions I had not experienced their normal process. She herself normally does the introductory meeting and the doctor comes in at the end and does the "you're having chemo and you'll lose your hair" bit (which is pretty much all she did with me). And the non-training nurse I got is the only one on staff that has only RN after her name. As opposed to RN OCN. And I bet you can guess what the OCN stands for. (Hint: we were in an Oncology office).

I passed the exam (healed up enough from surgery; blood work looked good) and we were off to the "Infusion Room" (the formal name; we all know they mean "chemo room.") Well, not so was packed full and we had to wait for a chair. So why'd they make us come in early, again? Anyway, eventually, we got our chair assignment--right by the door and in a corner, which is actually a good thing. I attempted to live blog, but alas there was no wireless internet acces. There was a network called "JesusSavesUs00825" but alas, Jesus has it security protected, because you know I would have tapped into that network, just for you, my readers awaiting a live blog (I pretend you were all sitting in front of your computers all day just waiting for the post to pop up). So I did the next best thing--I wrote it in time-stamped format in Word. So here's what was going on:

10:25--finally in a chair in the infusion room. There are 10 chairs for patients; 6 guest chairs, plus a few random stools (best chair seems to be the one in back corner--it was like a suite--occupied by a woman with her entourage of friends). Oddly, each chair has what appears to be a suicidal beanie animal hanging from it. Which is comforting. also, there are angels, bears dressed as angels, and dolphins for "artwork." Oh, and quilted squares displayed, oddly, behind glass. Chris dubbed these the "In the case of emergency break glass" blankets. In lieu of those, they did give me a heated blanket, which is super nice.

10:40--lots of prep time involved. The needle dispenser thingy is in my hand/vein and all taped in. Not too bad. I can type anyway. And they gave me a sedative--they like to do this on your first time, but I think they just wanted to make me stop talking/ joking. I think that because they offered one to Chris. Practically insisted.

Random observations while they mix my chemo cocktail: It's a small room and the chairs are all around the sides of the rooms, so of course we're sort of all staring at each other. So, um, what's the etiquette? What do you say? "I'm new here"? Or, "Come here often?" Or, "What are you in for?" Hard to know. Nonetheless in the chit chat I learned that there are two ladies here with me who are also breast cancer patients and getting a similar cocktail to mine (with one additive and over more time). They've both lost their hair and were wearing really nice, natural looking wigs. And both were redheads. Currently, anyway. Then there is Elizabeth a very cute 24 year-old but not a patient. She's there supporting her mom, who also had breast cancer. But she was also there supporting us, apparently. Elizabeth brought in a tray of cookies for the nurses and patients (cranberry and oatmeal--very tasty). She's actually studying for a history course, but poor thing is seated down by Chris and I and is apparently distracted by our constant commentary and joking. She says it's making her day go faster. Because she's sweet like that. She needs to be introduced to the great and good Dr. Karam.

There is of course the husband of one woman patient (the only patient that I think is younger than me) who has been on his phone doing work the entire morning. Just right in the middle of the infusion room. Not a care in the world--for anyone else. Understandable if he was a heart surgeon, on-duty police officer, or you know, his wife was in labor (and clearly, she was not). Instead he was discussing moving furniture and palettes and delivering doors, and inventory--stuff that no way could wait until, say, later in the afternoon, after his wife finished her first chemo treatment. Yeah, the wife is new here too. And she's pretty darn chatty herself--"God has a plan" has been overheard on two occasions so far. I'm going to be certain not to be seated next to her in the future. I think that's in god's plan. She's chatting to the entourage women (while her husband continues on the phone and her step-dad quietly reads Woodworker's Magazine). The entourage is silent --but one of them has on a lavender sweater that buttons down the front and she has inexplicably left the last few buttons open above her waistband. So a belly that should not be exposed, is. Ew.

12:30 pm--I'm half way through the first bag o'chemo and so far I feel fine. Blood pressure is fine, I'm not queasy or itchy or any of the things they keep asking me about. So far, so good. I have another half bag and then a full bag of the other chemo to go, so still a long way, but at least I'm starting out well. (Woman next to me has been ill and vomited into the trashcan between us, so I feel lucky. Well, lucky-ish). The lone man is sleeping and did seem to be having problems with on of the drips, but everyone else seems to be doing pretty well. It's a little like ten little Indians, but with a better outcome. We hope.

12:40pm--Chris is getting out the crackers and cheese for our second little snack. I think the other patients are jealous.

12:50pm--okay, chatty Cathy of God's plan? She's a junior high P.E. teacher. This explains my reaction to her. It is similar to my reaction to my own junior high PE teacher--one of us needs to leave. Chatty Cathy is a colon cancer patient. And I know how many inches of her colon she had removed. So does the rest of the room. And no, no one asked.But the husband finally left. Doors to be delivered and all.

1:00pm -- Okay bag 2 has started. 90 minutes to go. But apparently this one--the Cytoxan--doesn't usually have reactions so I'm at the "easier" part. Really, it hasn't been bad. It's a psychological thing really. If I don't think about it I can almost forget it. We're chatting with Elizabeth, making jokes and eating (now its a peantur butter and jelly sandwich also). Not bad. Oh, okay, there's a needle and tube int he back of my hand and taped down, with the tubes running up to a bag and a monitor clicking, wheezing and beeping, and yeah it's pumping poison into me, but like I said, if I don't think about it I'm fine. I'm wanting wine with my cheese and crackers, but the G2 Grape Gatorade is going to have to substitute for now. I think Chris thought the grape part would fool me.

1:15pm--me and my IV pole made our way over to the restroom. There's a sign above the toilet: "Chemotherapy patients please flush twice." How's that for a stark realization this is poison we're dealing with.

1:25pm--a few folks have finished up and get to go home, including Elizabeth and her mom. I'm new here though, so I"ve got a little extra time to go.

1:30pm-- I sneezed so they got worried I was having an allergic reaction. I don't think so. I sneeze a lot normally. Plus I'm getting a little cold (temperature wise, not sick), so that's all it is. But now they gave me a warm blanket to wrap my chemo hand and arm in. This makes the typing difficult.

1:40pm--we're down to 5 Indians. Of course one of them is chatty Cathy. She's a lot too perky for my taste. She's busy trying to make this all sound fun and like a big goofy adventure. And Chatty Cathy is on her cell phone too now.

1:53pm-- I'm feeling a little tired. I think I'm going to take a nap.


I'm pretty sure I did indeed nap then. And by 2:40 it was all done. They unplugged me, went over the medications, my next appointment and sent me on my way. As I said, I feel pretty good so far (it's now 7:15pm). But I do have to show you what amused Chris for most of the day (well, when he wasn't amusing the rest of the patients with his joking). Two things, really-- the Suicide panda and the Heaven's Gate for Fluffy Toys:

I think they need to re-think this. And I guarantee you that by the time Chris was done making jokes about these they were considering it. And none of my fellow chair people will ever look at these beanies the same way again.


  1. Hi Teresa,
    Glad you got the gift card and that you survived the first chemo day==even with all the weirds in the room. How do you feel now?

  2. Thelma-
    Welcome home ! Sounds like quite the adventure-better than two minutes on a treadmill. Maybe all the hanging beenies have been listening to Chatty Cathy too long. Bring earplugs next time and just nod politely. In your honor, I'll slurp a salty, liquor-laced, spicy, fragrant, greasy, fried concoction (does that cover all you can't eat??) and maybe we can throw up together. Its what friends do. Hope to see you soon.
    Love Louise

  3. So glad that you are feeling OK. Thanks for the posting I have been checking all day. Hope all goes well tomorrow. Talk with you soon.

  4. I know someone who ran a suicide helpline once. Perhaps we've missed a funding opportunity for an under-represented class? The "I had to hang from a Chemo IV pole beanie baby" class?

  5. Teresa, thanks for the update. Interesting to say the least. Hope all goes well today. Hurray for supportive Chris! What a guy.

  6. You ARE hilarious! Having been there, done that - I just love reading your 'take' on the c-a-n-c-e-r experience. Chatty Cathy - OMG, I was screaming! :-D

    I was thinking of you yesterday and hoping your day was going as well as could be expected. Sounds like it did.

    Hang in there Teresa! From here on out, keep laughing, be 'good' to yourself AND cry, cry, cry when you feel like it. It's good 4 the soul...

    Kathy (with a K!)

    P.S. Oh, and whine a little, it will make u feel better!

  7. Gotta love the Chatty Cathy's of this world, they make us seem a little more normal in the scheme of things.
    I hope today is as nausea free as yesterday but a bit quieter and more relaxing with just Chris and Seamus to keep you company.
    I have attached another site for you to view. I just ordered a couple of things from it but I really think Seamus needs the doggie shirt....
    Keep up the positive attitude

  8. I'm thinking that you need to take your own fake/plastic grape vines and plastic grapes and wrap them all up and down your chemo tree. Then everyone else will be jealous of your custom chemo tree. And it will be way better than the lynched beanie babies.

  9. Been thinking about you all day Thursday and today; if happy thoughts could pull you through, you'd have it made, with all the friends you have and the new ones you are making with the blog. I can't believe the things you and Chris can make hilarious, but there you go again. I almost cried, I laughed so hard at the Heaven's Gate!! (There ought to be "non-cutesy" places in the world for those of us who need them.) I hope you're having a great day after and that your easy spin thru chemo is indicative to how you will take this the whole time. HUGS! Becky


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