I had my first chemo treatment February 19, 2016. While this wasn’t the longest day of my life, it certainly tried to be. I had some serious anxiety before walking in the door. Having done chemo before, I had a sense of what life was going to be like for me for the next few months. I didn’t sleep very well the night before. I had to take deep breaths walking into the chemotherapy room.
Arrival time was 8:00am. Before I could begin treatment, I had to get blood drawn and see the doctor. They accessed the port and flushed it with a small amount of saline. I had to chew a peppermint because, ever since my previous chemo experience, the taste and smell of saline makes me sick. Unfortunately, they had a little difficulty drawing blood. I was a little pissed because my port still had its new car smell. However, all they do with a stubborn port is inject a small amount of heparin—a blood thinner—and after a short time, the blood can be drawn.
I met with the doctor, but it really was just a cursory visit. The main reason I was there was for the chemotherapy. At a previous visit, I had been warned that I was going to be there all day. They stretch the dosage out so that they can manage any reactions to the medicine. The reactions, or lack thereof, determine how long each subsequent dose of each chemotherapy drug will take. Before we started, I was given a list of possible side effects of the drugs I was being given.
I was put into a room of six individual “pods” and a nurse’s station. The patients had nice, comfy recliner chairs. Sadly, the chairs for support people are not as nice. They are more like regular doctor office chairs. The chairs were divided from other patient & supporter chairs by a partition of wood and frosted glass. Think IHOP booth and you’ve got the idea. They have warmed blankets and pillows. If you’re hungry or thirsty, they have snacks and drinks. They try very hard to make the treatment as comfortable as possible.
The treatment schedule was, in order, pain meds (e.g. Tylenol), Perjeta, Herceptin, meds to regulate allergic reactions (e.g. Benadryl), Taxotere, and Carboplatin. The majority of my first chemo treatment was equal parts of me freaking out because I thought I’d felt something I shouldn’t and of me freaking out because people had to stare at me to make sure I wasn’t feeling anything I shouldn’t feel. For example, I spent a large portion of the Herceptin infusion making big eyes at the nurse and then saying, “Never mind.” Conversely, I was happy to fall asleep during the Taxotere infusion because the nurse and my husband stared at me for the first half hour of the infusion. That is the time period where a reaction, if any, will appear.
We finally left the doctor’s office a little after 5pm. The overwhelming feeling of my first treatment was boredom. You can only freak out so much before you start looking around for something new to catch your interest. I was happy that I had a brought a book, cards, my laptop, and had my husband there with me. It was a long stressful day that I was grateful was over.