Monday, February 25, 2013

TOXIC

Me with My Bailey Girl - Fall 2005

When I got home from that first chemo treatment there were some extra things I had to think about.  Things that were not normal to me.  For the next 48 hours after the treatment, my body was somewhat toxic.  That means that some of the medication that was killing the cancer cells might leave my body “un-used”.  I had to wash any towels and sheets I used twice in the washing machine and separate from everything else.  I had to flush the toilet twice after each use.  I had to make sure dishes and cutlery went through the dishwasher.   I was a freakish science experiment that could contaminate everything and everyone around me I guess.  That’s what it felt like.  Was I going to glow a greenish colour at night after dark?  It was a horrible feeling knowing that there were these potent chemicals inside my body.  I know they were there to help but it still didn’t feel good.  Oh yeah, the nurses in the chemo room wear gloves and a gown (not the kind you’d wear to a ball) but I know this is for their own protection but it is a bit scary to see them coming at you dressed like they just walked out of a sci-fi movie set.

The other stuff to think about was all of the other drugs I had to take to combat the effects of the chemo.  I was given a schedule to follow that included Zofran (ondansetron) and Decadron (dexamethasone) for the nausea and then Colace and Senokot to combat the side effects of the nausea medications.  Every drug seemed to have another drug to help with the side effects and then it was just a domino effect all the way down the line.  This was the beginning of a huge list of drugs that I would take over the coming weeks, months and years.

Port-a-Cath
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had to have blood work done prior to each treatment.  The treatment itself is inserted with an IV so there was going to be a lot of abuse to my veins.  I hadn’t thought much about this but during the first treatment one of the nurses asked if I had a port-a-cath or if I would be getting one.  My response, of course, was “a port-a-what?!”  She explained that a port is a small medical appliance, about the size of a penny, only thicker, that is inserted underneath the skin.  It usually goes in the upper chest wall in the space between the breast and the collarbone.  The port surgery is done in a same-day, simple procedure that doesn’t require any general anesthesia.  First you need to have an X-ray to confirm that the port is positioned in the right spot.   An incision about 3 cms long is made on the chest wall for the port pocket.  There is a catheter that connects the port to a large vein and a septum through which blood can be drawn or chemo can be injected.

The main purpose is to save your veins from potentially collapsing at some point and to avoid looking for a vein each time you need to do blood work or have chemo.  Sometimes when the nurses are trying to find a good vein you may end up getting poked, prodded and stuck with a needle several times until a suitable one is found.  However, once a port is inserted, you don’t need to worry about that.  Before each treatment I would use a special cream to numb the area around the port.  The nurse would then fit a needle right into the port.  I really never feel much of anything at that point.  The chemo medication would then travel right into the main blood supply and be dispersed quickly throughout my body.  It seemed like a good option but it was kind of scary to know that this foreign object was going to be in my chest for an indefinite period of time.
Me with Scout (my friend Vicky's puppy)
in Vancouver - Spring 2005

After hearing about this from the nurse, I decided to make an appointment for this procedure.  There was a big waiting list so I didn’t know how long it would be until I got in.  My veins were pretty good at this point so I wasn’t too worried if I had to wait for a few weeks.  I was thankful to have found out about this and I recommend it to anyone if you are in the unfortunate position to have to undergo chemotherapy.

So that was one treatment down and seven to go.




Toxic - Britney Spears


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