My chemical infusion journey begins
Late June- Late October, 2007
An oncologist at MGH had told me that having infusion chemotherapy would be my choice. He said it was a fifty-fifty chance of it working. Some cancer cells might have already escaped, which could mean that it could spread throughout my body. When it comes to my heath I am not very patient, as a matter of fact when it comes to all things I’m not very patient. I was my father’s girl, waiting to jump on the next thing that comes along and I couldn’t just sit back and wait to see what life brings. It would be like being dragged under a wave and not trying to get back to the surface. I also believed in going into a fight with the expectation of winning, with all chambers loaded. It isn’t in my nature to sit by and play with my life, it is part of who I am as a person. I, mean, what’s the sense of being who I am if I don’t fight for me? https://my20yearscancer.com/chemotherapy-second-cancer/
After much discussion with my husband, I decided to have infusion chemotherapy but in my home state. Dr. Gaissert recommended a local oncologist who had been voted the top oncologist in Rhode Island several years in a row. He is a short, white haired man from India. He has the most soothing, melodic voice with the wisdom of an old sage. I felt right away that this was a man who would do his best for me. His office, which also included the infusion room, lab and nurse’s office was far from the official look of a hospital. It had that old, lived-in, years of use, full of experience, wisdom and knowledge look! For the next four months this would be my home away from home. It would be my work place where I would hang my shingle of hope for my future.
This was also the craziest place that I have ever been in a medical setting. I met with the infusion nurse who started my file, asking millions of questions. This would be my four month history of blood numbers, meds, bodily functions and other general information. She also took a blood sample. This was the base line to which all future samples would be compared.
I also got to see the actual room where an elixir of toxic chemicals would drip into my body. Some people where obviously very ill. Some were very chatty and some were yelling out questions to a medical quiz that was showing on TV! OK, this looked much like everyday life in this room. Some people had hair, some were bald, and some were old and some young. I wondered how I would fit in and what my future would be like in this room where life and death were being challenged. Would I be one of the fortunate ones, who would walk out alive, or would this be my dying chamber where life would fade into a place from where no one has yet returned?
One of the nurses told me that I would have two chemicals, one was Cisplatin. http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/cisplatin.aspx. The other drug would be navelbine. http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/Navelbine. She told me that these were considered the Cadillac of chemicals for adenocarcinoma of the lung. They were my hope for the future, my liquid gold, my life’s hopes and dreams would be dependent on the working of these potions.
I had about two weeks to wait until my first infusion. The first thing that I did was to call my girlfriend, Grace, who had already been through chemical infusion therapy. I asked what she did to prevent nausea. I had no idea if I would experience it but I wasn’t about to take any chances on this one. There were more stories floating around about vomiting with chemo than survival rates. We both knew one of the infusion nurses at my local hospital, she advised me to call her. She told me what to take and to make sure that I took it as soon as I got home from chemo.
Just before my “due” date my friend and hairdresser came to my house to shave my head. I had heard that everyone lost their hair. But just before she did she asked me if I was sure that I would lose my hair. I had assumed that all chemo patients did. I answered, “No” Right away and I called my infusion nurse. She told me that not all people lost their hair with the chemicals that I would be receiving! Wow!!! Jen had already moved a chair out on my deck and held the electric shaver!
Every day, no matter how I felt, I applied makeup and although I dressed casually I wanted to appear “put together”, more for myself than for anything else. After all, if I looked good, I’d feel good! The drive was only twenty minutes away and I shook that entire ride.
A nurse greeted me warmly and told me to choose a seat. These were great big seats that had held many many people throughout their infusion therapy. I would have loved to have heard their stories, but for now it would be my story. My nurse took my vital signs and I was shocked to see how high my blood pressure was, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. Then she inserted this long needle into the top of my hand and I was all set to go.
After some adjustments to my needle she opened the valve and in flowed my chemicals. What would happen was a throw of the dice at that point. At first the only thing that dripped into my veins was a saline solution, anti-nausea medication and a steroid to help with inflammation.
After a couple of hours the nurse hung a new bag, but this time filled with cisplatin. http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/cisplatin.aspx. After a couple of hours the chemical blew out my vein. (When a blood vessel bursts, a small amount of blood escapes from the vessel into the body. … Blood vessels can burst for many reasons, but it usually happens as a result of an injury. Bleeding into the skin can appear as small dots, called petechiae, or in larger, flat patches, called purpura.)
My nurse reassured me that it was ok, although it was uncomfortable. She also told me that I would be much happier with a port. A port is a device that a surgeon implants into your body and makes it easier for drugs to enter your body and also for blood to be drawn. It also helps avoid the many needle pricks that happen during chemical infusions over a period of time. Implanted port for infusion chemotherapy.
I was very hesitant to have a device implanted into my chest. I wasn’t thrilled to have someone cut me again as my second lobectomy had only been a month and a half ago. My guardian angel, my surgeon, Dr. Henning Gaissert encouraged me to have one. So, on his advice, I had one implanted and was ready for my second round of chemical infusion that would include Navelbine.
They, more than the doctor, were responsible for the careful care of each person sitting in the infusion room. An infusion nurse’s job is often done in vain – watching a patient fail before their eyes. They were responsible for mixing toxic chemicals for special mixtures and ensuring that each person was comfortable and calm. If someone was over anxious or obnoxious they had a special potion that they administered and nighty night ensued with peace and order achieved once again.
The only reason that I got up each chemo day was because of these nurses. All of these ladies radiated hope and a future. They never gave anyone false hope, never falsely embellishing a bright future. They actually were my lifeline. The chemicals would do their job or not but I knew that with them I had the best chances around.