Monday, May 08, 2006

What chemo is like

Does anyone want to know this? Well, here goes.

The battle analogy story told most of it, but to be more specific: Going to chemo will start (after day 1, when it wasn't necessary) with a blood test, to be sure my white & red blood cells and platelets have recovered from the last time, so that chemo won't really hurt me. I'll have to wait around for at least 45 minutes until they call me to the day hospital. Given that I waited over an hour on the first day, with no blood test, I suspect this wait may be much longer.

I go into the day hospital and am seated in a pretty comfortable recliner chair. The nurse gives me anti-nausea meds (pills) and starts the IV. Saline flows for a while. Once my system is sufficiently bolstered against nausea, the nurse comes back with a pink bag of fluid and a needle, and pushes Adriamycin into the IV for about 1/2 hour. Then she hooks up a clear bag of fluid to the IV and turns on a machine that regulates its delivery, and that flows for the next hour. And then I get disconnected and leave.

After the first treatment, I felt fine for more than 24 hours. A little odd at times, but basically normal and energetic. We went out to dinner that night (of course) and I ate normally. The next day, I had a very full schedule, and all day I just felt fine. Then, at about 10pm, I crashed. Hard. It was like pulling the plug from a bathtub full of water--the water all rushes out and there is nothing left. I had my head on my arm at the dining room table, and went up to bed pretty much right away.

Then, for several days, I was tired and sluggish, and my stomach was finicky. Whether we ate out or at home, I might think I was going to eat item A, and then a few minutes later the thought of A was just horrible. I chose menu items that I never choose, and bypassed my favorites. I would find something I could eat and chow down ravenously, and then--midbite--my stomach would announce that it was done now, thank you very much, and I had to stop. Or else.

I've heard a "good response" to chemo described as something like a bad hangover. This strikes me as just right, though I don't have a ton of hangover experience. But the general sluggishness, a tiny headache sometimes, a low tolerance for minor annoyances, and more than anything that finicky stomach--those are just what my bad hangovers have been in the past. I can live with it. It's not exactly pleasant, though. And in the interests of full disclosure--Noah claims that the aforementioned "low tolerance" is actually a very short fuse and that I'm temperamentally quite difficult. I, of course, disagree.

Anyway, as of two days ago, my tummy got a lot more easygoing (more food, more variety, less weirdness in selection) and my energy went way up again. Week 2 started yesterday (that is, no chemo) and so maybe I feel better in the second week. At the same time, my body is fighting hard to get rid of all the toxic junk right now, and it won't get to finish the job by next Tuesday, and then more will be put in. One step forward, two steps back. This is why they say the effects cumulate--I'll feel worst at about weeks 6-10, when the current drug mix (AC) is at its highest dosage. Great, something to look forward to.

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