I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying so, but so far I seem to be having a good, uneventful cycle. Mind you, my use of the word “cycle” refers not to a monthly period, but instead to a treatment cycle. Mine is three weeks. Which means that from the day I get chemo, it is three weeks until I get chemo again.
The first week is like the Wash Cycle.
Imagine that you’re doing laundry. What happens in the wash cycle? You put the dirty clothes in the washing machine, add soap and bleach, fill the machine with water, and your clothes agitates for 10 minutes or so in soapy sudsy water.
I am that washing machine. Lucky me, I carry my dirty clothes with me wherever I go!
A typical wash cycle for me starts with a pre-wash the day before my chemo when I have to start taking meds. Wednesday actually starts wash day. I arrive at VCU Massey around 8:30am. They access my port and do a blood draw, then I go see my doctor. Since Massey is part of a teaching hospital, I usually see several doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and students. There we discuss any ongoing issues as well as anything new that might have come up. While this is going on, the lab is running my blood work and mixing my chemo drugs.
Once I’m cleared, I go back to the chemo room where they add the soap and bleach. They start me on IV fluids and more premeds. Now that I have a catheter, this is an interesting time for me because it seems like the fluid goes from one bag into my body and then immediately out to another bag! Click here for a great scene in the film “Catch-22” that illustrates what this feels like. After 30 or 40 minutes, they give me my actual chemo drug. This takes ten minutes, and then I am free to leave, usually stopping for a bite to eat on the way home.
It is important that my machine stay filled with water. Important because I need to make sure that my kidneys are functioning well and that I’m staying hydrated. I drink 2-3 quarts of fluid a day, usually Gatorade. Which means I’m peeing quite a bit. Lots of full bags of clear yellow pee! Yay!
And then I get to agitate. Except for me, it’s more like 10 days than 10 minutes. During the agitation is when I get all the side-effects. The first side effect is that I feel kinda icky. My face is flush and I experience hot flashes from the Dexamethazone, one of the meds I have to take for three days to stave off the nausea.
Side-effect number two is, coincidentally, that I can’t have a number two! The “GI issue” that hits me is overwhelming constipation. This is a side-effect of my chemo drug, but is made worse by all the other meds I have to take during this process. So I end up taking even more meds in an attempt to keep me number two-ing at least once a day.
On about the third day, the third side-effect hits me like a Mack truck: crippling fatigue. It isn’t just that I can sleep all day, it’s that I can’t not sleep all day. I go to bed at the regular time at night, but I don’t wake up until 10 or 11 in the morning. I eat breakfast, take my morning meds, and drink my first quart. Then I take a “nap” which feels more like falling into a coma than having a brief siesta. If my phone never rang, I could probably sleep all the way until dinner time. (Please don’t let that stop you from calling me - I have no problem falling back into my coma!) I may or may not wake up for lunch, but whenever I do wake up I drink another quart. And then when Jeff gets home I wake up again for dinner and - you guessed it - drink another quart. Then I doze on the couch until it’s time to go to bed, and the process starts all over again.
My days are like that until around day 7 or 8. Which explains why if I don’t write my blog update right away, it doesn’t get done until well after my chemo. Because it’s hard to write a blog when you’re unconscious!
The hope is that the doctors will find the proper combination of soap and bleach to remove enough of the stains from my soiled clothes to wear them out in public again without looking like a hobo!
I’ll hang in there as long as it takes!
Stay tuned next time for the Rinse Cycle!