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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Infusion: What's it like?

As I mentioned, infusion is another name for chemo. I get a little giggle out of that because recently I noticed that Starbucks calls their tea concoctions an infusion too.

Chemo is usually given as an IV infusion and you can get it through a vein or through something called a port. A port is a surgically implanted device that is sort of like a vein hotline and is threaded through a more major vein like the superior vena cava which goes directly into your heart. I chose to have a port because using your veins for these really harsh drugs can mean the end of your veins as you know them. As it is, my veins roll and close so that would make chemo even less fun than it already is. And with my first chemo regimen, if one of the medicines leaked out, it could damage the surrounding tissue. My port is directly under the skin on my left arm and on the right (body) side of my middle bicep.

The first thing I wanted to know when I sat down in the infusion chair was how long is this gonna take? It depends on what drugs are being given. The ones I've had always take a long time, 3 hours or more. Some people are in and out of there for theirs in just a few minutes.

I had imagined that as soon as they plugged me in to the IV, I would start puking. Not the case at all. In fact, for the first regimen of chemo I got (Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cytoxan), I never threw up, not once. For the regimen I'm getting now (Cisplatin and Gemzar), after the first infusion I tossed my cookies miserably starting at about 48 hours after the treatment. I had the second part of that infusion yesterday (a week later) but was given some new medicine to try to control the puking. I think it goes without saying that I would like to avoid puking during after any more of these infusions.

After my very first appointment with the oncologist, he and the head chemo nurse walked me through the infusion room so I could see what it was like. My reaction: I burst into tears. It was reality and then some. Not that the people looked miserable or anything. Actually many cancer patients are quite upbeat and chatty, and they are sitting there with friends or family, reading, watching tv, knitting etc. They don't all look sick either. Most of them did look alot older than me although occasionally I do see someone who looks about my age.

I have never seen any young kids in there getting treatment. I think the kids who get chemo get it at Children's Hospital but I really don't know. When I'm all done with my own treatment, I may volunteer to visit the kid's chemo room, wherever it is. I bet there are some really amazing little kids sitting there.

Ok, so here's what it's like to get an infusion: I showed up at the appointed time to check in. Starting with this chemo, I was given a pill to take one hour before chemo started to try to help prevent my delayed nausea/vomiting. Then a nurse took my gigantic medical file folder and looked to see what I needed that day.

First, the nurse drew blood for a CBC (complete blood count). This is to be sure none of the my counts are too low and if the counts are too low, treatment may be postponed until the doctors can get it back to a comfortable level. They do that with injections to boost white and red cell counts. Those shots hurt SO much. They leave a bruise that lasts a couple of weeks, too. Sometimes a patient gets those shots prophylactically on a weekly basis. That's how they did it for my first kind of chemo.

Once the CBC is out of the way and if I "passed" then my infusion starts. By the way, this time I didn't officially "pass" because my platelet count and white count was pretty low after only the first treatment. My doctor decided to only give me half of my dose of chemo drugs, which he said is common for patients on this regimen.

Since I have a port, the nurse accessed it with a special kind of needle and then flushed it out with something, heparin maybe? Then they started Pre-Meds. Pre-Meds are anti-nausea medicine, and some other stuff: a diurectic (to flush it all through) and some minerals (magnesium) since the chemo I get tends to deplete the body of that. Once the Pre-meds are done, chemo gets dripped through the IV, one bag at a time. When my chemo drugs were done, I also got extra IV fluid to hydrate me since my chemo drugs can be hard on the kidneys.

For these last two infusions, I have been in the infusion room from 1:30 - 5:30 or 6:00 pm. I have to go back tonight for an injection of some medicine called Neulasta, which boosts white blood cells. It usually causes a nasty backache the day after and for a few days following because as an adult, your body only makes white blood cells in the marrow of your long bones and the ones I tend to feel that in are the long bones in my lower back.

Chemo with Angela as my companion (I call her my Chemo Sabe) has been pleasant. This time I brought us some snacks: cheese and crackers, green apple slices and chocolate chip cookies. She brought us the last few episodes of the final season of Sex and the City. All in all, except for having an IV stuck in my arm, it was actually fun. Go figure.

23 Comments:

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Blogger Mandy said...

Greetings The Butterfly from sunny England……..lol. Surfing around I spotted your Infusion: What's it like? blog, I guessed there would be lot’s to interest me as I’m very interested in baldness, and of cause I’m not disappointed – thanks for that.I’m just putting together my own site baldness so like a lot of people am quite busy at the moment. See you again!

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Blogger Mandy said...

Greetings The Butterfly from sunny England……..lol. Surfing around I spotted your Infusion: What's it like? blog, I guessed there would be lot’s to interest me as I’m very interested in baldness, and of cause I’m not disappointed – thanks for that.I’m just putting together my own site baldness so like a lot of people am quite busy at the moment. See you again!

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Blogger Mandy said...

Greetings The Butterfly from sunny England……..lol. Surfing around I spotted your Infusion: What's it like? blog, I guessed there would be lot’s to interest me as I’m very interested in baldness, and of cause I’m not disappointed – thanks for that.I’m just putting together my own site baldness so like a lot of people am quite busy at the moment. See you again!

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