A few of my friends and others have asked me what does my treatment day typically involves. Let me tell you with a positive smile! I cannot say it’s just like any other day, but rather an intense day. Trying to relax is short lived with interruptions from the nurses, doctors and especially the bathroom! I really learned how to wear depends…they are great for a purpose. I am not sure how treatment may be for others as I see them having shorter and longer sessions at the Weill Cornell Oncology Center in Manhattan, NYC.
My day starts around 5am on the day of treatment. I am up, showered, dressed, have breakfast, prepare a bag of necessities including my meals and beverage for the day. An hour car ride into Manhattan leaving Queens around 7am, I finally arrive around 8:30am. (http://meyercancer.weill.cornell.edu/)
There are a number of steps that I go through and it is the same for each treatment. Here they are with some visuals.
- Prior to the day of treatment, I have to have a blood test to see if I am able to undergo treatment or if a transfusion is necessary. This is done a few days prior to treatment allowing time for any transfusions.
- On the day of treatment, I register at the receptionist’s desk (by now you would have already had an appointment set weeks prior. Diana always makes my appointments around my schedule. She is great to work with.) I sit in their tranquil and relaxing waiting area to be called.
- I meet the nurse or technician who will be taking my blood. This is critical because the blood count determines if I am chemo ready. Generally, Denise or Chris are the vampires who loves my blood, or so they claim. It’s usually Denise most of the time.
- I wait until the CBC (complete blood count) shows I am all clear for chemo. This is the white, red and platelets counts. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
- I then go to a room to have my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiration rate taken along with my height and weight. This is recorded so the appropriate dose of medicine can be calculated.
- I then have a consultation from my Oncologist, Dr Elizabeta Popa or her Physician Assistant, Dr. Jennifer Regan. Both are highly qualified and are very detailed. They don’t rush you off as just a number. They actually spend time with you. What a blessing that is for me. We discuss the plans for the day and we address any concerns from both sides. I am then off to my own treatment room and wait for my special nurse, Ms. Rose to come in and give me a hard time about anything. Seriously, she is the best in her field and I would rather be treated by her than anyone else. She holds a special place in my heart.
- My port is prepared for the IV. This scares me every time, but it does get easier and easier. By the way, that smile….I wouldn’t read much into it. I am usually sulking, but I empowered myself to look bright and cheerful for this blog. But the video actually show some of my facial expression which I try to hide behind that awful grin!
B Catheter (tubing)
C Subclavian vein
D Superior vena cava
E Pulmonary vein
- My first set of medicine called “pre-chemotherapy medicine” to prevent nausea or an allergic reaction. I am also given fluids, which help the drugs to move into my system faster. However, it also drives me to the bathroom every 30 minutes. So that part about relaxing. Not happening. No one better turn on any faucets when I am in that room…or else a fast run to the closest bathroom, with the IV pole dragging along the way! Dignity out the window and I am seriously considering wearing depends!
- Nurse Rose starts the infusion process. It can take up to several hours to finish the whole infusion process. There are several drugs administered over the day. Some from the slow drip IV and some injected directly into the IV port. The 2 below are injecting into the tubes directly into my port.
In the meantime, you have several bags going slow drip at the same time. I usually get sleepy or anxious, but I typically make it through the day without any incidents. I eat my snacks, lunch or chew on ice and drink tons of water. Sometimes I write my blog, such as this one or watch a movie on my laptop or the TV. About an hour or two into this treatment I seem to get emotional and cry…I still wonder if it’s the med or me just being a big baby!
- My Oncologist usually sees me again before the end of the day and we go over the plans and dates for the next treatment. She addresses any concerns I have and we might share a few stories.
- When my treatment is over, my IV is removed, vitals checked, bandage over the port and I am ready to head home. Usually it is now around 4:30pm.
- I arrive home around 6:30-7:00 as traffic at that time is very congested. 14+ hours later I am ready to crash.
- 24 hours after treatment, I have to take a Nuelasta shot to help my bone marrow increase production of my white blood cells. In the beginning I used to go back to my Oncologist for the shot, but I now obtain it from a script and have it injected at home, preventing another long trip to Manhattan the next day.
My sister, Nina, is usually with me for all my treatments. It is preferred that someone is with you or drives you. I don’t think I would have been able to drive in and out of Manhattan on the day of treatment. Knowing me, I would take the bus and train.
This is my typical day. I am usually is good spirits and try to maintain that, however, difficult it may be at times. I read, write, chat with close friends and family. Anything negative or stressful, I try hard to eliminate from my thoughts. Emotional pain and discomfort can quickly change my whole mood. Being as sensitive as I am, this is hard work for me. I am not going out as much since I started treatment, but hoping to resume that in time. I stay close with family and a few friends.
At long last, 7 chemo treatments later..what’s next?
As you may or may not know, this is my last treatment session today March 18, 2016 as I am writing this blog. Considering I could barely remember my first treatment on October 13, 2015, this is a milestone. This does not mean the end of treatment for this cancer. There are several more processes I have to go through such as the decision to or not to remove the dried up tumor in my lower right lung, when will my port get removed or if not removed, where I will get it flushed monthly. My next PET Scan is going to be scheduled for April 28th and results on April 29th. I am also starting a Cancer support and workout group (Livestrong) at the YMCA funded by UF Health which is the cancer treatment center for Orlando Regional Hospital Groups. This starts April 12th and runs for 3 months. The will aid in strength, balance and endurance training. There are a few other related procedures and tests which I will be undergoing as well locally in Orlando. Those are minimal in comparison to what I have experienced in the past.
In closing, I am grateful to God for giving me this chance to experience what many others experienced and some are no longer with us. We never really know what lessons we are being thought, but in my case I am sure I have learned a lot that I can continue to share. Completing my treatments is the best 50th birthday gift I am giving myself this year with a lot of gratitude and humility.
At long last, this is what my treatment days are like and please ask me any question here on comments or privately, if I know the answer I will answer. If not, I will try to refer you to someone who might be able to help. My next blog will talk about addressing emotional and mental healing processes now that physical treatments are over.
So what am I going to do now that Chemo is over? DANCE…..