A Day at Chemotherapy

I’m having my (hopefully) last round of Chemo today and I’d thought I’d document the procedure as I go through it.

4:45 – Woke up and started taking care of my cats, making breakfast, getting ready to leave for the hospital. I need to drink at least two glasses of water before I go, one of then with Normalax. The water is because I have to have a blood test before the Chemo starts. The Normalax is to prevent one of the less pleasant side effects of my Chemo: constipation. As in all the rest of the adverse effects, prevention is easier than treatment.

6:00 – I leave my house and set out for the hospital. My dad is giving me a ride as there’s little chance that I’ll be able to catch a cab in this weather. I’m wearing athleisure clothes (sweatpants, t-shirt, hoodie and a coat because it’s raining). I never wear jeans to your Chemo, because logistically they’re harder to manage one handed, and depending on where you have your IV inserted, you may have to manage your pants one handed. It’s the little things.

6:30 – I’m at the hospital. At 6:45 the line opens up for the secretaries of the Hemato-Oncology outpatient treatments. The secretaries themselves start working at 7:30, even though the nursing staff is here largely by 7:00. The Oncology secretaries start working at 7:00, and I have no idea why. The Oncology outpatient treatment area is across the hall from the Hemato-Oncology one. Usually when I get here at 6:30 there’s 3-4 older gentlemen already waiting to get a number in line for the secretaries. I have no idea when they arrive (I joke that they must have spent the night here to be first), but they’re almost always here, and once they get their number they start a parliament of news analysis and general gossip. Why arrive so early when at the earliest you can start pre-treatment procedures at 7:30? Because this department has outgrown this building a while ago and the new building expansion won’t be ready for 2-3 years yet. That means that there’s a dearth of seating areas for treatment, and and even bigger shortage of good seating areas. When you spend 4-5 hours at least sitting getting treatment getting a good place is a thing. There are two rounds of treatment – the morning one and the noon one. I’m always here in the morning, and if I don’t get here by 6:45 at the latest, I’ll be 10-11th in line and with little chance for a decent spot. You snooze, you lose. Although this time, maybe because of the weather, I’m the first one here.

6:50 – I’m the first in line! The parliament of elderly gentlemen arrived, but arrived later than usual. A lot of sour faces that I beat them to the punch. 😂 As usual, I’m the youngest person around by a pretty large margin. I only once saw a person my age getting treatment while I was here.

7:47 – got my IV in (from a fantastic nurse), blood test done, got a great seating place (private and near a window), and I’m now waiting for my blood test results and to see my fantastic doctor.

8:10 – The usual technician that analyses blood tests isn’t here, so my blood work is delayed. It’s going to take a while.

8:20 – My blood test results are back and they’re good enough for me to get treatment. Yay! Going into the doctor’s office. My brother is saving my seat downstairs, and will be my escort for today. There’s a 30 minute interval where I’m not allowed to move, and during that time I need someone at my side to help me out and call the nurses if they’re busy and don’t hear the call bell to change IV bags. Also, I need help in general once I’ve started the treatment, and it’s nice having someone around to talk to.

There’s a festive feeling now that it’s the final treatment.

8:30 – done at the doctor’s office, and brought my prescription to the nurses. Took my Akynzeo pill, which is a strong anti-emetic with an effect that lasts for 5 days.

8:40 – first IV bag starts – 10mg of Dexamethasone (steroids). It used to be 20mg but I asked for it to be lowered during the last three treatments. It’s still a lot of steroids. They serve as an anti-emetic and to help me survive the treatment.

9:05 – first IV bag finished. Spent the time talking with my funny and entertaining brother.

9:10 – it’s not a busy day here, so the pharmacy fulfilled my prescription quickly. They prepare the IV bags for me specifically, on the spot. I get a paracetamol pill (only one, because it’s part of the protocol, nobody is sure why), and two nurses cross check my personal details against what’s printed on the IV bags and is the computer. I get connected to my first chemo IV bag, Adriamicin. It’s a red fluid that can burn my veins if the IV isn’t in properly, so my nurse checks the IV. This and the next bag are given without the use of a machine, just gravity and my veins. I’m not allowed to move while it’s being given.

9:20 – second IV bag, also outside of the machine and of potentially burning chemicals. It’s Vinblastine, which is what causes the neuropathy side effect. I’m also not allowed to move during this. My favourite nurse came to say hi, and congrats for getting to the end of my treatments.

9:30 – Scary IV bags are done. I get a vein wash and am connected to Bleomicin, my third IV bag, this time through a machine. In 10 minutes I can move and go to the bathroom.

9:50- had my first bathroom break. It’s always a bit of sensation because the pee comes out red because of the first chemo bag. I didn’t know that the first time so it kinda freaked me out. I will be getting two litres of water as part of my chemo (the chemicals are diluted in water), and I’ll be drinking at least another 0.5 litre this morning as one of the chemicals really dries my mouth out. That’s on top of the two cups of water and one cup of coffee that I had this morning. So lots of bathroom breaks in my future, though I won’t be documenting them.

Not a great view outside but at least it’s a view.

10:05 – third bag done. Now waiting for the nurse to change my IV bag. The last chemo IV burns when you get it, so they administer it slowly, and I might need a hot compress on my arm if the vein is narrow.

10:10 – connected to what is hopefully my final chemo bag. Decarbazine.

10:18 – the IV hurts so I get a hot compress (a water IV bag heated in the microwave and placed in a pillowcase) to press to my arm and expand the vein. The alternative is to lower the IV rate, but as it is this bag will take 1.5 hours.

Me and my hot compress.

11:00 – still on my last chemo IV bag. There will be a water IV to rinse out my veins in the end. Got my compress reheated, and I’m reading “Harlem Shuffle” on my Kindle. I’m still using only one hand, so the Kindle is the best for reading under the circumstances.

11:30 – finished the fourth and final bag of chemo. Waiting for an IV flush.

11:45 – I’m done. One of the fastest treatments yet. 🎉🎉🎉

7 thoughts on “A Day at Chemotherapy

  1. Daphna Kedmi

    Good morning Nofar. Last chemo! You did it! Hope the side effects will subside in the next few weeks, and that you will resume your life to the full as quickly as possible. Thinking of you on this wintery morning. חיבוק גדול.

    Liked by 1 person

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