In the afternoon, I had an appointment at the cancer center. Steve and I met with the nurse practitioner for an education appointment. We both really liked the NP. She has been working in oncology since the 1970s. She said their goal is to prevent side effects as much as possible. She went through the list of possible side effects with me. They include nausea, extreme fatigue, hair thinning, diarrhea and/or constipation, mouth sores, low platelets and very dry skin. Hopefully I won't experience all of those. The NP said that the nausea is sometimes worse for women who had bad morning sickness when they were pregnant. I was someone who felt sick to my stomach all day through both pregnancies. So, to be prepared, the NP wrote prescriptions for a couple of anti nausea medications. I need to get them filled prior to starting chemo next week.
I will have to go in for twice per week appointments. The chemo requires weekly blood draws to make sure everything is within an acceptable range. They won't book the blood draw and the chemo back to back, so I would either need to go for most of one day per week or two shorter appointments twice per week. This week I am scheduled for a blood draw on Friday and first treatment Monday. I will see how that works and then adjust accordingly. If your blood counts get out of the acceptable range, treatment will be delayed. Right now the plan is three weeks of treatments, then the fourth week off, repeated for six cycles. The NP yesterday said that sometimes they have to adjust the schedule to two on and one off.
The NP talked at length about trying to avoid getting sick. I am to avoid crowded places and sick people, wash my hands often, etc. While she was giving this speech, my husband started coughing. He isn't sick, but his throat was dry. He coughed and coughed, and then reached over and took a drink of my water. The nurse eyeballed him as he did it. I found this hilarious :)
I want to diverge for a just a moment. We cannot wrap ourselves in bubble wrap. People get minor illnesses and go on happily with their lives all of the time. That said, if you or your child become ill beyond a minor cold, please stay home or keep your sick child home. I know it is inconvenient, but what is inconvenient for your may put someone with a compromised immune system in the hospital. Or, at the very least, delay needed treatment.
The NP did say that I could and should keep walking or running. She said people who exercise do better through their treatment. She said I will likely have to cut back, but I shouldn't have to stop.
After discussing things for about 45 minutes, we went for a tour. She showed us the room where they access your port, and then the room where they do the actual chemo drip. It was a large room with many comfortable looking chairs. There is a family who lost a loved one who donates a sandwich tray every single day. This is their second year of doing so. What a lovely act of generosity towards strangers!
My infusions will take about an hour. I will receive an anti nausea medication first through a drip that will take about 30 minutes, and then the chemo, which will take another 30 minutes. This will give me plenty of time to start working through the stack of books I have accumulated in the last couple of months.
As we walked out of the building, I had about ten seconds where I got a little teary. I stopped and hugged my husband, and that was enough to make it pass. I just can't help but feel every time I go to the cancer center that I do not belong there. Probably every single person in there thinks the same thing.