Chemo Round Two, Session Two

If there could have been a near perfect chemo session for me, yesterday’s was it. The addition of the small amount of morphine makes the drip nearly painless and I got nurse Barbara to use one of her special needles (they are butterfly in shape for the needle support to support a 24 gauge job that otherwise just kills me). This goes in my left hand, which is constantly in pain along with the left arm — we think that’s due to the cancer that has migrated to the spine, it’s my oldest symptom next to the slightly irritating neck tumor — this is all about minimizing symptomatic pain and keeping it under control, to a large extent. Chemo is a two-headed Janus god of a treatment and you have to stay alert to the side-effects, good and bad, for it to be anything close to a comfortable experience.

The oncologist was still on vacation (though one of the nurses told me he’d been in every day to check his patients and do hospital rounds) — but sure enough no sooner than we finished this conversation than he showed in the clinic — and was educating several of the nurses on the computer. A long time ago I had suggested he get this clinic into the 21 st century — You Tube has great vids put up by cancer patients, there are pdfs all over the place on research, the net is just full of super educational tools. I’d love nothing more than to see an education center at the Drip Factory, so people can come in and learn more about their cancers and how they are being treated.

I went through Deb, our nurse practitioner, to get the onco to prescribe some Advair for me in lieu of the Albuterol — this is for my breathing. My shortness of breath (a symptom in  my body caused in part by the pleural effusion from the cancer) is complicated by a lifelong struggle with asthma. The old tech, while cheaper, just doesn’t compare in my case with Advair. I got the 250/50, its a steroid yes, and has its own side effects, but I only have to use it once per day for it to be effective for me. Its an inhaled corticosteroid, fluticasone propionate, and a long-acting beta2-agonist (salmeterol). It totally works for me, and I take a puff  around 5 pm, when all my symptoms seem to be worse. For me, with this cancer, everything gets worse in the late afternoon. Deb says the additional steroid will do double duty in the pain control — this way we don’t have to prescribe an additional med for pain.

The nurses told me the drug reps were taking them out to dinner at a steakhouse in Tulsa. I don’t have a problem with that, in fact, it’s a nice idea. These gals work really hard and the onco is a stickler for them looking very pro always in matching uniforms etc. As one put it “don’t get me started!!!” I’m laughing because actually they do look very professional all the time and I personally like the matching uniforms, they get casual Fridays after all and wear what they want then. The more I’m there the more I like both the Drip Factory and my oncologist.  I am feeling so much better today than I did at the start of treatment he must be doing something right.

Foods that taste like themselves this week: Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Ocean Stray Ruby Red Grape Fruit Juice, Ocean Spray Blueberry and Pomegranate Juice, shallots, red onions, spinach and salad greens, blue cheese dressing, corn tortillas, jalapenos (which taste particularly excellent), nachos (I made a hellacious batch and actually managed to eat 10), Heinz Dill Pickles.  I’ll be experimenting with some new recipes, including a cheese-stuffed hamburger patty on a foccaccia roll. Bread I can eat — sourdough  bread, and spiced foccaccia with garlic and basil. Those pretty much taste like themselves.

Yesterday, I talked briefly to a woman who has liver cancer. We were laughing because in the hot weather we both brought socks — and took off our shoes in the chemo chairs and put them on. I always wear my Wicked Witch of the West socks (black with orange stripes). Her cancer drip took some of the same meds as mine — and she’s getting better too, so we had a pretty positive corner going on. Her mother had died from breast cancer, and as my mother died of chronic granualar leukemia in 1967, we were talking about improvement of treatments over time.  The upshot of the discussion was that we both felt lucky to be at the Drip Factory, and also to be living now as opposed to then, when certain cancers were total death sentences. It gives a lot to reflect on, when you have conversations like that with total strangers. Right then my benadryl drip kicked in, so did hers, so we both nodded off.

Mark accompanied me over to the clinic, and did the runs to the medical pharma at the hospital — we totally love the pharmacy there by the way, as well as the cafeteria, which is actually a catering service. The food is awesome and very inexpensive. Nurse Barbara took out his stitches, so he was a lot more comfortable after that. He had a bout of bone pain last night and reports on that in his blog at whatwasthemiddlepart.wordpress.com.

Weightwise, I am down 3.5 lbs for the week to 145, not too bad for chemo restart. I look pretty good and oddly, my body seems to be carrying weight at this level with more ease now. I’m certainly enjoying wearing smaller clothes and feeling “light”. I’m going to try, over the next four treatments to keep the total loss to 10 lbs.

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