Yesterday was a gloomy, rainy day. My first stop was down at Community North to have my final check up with the surgeon who performed surgeries 2 and 3 (the biggies). After a quick look at my scars and check of my range of motion, I was given the all-clear.
Before leaving, Dr. Wagner told me to never hesitate to come back if I was worried about anything. His exact words were: “Don’t let anyone brush your concerns aside. Come see me if there is anything you need.” To be honest, I am sad that I have no further appointments scheduled with Dr. Wagner and his wonderful staff. They were so kind to me, and they took exceptional care of me!
As I made my way back to Anderson to prepare for infusion #1, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and this was my view as I arrived on campus:
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
While this was a specific promise to never destroy the whole earth through flood, I love when I see rainbows. It reminds me of ALL of God’s promises. A few of my favorites:
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
My parents and I made our way over to the cancer center. For the purpose of simplicity, I will call it “chemo.” Technically, what I am receiving is immunotherapy, not chemotherapy. However, most people already have an image in their head of what chemo is: cancer patients receiving IV treatments of drugs that make them feel sick. That’s exactly what I am experiencing, even though mine is called immunotherapy. Even the nurses have been calling my treatments “chemo.” So, to simplify, that’s what I’ll call it over these next several weeks.
So, after about an hour of learning more about what to expect, we were taken back to my chemo room. It is small but very nice. It has a big floor-to-ceiling window looking out on a garden (barren right now, but still nice to look outside!). I have a big, comfy recliner. There is a TV, and just enough room for a nurse to sit at the computer and two guests to sit close by.
After taking some Tylenol and answering a bunch of questions from the nurse, she “accessed” my port. Accessing my port means sticking a long needle through my skin and into the port. I’m so thankful that they first gave me a shot of lidocaine to numb the whole area. Since the surgery to implant the port was just a few days ago, the area is still swollen and irritated. Thinking about sticking a needle into that spot gave me more anxiety than thinking about the chemo treatment itself! But, the lidocaine made it so I didn’t feel the needle at all.
Unfortunately, due to the swelling in the area, there were some issues with my port. The nurse inserted the needle twice, but she could not get it to work. A different nurse came in, and she really jammed that thing in there! It made me woozy, but only because of thinking about what they were doing. Needle to the chest… yikes. But, I still didn’t feel anything. This time the port worked!
The lidocaine wore off soon after that, and the area was VERY sore… but it had just been through three big needle sticks, with the last being very forceful. So, I guess that is to be expected!
Next she drew some blood straight from the port (seriously, this little thing amazes me… you can draw blood out, and you can put drugs in. Incredible!). After this, we were ready to get started.
First, she started me on a bag of fluid to keep me hydrated and protect my kidneys. As that began dripping, she added a smaller bag of anti-nausea medicine. Nausea is a major side effect of my infusions.
The nausea medicine took about 30 minutes. When it finished, she added the bag of interferon, which also took about 30 minutes. For this first infusion, the nurse stayed in the room the entire time. She said that if a patient were to have a bad reaction to the drug, it would most likely happen the first time. So, to make sure nothing bad happened, she stayed with us. (P.S. She was an AU grad! I knew I was in excellent hands. Go Ravens!)
I had been warned that the side effects would begin within an hour or two of my treatment. However, I started getting them early, toward the end of the interferon bag. The first thing I noticed was a dull headache. Soon after, full body chills began. However, it really wasn’t as terrible as I expected.
Even when the interferon was finished, I had to wait for the fluid bag to finish. This took another 30ish minutes.
By the time we got home, the headache and chills were a little worse. Thankfully, that’s as bad as it ever got. I settled into the couch. Mom and I watched several episodes of Friends, and I was even able to eat a light dinner (noodle soup and crackers). I couldn’t get warm, despite wearing sweats and wrapping up in blankets. But again, I consider myself lucky that I didn’t experience any nausea.
Since I kept falling asleep on the couch, I made my way back to my bed at 7:45pm. I read (started the Harry Potter series again!) until about 8:30pm, and then exhaustion really took over. I slept for about an hour. I woke up around 9:30pm feeling like I had just had the best nap of my life. I still had headache and chills, and my fever was up to 100.4. But somehow I felt great.
I took some more Tylenol and read a few more chapters. By 10:30 I was dozing off again and turned out my light. I woke up several times throughout the night, but I was always able to get back to sleep. I didn’t get up until around 7am, which meant I spent a total of about 11 hours in bed. I had been warned that I may spend up to 15 or 16 hours asleep each night.
I still have the headache this morning, but otherwise I’m doing great. The side effects could get worse throughout the week, so I know I might not always get through this easily.
We will be back at the cancer center this afternoon for infusion #2.