Chemotherapy is a mystery to most people. Since I LOVE to share my story and what it’s like to be me, I’ll share what a chemotherapy treatment is like for a stage four Hodgkins Lymphoma patient.
So every two weeks I go see the oncologist. Friday afternoons are my day. They give you a time to get there. So like most doctor’s visits you get there on time and you WAIT.
First they call you in to get blood work done. This is my favorite part. I love Leucretia. I don’t have to tell her a thing. She doesn’t say , “1, 2, 3” anymore. She just pokes me, covers me with the coolest bandages (usually dinosaurs or pink hearts. I had to settle for plain purple this past week. BOO!)
Next you go back out to the lobby. Guess what happens? You wait. This is usually the part where Rad Lad and I visit Miss Leslie (the most helpful person ever who has the same thing I do) and entertain the people also waiting in the lobby. Most people in that lobby are older. I am young and purple Mohawk or bald and full of smiles. Even under my mask. I SMILE. Screw you cancer!
So you keep waiting and eventually they call you back to see the doctor. The doctor tells me the same thing every week. Kari, your white blood cell count is low. This is called Neutropenia.( Neutrophils usually make up 50-70% of circulating white blood cells and serve as the primary defense against infections by destroying bacteria in the blood. Hence, patients with neutropenia are more susceptible to bacterial infections and, without prompt medical attention, the condition may become life-threatening (neutropenic sepsis). You have to be really careful. Wear your mask. Temperature above 100 degrees, give us a call. Blah blah blah. It’s actually REALLY f’n serious. I have epic masks that I have blinged out. But that’s a story for another blog.
SOOOOO then they send you to the chemo room. Luckily my chemo room is bright! There is light and the nurses are super friendly. I sit in the same chair neat the corner. I have dubbed it the throne. Normally when I sit and start talking, people want to come sit near me. So I get to hold court and share cancer stories. And you WAIT…
Even though you have an appointment, they don’t call for the drugs until you get there and are in your chair.
First they numb the area with a special canned air. Then they stab me in the port. OMG scary big needle. I still have to have my hand held and try not to cry. Then they clean out the port. This leaves this HORRIBLE taste in your mouth BUT I have these awesome lozenges I suck on that help that horrible taste.
Then they start administering the nausea meds. There are three nausea meds (for now. There will soon be more). This takes about an hour and a half. They are done via drip into my port. With each change I get to taste the meds. It’s a strange and gross.
Next starts the chemotherapy rounds. For Hodgkin’s Lymphoma they do ABDV chemotherapy. It’s fairly typical and there are six cycles or two treatments of each cycle.. 12 treatments total.
First is A. It looks like a giant needle. It bypasses the drip and goes directly into the port. This drug is hard on your heart. This is why I should not get my heart rate above 130. Apparently this is a bad thing.. AND ANOTHER THING THEY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME. It causes nausea and can cause heart damage. This is the red drug. It’s nicknamed “red devil” or “red death”. I call it, ‘the stuff that makes my pee red’… it makes pee red. Pretty entertaining in chemo when you hear a first timer say, ‘why is my pee red?’. I giggle. It’s administered very, very slowly. It takes 30-45 minutes of a nurse slowly and patiently administering the drug. Thank goodness I like my nurse. I even told her what colors look good on her and she’s worn them ever since. She helps me live, I help her get laid. Fair trade off, I say.
Then there’s a bit of a break, more saline drip. Wait wait wait.
Then B (Bleomycin) comes about. It’s a nice little bag. Takes about 45 minutes for it to drip into me. This one is hard on the lungs. Also another reason I shouldn’t be running (AGAIN SHIT THEY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME). Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be scuba diving anytime soon so I should be safe for a while. So you wait..
Then there’s another break. More saline drip..
Then V (Vinblastine) is next. She’s another lovely little needle that goes right into the port. Administered by the nurse.. very slowly. This is the one that gives me the poops and makes me lose my hair. Stupid hair killing bitch. As long as she kills the cancer.. I’ll be bald.
Then last but not least is Dacarbazine. She also makes me poop and might make me sterile. This is an IV Drip bag. Takes about an hour and a half.
Then she’s empty.. and you wait (unless it’s late on Friday and the nurses want out). So they come disconnect you. Clean out your port (EW EW EW). Pull out the needle. Put a band-aid over it. Slap you on the ass and send you on your way. Sometimes even with Girl Scout cookies!!