On Thursday, I went to Wellington Hospital for my first chemo. It is hard to describe but I will try.
A friend came to keep me company and getting to the appointment by 8.30am was a bit of a mission. However, we ended up with time for nice hot drinks before my appointment started.
First, a nurse weighed me and took me through to the day ward – there are eight lazy boy chairs in one section. I was first there so sat by the window looking out on to a vista of Newtown.
My nurse came over and put a hot wheat bag on to the back of my left hand; heat helps get a good vein (I had already drank 500 ml before 8.30am to aid getting a good vein as sometimes, it’s hard to find a good one). The nurse found a vein and put in a cannula quite easily (a cannula is needle with a tube attached which allows both injections and blood tests). This didn’t hurt; it was a relief to get that sorted as it can often be tricky with a couple of attempts. She also took some blood and sent it to the lab.
She then hooked up perhaps a litre of saline so that I was getting lots of fluid. This is attached to a beeping machine (which administers over a set time) on a pole (so I can walk around and go to the toilet etc.).
After a few minutes, we went to meet my Oncologist Kate. She asked me if I had any questions and I signed a consent form. There wasn’t too much to discuss as those discussions had already been held.
Another nurse gave me an anti-nausea tablet to stop me being sick from the chemo. I also had a prescription to fill later in the day with other anti-nausea medications to take over the next few days (unfortunately, I am allergic to some of the anti-nausea drugs so it doesn’t leave many anti-nausea options for me).
Then back to my chair and by this time, the other seats were filling up. The main thing my friend and I agreed was that all the others having chemo looked so healthy and normal. They do not look like unhealthy people at all which always reminds me of how weird cancer is. Some of the healthiest people I know have had cancer so it such an odd thing; there is such a mysterious element to it.
After waiting for the blood test to come back (everything was in normal range), the nurse started the chemo. Two of the CMF drugs (‘M’ and ‘F’) are like tubes which she just pushes through the cannula and took maybe ten minutes. I didn’t feel anything.
The nurse then put a litre of the next drug ‘C’ on the pole which would administer over an hour.
I had prepared a chemo activity pack so I started reading magazines, doing a killer-Sudoku and doing a bit of sketching (my friend and I had a mandala each to colour in). I managed to eat a sandwich, a bit of yogurt and some nuts and grapes.
After about half an hour of the ‘C’, I started to feel a bit off with a sore nose and stinging eyes. My arm was also cold from the cold drug (some are kept in the fridge) so we heated up the wheat bag for my arm.
My friend helped me out with lots of chats, going to buy me a scone, heating the wheat bag and helping me around e.g. to the toilet. It is challenging for the support people as well as the chemo recipient so it will be good to have her thoughts on how the day went.
After that was finished, Herceptin was added which as a loading dose (bigger first dose) administers over an hour and a half. With that, I developed a headache and got very cold, shaking cold (I got a blanket and put my jacket on top of the blanket) and tried to rest a little as my eyes were still sore. I felt a bit nauseous but wasn’t sick. I took two panadol for the headache.
And around quarter past one, we left the ward and met my parents who took me home. It’s around an hour drive and I slept in the back.
Once home, I felt really weird; my headache was getting worse and I took some panadol. I lay down and then started feeling quite sick and was sick a couple of times. It was not good. The district nurses rang to check on me and told me to take more of the anti-nausea medication. If I couldn’t stop vomiting, she suggested that I go to A and E at Wellington Hospital (one hour’s drive away) which was not a great thing to look forward to. I did manage to fall asleep for a while.
Later in the evening, I wanted to get out of bed but I couldn’t stand the light or food smells. Eventually that eased a bit and I got up and had a few chats with my parents and on the phone. I went to bed, slept well and felt a lot better the next morning.