I had my first treatment yesterday for stage III classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma. All good.
Here is what happened:
1. We showed up at the clinic at 9:00 AM. First thing was to take blood. The tech accessed my blood supply through the “port.” That hurt a lot because the tissue underneath the port is still sore from the little surgery that was required for the installation. When the tech injected the needle the pressure lighted up the bruise. Sorta like being stabbed in the chest. Then, blood flowed and everything was OK. Thankfully, as the bruise heals, accessing the port will be painless.
2. We then saw a Physician’s Assistant for “patient education.” Various drugs are administered through the port, and various drugs are taken orally. Nausea can be a problem so they also give you anti-nausea drugs. I will probably be bald for a while too. We received a three ring notebook with tips and information. The PA said she hopes my pain will reduce over time as the chemo begins to impact the cancer. I hope so, as I continue to have trouble sleeping. That said, when I got home, I slept very, very hard and that was a welcome relief.
3. I then went to the infusion room. The room is quite spacious and long. It is lined with reclining chairs and places for loved ones to sit. The patient sits in the reclining chair and the drugs administered by IV are hooked up to a pump and the pump is attached, in my case, to the port. (When my blood was taken, they attached the pump’s access tube, so the port did not have to be accessed twice thus avoiding the pain of the first effort.) You sit in the recliner until the infusion is done. I received two types of anti-nausea medications and one chemo drug. The process takes about an hour.
4. We then went to the pharmacist within the clinic and received most of my oral medications and instruction. You take certain drugs on certain days in each cycle, Each cycle is 28 days long, and there are six cycles. Some are taken by mouth and some are taken IV. The first 14 days of each cycle are treatment days. I receive IV infusions on the first and eighth day of each cycle. On days 1 through 14, I also take oral medications. The last 14 days of each cycle is “for rest” and you receive no drugs by IV or by mouth. Keeping track of the drugs taken orally is a bit of a task, but we received a helpful chart for each day showing exactly what drugs to take on what day. We also received instructions about how to avoid side affects. By the way, I have to order one of the drugs myself from a speciality pharmacy. Apparently, that drug is in short supply. They deliver the drug to your home via UPS or Fed Ex. So, that adds a bit of complexity to the regimen, but it is really no big deal.
5. I then went home. I began taking the pills in accordance with the instruction. So far, no problems. (Except, Joan says I glow in the dark.)
6. I go back next Tuesday for another infusion, This is likely to make me more sick than the first. Then, I will be off for 14 days until the new cycle starts.
7. It is a very helpful to have Joan attend my visits to the clinic. She takes copious notes, and asks the questions I should ask but forget to present. Additionally, because she has recently been through her own treatment for cancer at the same clinic, she has become very well informed. Between the two of us, I think we have everything in hand.
8. Unless I get too sick between now and Friday, I intend to drive to Omaha on Friday to do seven sentencings. I hope by the second cycle (about a month from now) that I will have a better read on my stamina and level of chemo induced sickness. If everything goes well, I will begin to resume a more normal schedule during the second cycle.
9. The mornings’ e-mail shows that Grandson Milan sacrificed his pretty locks in solidarity with Grampa’s impending baldness. See below.