Monday, March 22, 2010

Pete the Power Port performs perfectly - good alliteration and 1 down, 11 chemo sessions go to

Had  my first chemo session this morning. Wildly anti-climatic, boring, asymptomatic and easy. I rode my bike over and got to the place 20 minutes early, so got my weight, blood pressure and temperature taken (all normal).

Then chatted with the oncologist briefly. One thing I had forgot to ask him last week was to get  his opinion on how long the disease had been chewing away at me. His estimate is about a year. So - I can use this as the perfect excuse for any less than perfect athletic performance in 2009! Blowing up in the middle of the night on the eRock laps - cancer caused! Getting 6th out of 7th in my age group at the Leadville triathlon - Hodkgin's induced! A great cover story I will milk for all its worth.

Then back into the lab. A pretty wild scene. This place has about 32 big lazy boy chairs where you get your chemo delivered to you. It's in a big, bright, airy room with floor to ceiling windows looking west to the Flatirons and Indian Peaks. When we first got there the place was hopping. There were about 25 patients all getting their chemo junk. Really pretty much a chemo production line. Come in, get your chemo, go home. Some of the people looked fairly normal but a bunch of them looked pretty beat up. No hair, huddled under blankets, half asleep. Hopefully everybody there this morning will get better but one look at the room and you know there is some serious illness being addressed here. Lots of support folks also present - friends, families, volunteers handing out cookies, etc.  We managed to snag a window seat and got ready for the treatment. I had my Kindle with a new junky sci-fi book downloaded and my Blackberry to keep me in touch with the cyber world.

First step - IV anti-nausea drugs, which should work for 3-5 days. My first thought was that I should now try to find an open amusement park and take about 30 rides on the teacup ride - I don't think I could puke now if I tried. The last time I was on that ride I think Caitlyn was about 6 and I almost lost my cookies. So now I am chemically enhanced to be nausea resistant.

Next, a port check to make sure the line is clear. I get the needle into the port - no pain at all! And I'm getting good flow from the port. So Pete is definitely online and ready to earn his paycheck. 

Next, I get the Adriamycin. This is the stuff that:
  • Gives you nausea
  • Gives you fatigue
  • Can make you lose your hair
  • Turns your pee pink
  • Can cause heart damage if your lifetime dose gets too large. (They will monitor me to make sure this doesn't happen. My planned dosage is significantly less than the lifetime dose so I should be fine)
  • Can cause tissue death if it gets out of your veins.
So in other words, this is one of the nasty ones. It goes in fine - no feeling at all, no symptoms.

Next, I get a test for a Bleomycin allergic reaction. This rarely happens but if it does, it means that you can't get Bleo. They inject a bit into the fat in my arm near my tricep. Hey, I don't have any fat on my tricep! Although the nurse agrees I have fairly little fat in my arm, it gets in ok. This takes about 30 minutes to diagnose so they start the Vinblastine next. This has a nice, giant red label on it saying that if you get this drug administered into your spinal column, it will kill you. Nice... So we agree that we won't put it into my spinal column. This is also the bad boy that will probably nuke my sperm. So no more direct Geo descendants, I guess...

Next, the Dacarbazine. This is an IV drip that takes about an hour to go in and is delivered with a solution that has alcohol in it. This is the one med I got that gave me a bit of a reaction. By the end of it, I had to pee and my head felt a bit full - kind of like I feel sometimes after having a red wine with a lot of tannins in it. Not very noticeable and not at all a problem.

Through all of this, Susan is right by my side, supporting me. She's such an engaged wing-man that by the end of it, she's getting some sympathy nausea feelings. I know it's really tough on her to see me go through all of this and I was reassuring her that I really did feel fine and that everything was going fine. But I know it was tough on her.

My Bleo allergy reaction was negative, so finally they push the Bleo. I did pee after the Dacarbazine was done and in fact my pee was kind of pink. So it's sure a good thing they let you know ahead of time about this. I would certainly have been freaked out if I had seen this and not known of this side effect ahead of time.

And with that, I'm done. Total time was about 2 1/2 hours.  Here's a pic of me doing my casual chemo-thing:

We'll see if I'm such a big talker after several weeks of this. But I couldn't have asked for a more carefree, casual morning so I'm super-psyched about that. Everything worked OK and I now have nasty chemo drugs coursing through my system, destroying all these crazy cells that have decided to grow in my lymphatic system.  Both the doc and the nurse told me that very frequently with Hodkin's patients they see pretty dramatic tumor size reduction in the first couple of sessions so I'm really looking forward to seeing that happen.

And now for the one nasty thing I did today. We stopped to get gas on the way home and while we were doing that, I suddenly said to Susan: "Wow, I feel sort of dizzy and fatigued." To which she of course immediately went into super wing man mode. "Get in the car, I'll finish here, let me help you get into the car." To which I started to laugh and said "Ha! Only kidding. Feel fine. Just joking.." Which seemed really funny to me but as you can imagine was a pretty shitty thing for her. She gently let me know (with some combination of shouting and giant, puppy dog eyes) that this wasn't a particularly funny joke and not to do that again.  So, note to self - no more jokes about feeling bad, at least not directed at my super wing-man.

So a successful day one in the treatment! One day down, 167 to go. Wow, that second number looks pretty big. Maybe I'll think about it as 1 treatment down, 11 to go. Yeah, that feels better. Onwards to health!!!


  1. Did you get a frequent visit chemo card? 12th visit free :-)

  2. yeah, I don't think there is anything "free" in this treatment plan. I'm still sort of cringing, waiting for the flood of bills and insurance paperwork that will undoubtedly head my way at some point. To date all of that has been pretty pain free so fingers crossed that it stays that way.

  3. A triumphant day on the battlefield! Congrats to you and the wing woman.

  4. yup, 8:23 pm and still awake and chipper! Felt a bit spacey at dinner and I immediately I thought "Ooh, are these chemo symptoms?" And then I realized, I frequently feel spacey at dinner. End of the day, unwinding over some nice pasta, hmmm, this actually feels pretty normal.

  5. Great narrative on the chemo experience. They should call that place the Interzone Lounge. And now that you have started chemo, I am guessing you would qualify for a medicinal anti-nausea drug will have lots of new friends...