Ok so technically, it’s Thursday. Monday worked better with my alliteration, besides for those who had to go back to work today, it feels like Monday. Happy New Year by the way!
Today was a big day for me. For starters, it was the worst I’ve dreaded going to a treatment so far. Why? Besides the obvious, some of the reasons may sound relatively benign to you (pardon the pun), but here’s what I hate about the chemo room:
1) The sterile smell, especially when they wipe down the recliners when someone leaves. It’s a very strong alcohol smell, and it leaves my bile churning and puts my nose hairs and mental strength to test. I literally dread it. I even brought a small travel candle today (just to smell, not to light) to hold over my nose to try combat it. Yes, I’ve let this odor get into my head. I think about it too much. It’s a problem for me. Hence my title today…mind over matter. I had to do a lot of positive self talk today about the smells. I got really lucky though. I found a recliner in the corner near only one other chair. The sweet lady occupying it was there almost as long as me (so no cleaning). The nurses were so busy and I was almost the last person to leave, so they never came to wipe any chairs in my area. I lucked out today and didn’t even need my candle. Then again, I also now don’t know if the candle would have worked. That’s ok, I’ll have at least 12 more opportunities to test my strategy.
2) The heparin flush. For those of you who don’t know, I have a port. Each time they access the port, they have to do a flush of heparin. It sterilizes the line and, when they do this injection, you get a brief but strong (yuck) taste and smell that comes from the inside (by that, I mean plugging your nose does zero good). It’s again a very alcohol/sterile odor/taste. It makes me gag. Unfortunately, every appointment involving chemo or labs begins and ends with it. At first, I just tolerated it. It’s commonplace, part of the process. But like the sterile recliner wipes, it got in my head. I now have anxiety about it. They’ve been giving me jolly ranchers to combat the taste. Guess what that did? I now gag at the thought of a jolly rancher. Sterile green apple. Alcohol blue raspberry. Heparin grape. Ugh! My cousin Charles who has undergone chemo in the past recommended I try red hots. That worked for him. So my purse was filled with a giant box of red hots today. I put about 10 in my mouth and waited with sweaty hands and a fast beating heart. But alas, I think it was my saving grace. I tasted it a little when they accessed my port but not as bad. So my plan for when my port had to be cleaned again at the end was that I will eat more red hots sooner. Mouth on fire trumps mouth of heparin. Also, the nurse told me if she pushes the heparin in slowly, I won’t taste it much. Fantastic! I now have a plea with every nurse to take their time.
Much to my dismay, mid-infusion today, my IV pump kept beeping meaning something was blocking the line. After several attempts, what do they have to do? Flush my line! Double ugh! Mind over matter, mind over matter. I crammed the red hots in my mouth and begged for a slow push. Again this time only a minor taste/smell. I’m sure these nurses think I’m a lunatic. When I was finally done with my treatment today, another heparin blast. Success this time though. I didn’t taste it over the burning fire of red hots. Thanks Charles!
Tomorrow I get fluids after my neulasta shot. That means two more heparin flushes and half a box of red hots (with a dose of mild anxiety).
3) Adriamycin. This is one of my chemo meds, aka the red devil. It’s the color of cherry Kool Aid (anyone who knows me well knows that’s a problem immediately). The worst part of this is that it comes over in two giant syringes and you have to sit there and watch the nurse push it in your line. It’s not an IV bag. I don’t know why it haunts me so bad but it does. More so the last two times than the first two times. But I survived! Which brings me to the milestone part of my title today. I am DONE with the AC part of my treatment! This is the worst part and I can now say it’s behind me! I still have to make it through the impending weekend yuck, but knowing the red devil has been laid to rest is a huge relief. Don’t get me wrong. Very thankful for this drug. I can’t even find or feel my tumor anymore, and I attribute that to my red frenemy. But so glad it’s behind me now!
At least one of the three things I dread most about chemo is checked off my list. Well, insert a fourth because the neulasta shot is another thing I dread, but it’s the after effects not the actual shot. It too goes away after tomorrow.
So it’s a banner week. Major milestone. Done with AC and now moving on to taxol weekly (starting the 16th) with a boost of Carboplatin on the 1st, 5th and 9th taxol weeks.
Hopefully my mind over matter strategy will continue to work, and my mouth and mental-ness won’t reject the red hots.
Four down, 12 to go. Here’s to a 2014 with less dread, better masked sterile smells/tastes and no more cancer!
Thanks for the unwavering support, well wishes and prayers. Xoxo