Chemo #1--The Red Devil, Nugget Ice, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravity Blankets
Hi there! Rick here as your substitute teacher for today's post.
It's Saturday November 7--Day 3 since the first treatment, and what a historic day it has been! Sure, many will remember this as the day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. I'll remember it as the day Heather slept 14 of the first 20 hours of the day. (slightly above her typical 5 a night). We were told Day 3 would be one of fatigue--that has proven to be quite prescient.
Longer story below, but the short story is that Heather is doing well--the strict drug regimen to proactively offset some of the less desirable side effects has (so far) worked.
Side effects of chemo include well, everything. We're prepared with a ton of prescription and OTC meds
Kudos to the doctors and nurses at UCSD Cancer Center for the incredible level of detail provided. They made a personalized plan for Heather knowing that she is prone to nausea.
The one piece of literature that hasn't changed in our overview instructions is "you should bring a friend or loved one with you during the session." Damn you COVID! So I dropped off Heather around 8am, and she left the car to start the day.
Step 1 is bloodwork, and was her first experience of accessing and using the port to do any needed injections or blood tests. While those blood tests were being processed, she met with her team--a nurse, a resident doctor, and her primary medical oncologist. All reviewed the plans for the day, asked us if we had any questions (I probably asked one or two dumb things on the phone), and then gave Heather a quick exam. (One interesting note--the doctor still can't physically find the breast mass of malignant cells during examination; consider this a PSA to schedule a mammogram if you are outside the recommended schedule!)
Once she got the all clear on the bloodwork, her infusions began. These first four treatments involve a combination of Adriamycin ("The Red Devil"), and Cytoxan. Adriamycin is quite toxic--it can cause severe burns if it touches your skin, and yes, it's quite red!
The nurse (Kat) did a great job talking to Heather, distracting her from fears of nausea or anxiety. Unlike later treatments, Kat needed to be there for a majority of this injection, so it was great for Heather to have some company. Heather also was told to chew on ice consistently through the chemo treatment in order to avoid mouth sores, which can be a common side effect. Heather's purchase of a nugget ice machine (there's one in both homes) really came in handy here; I blame the drugs, but Heather says the UCSD nugget ice is better than we have at home.
In addition to the chemo drugs, Heather got some steroids and some anti nausea medicines as part of her overall treatment for the day. By around 12pm, Heather was able to leave the facility, and we were on our way home.
...well, we got home after getting some mashed potatoes from Tender Greens. Like, a whole quart of mashed potatoes. :)
Recovery & Side Effects
Thursday was quite good--she ate (mashed potatoes!); napped; and took lots of anti-nausea medicines to try and ward off the nausea we've been warned may come a days later. Heather had a metallic taste in her mouth at times, and some weird pains ("bone pain" is a notable side effect), but overall, a good day!
Friday was a really good day! Heather had a surprising amount of energy and only fell asleep every 100th CNN Key Race Alert (so like every two hours), and both helped cook dinner and had her first full meal.
One crazy/amazing part of the day was that she had an "On-Body Injector" deliver her a shot to help improve her white blood cell count. Previously, patients had to go back into the hospital the next day for this to be administered. Heather's injector was installed on Thursday, and then just a minute before her shot on Friday, the injector began to beep, warning her a shot was coming. The injections were done slowly over an hour, and she was able to remove it safely after showering Friday afternoon.
Saturday--Joe! Kamala! Sleep! Heather has slept more today than I've ever seen. She's managed to fight off any major side effects. She's having some neck pain and lower back pain. We aren't entirely sure if that is due to the chemo, or to her new best friend the weighted gravity blanket.
So hopefully, this first session won't be too rough. The hardest weeks of chemo are apparently sessions 3 & 4, so we're considering this good practice for the December sessions.
Heather would like all of you to know that she's doing well; she appreciates her friends and family; and she's sorry if she hasn't gotten back to you right away.
I'd like all of you to know that I continue to be in awe of this incredible woman.