It is nearly 3am and I’m lying bed, fully awake after my first day of treatment. My chemo pump lies next to me, making a buzzing sound every 15 seconds as it infuses me with a orangish-pink ‘cocktail’ of Doxorubicin, Vincristine and Etoposide. I would have preferred a margarita, and certainly would have slept better!
During the 5 days I’m receiving the chemotherapy, I take a high dose of a steroid called prednisone, twice daily. This is likely the culprit of my insomnia. It’s a wired type of insomnia. I spent the last hour double-checking all the dosages I am receiving which are based on my body surface area – achieved by multiplying your body weight (in kg) by your height (in cm), dividing by 3600 and then taking the square root of that. Mine is about 1.88 m/2. Just in case you were curious, ha! And I confirmed the docs are giving me the correct dosages for my first round .
And at least I also have the time to write about my first day. My father accompanied me to the healing center (I’ve decided to call it this, rather than the cancer center) for an 8-hour day. I had a big bag of all the things you are supposed to bring on your first chemo day – water, tea, snacks, blankets, headphones, etc., etc.
The most senior nurse was assigned to me today, which I appreciated. Today’s treatment involved getting a long, slow dose of a drug called Rituxan. It’s not actually chemotherapy, rather a type of antibody therapy that finds and attack the cells with the CD20 protein found on the surface of the cancerous B-cells in my tumor and in my blood. About 30-40% of people have allergic reactions to Rituxan and this is why it’s administered so slowly.
The first needle was poked into my chest port and I was given anti-nausea meds and Benadryl through the IV. Then came the Rituxan, starting from 50/ml an hour and slowly building up to 400/ml an hour… and lucky me, NO allergic reactions!
I fasted for about 40 hours before starting treatment today. There is a fair amount of research coming out lately showing how fasting helps the healthy cells in your body resist the toxicity of chemo: Here, here and a video here. When fasting over 24 hours, normal cells go into a kind of protection mode whereas cancerous cell don’t have this capability. Just don’t tell your oncology nurse this. I did and she got really serious and scolded me – ‘You MUST eat before chemo!’ and she suggested I send my dad downstairs to get me an egg sandwich. I politely passed and realized that I’ll need to keep this one to myself.
Throughout the morning, I listened to delta brain-wave tracks and did visualizations of the medicines dissolving my tumor. I visited a bit with a few of the other patients, I meditated, and at some point the Benadryl put me to sleep for a little while. The time passed rather quickly – a highlight was when a group of three women sat down in front of me and sang songs and hymns for about 20 minutes. They were volunteers and it was so touching, sweet and comforting to receive. I hope they’re there every day when I am!
Eventually I completed the course of Rituxan and the nurse came back with the cocktail and chemo pump that will be connected to my body through my chest port non-stop for the next 96 hours. She explained how to use it and I threw it over my shoulder (it’s pretty big, like the size of a small messenger bag), and headed home with my dad.
None of my initial fears materialized, and I am glad that I was able to get underway today. I’m very grateful for my father’s presence with me this week, and for the dozens of supportive and heart-filled messages I received today. ❤
View from the healing center:
To be continued.