Chemo 3

After another week’s delay as per cycle 1, I was finally able to go ahead and have my third treatment yesterday. My appointment was scheduled for 12pm, so I had that awkward balance of needing time to prepare, yet having too much time in the morning. Frustratingly, the nurses were running incredibly late and I didn’t get called through until 12.30pm. I was however delighted to see I had the same lovely nurse from my last treatment but this time she led me through to the oncology room rather than the much larger and nicer Macmillan unit. The oncology room is unfortunately positioned next to the cafe from which food smells drift through the entire time. Not great when you’re already feeling nauseous.

Whoever told me Tuesdays were the quiet days got it totally wrong. I was surrounded by 10 cancer patients and their partners so the room was full to bursting. My allocated chair next to the cold capping machine and the door to the cafe, was not only ‘the head of the table’ fully visible to everyone but it was also just an ordinary chair as there were not enough treatment chairs to go round. I was in for an uncomfortable afternoon. The nurse was very apologetic about the whole situation, including the time delay and I really didn’t have the heart to complain. They were clearly rushed off their feet.

So the usual routine began with my observations, which were all fine and then the cannula went in. Next I had to go and wet my hair and apply conditioner for another round with the cold cap. The nurse said I was only the second person that she had treated to have retained so much hair. Well done, me! Slight issue at the toilets as another nurse who saw me approaching the cubicle intended for oncology patients only proceeded to tell me I couldn’t go in there, to which I couldn’t help retorting, “I am an oncology patient. I don’t wear this cannula for my pleasure!” Stroppy, I know but she surely could see I was there for treatment since I was wandering around wearing fluffy boot slippers and all cannula’d up. Then followed a hurried drenching of my hair and slathering with conditioner whilst being painfully aware that a queue was forming outside the one and only toilet for the use of oncology patients.

Back to my uncomfortable seat and bag duly unloaded of essentials to see me through my session: hot drink, biscuits, mints, glasses, magazines, crossword book and pen. The nurse returned to fit me with the cold cap, which took some pushing and shoving and I was then attached to the first couple of fluid infusions. The cold cap really didn’t feel right and I soon realised it had slipped over to one side and was literally freezing my ear off. My poor nurse who was having to tend to several other patients at the same time, took a while to return to me to make the necessary adjustment but we got there in the end. I may well end up with an interesting pattern of hair loss this time around.

After a couple of crossword questions read out by my husband (he’s really getting the hang of this now) and a look at some magazines, it was time for my chemo to be administered. As per the last two cycles. I was given 6 syringes of equally horrid looking chemicals, starting with the ‘red devil’ epirubicin. “You remember what this one does to you for the next 24 to 48 hours, don’t you?” The nurse asked me. As if I would forget the disturbingly bright red wee! I had also remembered the discomfort of the chemicals travelling through my veins so we were prepared with the heat pad to cover my arm this time which did help a bit. The chemo went through very quickly and the nurse commented how well my veins were behaving.

Drugs administered, it was time for the long countdown to the end of the cold capping – 90 minutes! Hubby decided a bacon sandwich was in order so he took himself off to the cafe while I read a magazine. I even dozed off for a while. Before too long it was time to switch of the freezing machine and wait for 20 minutes before removing the cap. I was not surprised to see an impressive collection of icicles had formed on my head. Cue looks of horror from the other patients, who must have been wondering why on earth I was putting myself through this. My reasoning, as I said earlier, I have retained a decent amount of hair and when I wear a hat, you wouldn’t know I had lost any.

I didn’t need a massive goody bag this time as I still have plenty of supplies from my previous cycles, so just a box of steroids for me. The nurse also briefly explained about the changes for cycle 4 which is that I will have to come in for Herceptin first. This will take all day as they have to monitor me for any adverse reactions to it. The next day I will come back for the new chemo drug in my regime which is docetaxel/taxotere. This will be given via an infusion and should only take 40 minutes to go through. Cold capping time is also reduced down to 30 minutes before treatment and 30 minutes afterwards. (Hurrah!) In the meantime, I will need an echo scan as Herceptin can cause heart problems. I will be called for further scans every 3 months throughout the treatment.

By the time we got home I had just about enough energy for a light supper, bath and then bed by 8pm. Let’s hope the comedown from the steroids doesn’t turn me into the hulk this time!

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My frozen head. Spot the icicle that looks like a bow!
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