With the Easter weekend causing my schedule to change, I went for my blood test on Tuesday and was waiting for the phonecall at 6pm telling me that my neutrophils were too low again. No one was more surprised than me when said phonecall didn’t materialise and I found myself with the reality of going ahead with treatment on time. My reaction: Eek! I had actually been looking forward to having an extra week of feeling quite well and being able to do some normal things but it wasn’t to be. On the plus side, my chemo treatment was finally speeding towards the finish line. Woohoo!
So Tuesday after dinner I set about packing my bag in preparation for my first dose of Herceptin, which I had been told would take about 90 minutes to infuse, followed by at least 4 hours of monitoring for any adverse reaction. I knew I was in for a long day and would need plenty of options to pass the time. Food was tricky as I wasn’t sure if I would want to eat, and if so, what I would even fancy. I settled on some dry crackers, a chocolate bar and some popcorn. The rest I would have to buy from the cafe as I have taken a strong dislike to sandwiches ever since treatment number 2 and the soggy sandwich.
I was booked in for 9am so I estimated I’d be done by 3pm. We arrived in true style at 9am on the dot thanks to the ever increasing traffic jams on our main route to the hospital. As it happens, we needn’t have rushed but this only became evident later on.
The nurse called me through (not my favourite nurse from cycles 2 and 3) but a very nice lady nonetheless. The first thing she revealed was that my neutrophils were actually too low yesterday at 1.3 so they would need to repeat the blood test this morning and hope they had increased. I knew it was too good to be true. On the plus side, being one of the first customers of the day, I was able to choose the exclusive window seat. I felt a bit like I was on a sunbed reservation mission as you do when you go to busy resorts abroad, almost breaking into a run to secure my favourite spot. Anyway, mission accomplished. I’ve clearly had too much practice at that.
The first attempt at cannulating was messy to say the least but attempt number 2 did the trick thankfully. I dread to see the state of my hand in a few days’ time. Bloods taken and fluids started, I settled down to some reading. By 9.40am there was no sign of the elusive Herceptin, however I was given steroids in preparation for tomorrow’s Docetaxel treatment. I took 4 and was told to take 4 more before 2pm to avoid lying awake all night. A short while later the news came that my neutrophils were up to 2.3 so treatment could definitely go ahead, phew!
However by 10.40am there was still no sign of my medication despite a phonecall to the pharmacy who insisted they had lots of drugs there. The joys of the Bank Holidays! In the meantime, the unit was filling up and hubby was trying his best to ‘work from home’ on his laptop while being sandwiched in between me and the next chemo patient along. I was starting to feel hungry so I ordered some toast from one of the lovely volunteers. Free food and a good view from the window. It’s the little things.
The lady next to me was having FEC treatment which I couldn’t look at without feeling queasy so I distracted myself by playing Duolingo and other games on my phone. Finally at 11.45am the nurse cheered as she carried my Herceptin into the unit and we were able to get started. See what I mean about the fact that I needn’t have stressed about trying to get there early this morning?
While the infusion was doing its thing, I couldn’t help feeling grateful that I didn’t need the cold cap for this one. Funnily enough, no one else was using it either. I guess most people there were resigned to complete hair loss or perhaps being treated with different drugs which don’t cause hair to fall out.
Soon after my treatment had started, the lunch trolley was wheeled round and I took a jelly, crisps and juice but no sandwich. The nurse had informed me that I would be there until 6pm so hubby was less than happy with my paltry food selection. He set off to the cafe in search of something more substantial and was soon sending me photos of what was on offer. A video of ‘live chefs’ cooking noodles with meat and a choice of sauces was winging its way to me next and you guessed it, that is what he opted for. A while later, he insisted that there was far too much food and that I would have to finish his portion. Very crafty but it worked. Before long I was happily tucking into the next best thing to a Chinese takeaway having gained the nurse’s approval. I was also met with many envious comments from fellow patients whose egg sandwiches no longer held any appeal for them.
Back to Herceptin which was going through without any issues, until I was twisting my cannula hand to hold my ‘takeaway’ container…oops! This meant hubby had to hold the carton much to everyone’s amusement. Treatment was completed by 1.30pm and I was disconnected from the tubes. The cannula was left in situ in case of any reaction later on but generally, I felt free as a bird. Then boredom set in.
Luckily, I had brought my crochet along so I spent a while doing that. Then we had a surprise as one of our old neighbours and a good friend suddenly appeared. He works at the hospital so we had a chat which was really nice. This was followed by a visit from my favourite nurse so it was hugs all round and I suddenly felt really popular. We also got to applaud 2 people who rang the end of treatment bell.
Then things went quiet again and I had that feeling of being on a long haul flight where you’re kept busy for a while with safety demos, food, and a film for about half the flight and then you realise you’ve still got hours to go. Even my treatment nurse called over to ask if I was bored yet and I had to admit that I was.
Somehow we made it to the slightly earlier release time of 5.30pm. I think it helped that we were having a good old chinwag with the couple next to us. Fortunately I had encountered no reaction to Herceptin so my cannula was removed and we were free to go. We both felt exhausted which is odd when you’ve just been sitting around all day. Not unlike a day of sitting around the swimming pool or at the beach on holiday. That’s my third holiday related comparison…Mmm, something tells me we need a holiday!
Home we went for some dinner, a short walk and an early night. Can’t quite believe we’re back there tomorrow for Docetaxel. Now let’s see if I can get any sleep having taken all those steroids…