Chemo 5: Docetaxel & Herceptin

I was most surprised to find that chemo was going ahead for me yesterday as I would have bet that my neutrophils weren’t ready for this next dose. I was pleased not to get the phonecall on the Tuesday night and set about preparing for my daytrip to the hospital.

My appointment was at 10am and I arrived to a fairly empty waiting room which is unheard of. Normally, the majority of seats are taken and there are people queuing down the corridor. Not this time, although it turned out not to be a good sign of things to come. I hung around the waiting room, reluctant to sit down as I knew I would be seated for a lengthy time during my treatment. Finally, at 10.30am I was collected by an apologetic nurse who informed me that she was having a very busy morning. She advised me that my drugs hadn’t actually arrived yet, which wasn’t any consolation to me at all.

I took a seat in the oncology suite and read for a while until the nurse came back to insert the cannula. I showed her my vein damage which has become more obvious since my blood test so she had a bit of a battle trying to find a suitable non-damaged vein. We got there in the end and we talked about some of the side effects which I had suffered from during my last cycle. Although she was very sympathetic, she informed me that it probably wasn’t worth mentioning to the oncologist as they have never had to endure this and therefore would be unlikely to reduce my dose for next time. Great!

Cannula position is creeping up my arm due to vein damage.


The good news was that those 3 injections to boost my white blood cells had clearly worked as my blood count had gone up to 9, compared to 2.9 from last time. My neutrophils were at 4.9 which is also well above the minimum of 1.5 in order for treatment to go ahead. All other checks were fine too, so I was good to go. Unfortunately, my drugs were not, as they still hadn’t appeared by 11.30am. My nurse was rushed off her feet with other patients and by now there were 10 of us being treated, as well as constant blood tests going on.

There seemed to be no volunteer on duty doing any food orders, so luckily my husband was able to take on this mission and he brought me some toast for lunch. Anything to avoid the soggy sandwiches which still haunt me when I see that lunchtime trolley! In due course, the trolley did make its way around the unit and I took the less offensive items such as jelly, crisps and a banana. By now, the hot drinks service had been round twice but what was the betting it would be nowhere to be seen when I needed it for my cold capping session?

Just before 12pm, the nurse told me that my Docetaxel had arrived (Hooray!) but there was still no sign of the Herceptin which they wanted to administer first. Apparently the pharmacy were short staffed so there was nothing they could do to speed things up. I passed the time by browsing on my tablet and reading a book. It already felt like a long day and so far I had only been hooked up to a saline infusion.

Finally, at 12.50pm my dose of Herceptin was started and I was asked to go and prepare for the cold cap. Having put conditioner on my scalp, then followed an issue with cap sizes. Turns out I am no longer a large. I guess the hair loss has led to me having a more ladylike medium head. I hurriedly took 2 paracetamol to prevent the painful headache but was still hit with an intense pain as soon as the machine was switched on. The nurse said that if I was to lose any more hair between now and next time, I may not be able to use the cold cap. I told her that I have read on the forums that in such instances people wear a theatre cap to protect the scalp. She said she had never heard of that. I do wish the nurses were better informed with the whole cold capping thing. My search for a theatre cap commences here because I have not done all this hard work for nothing!

With treatment underway, there was nothing to do other than read and sit it out. Around 45 minutes later, Herceptin had gone through and I was hooked up to the dreaded Docetaxel. By 2.55pm the Docetaxel had gone through and I was ready for my final flush of fluids. The cold cap needed to stay on for another 15 minutes and I did feel by then that it had been on for a long time. At 3.15pm, hubby and I removed the cold cap as the nurse had received another influx of people ready for treatment and was going to take some time to come and relieve me of the pain. I then sat with my woolly hat on waiting for my cannula to be removed. The nurse eventually made her way over to detach me from the tubes so that I could leave the unit. But I wasn’t done yet. I had requested some more mouthwash since I had suffered so badly with mouth sores during cycle 4 but the only way I was getting anything from the pharmacy was to either wait half an hour (no thanks!) or go and collect it myself. I opted to make my way to the pharmacy and finally escaped from the hospital at 3.45pm. What a long day!

By the time I got home, I was exceptionally tired and just about managed a light meal. I was in bed by 7.30pm. Not that I slept many hours at a time but at least I could rest and recover from what turned out to be a very hard day. Seems like the tiredness is also impacting on my husband who didn’t even have the energy to fetch himself a bacon sandwich on this occasion.

Now I need to make the most of the steroids today, before the inevitable crash tomorrow. I know from last time I will be in for a difficult week but at least I am armed with medicine and my bed. The good news is there is now only 1 more Docetaxel to go and then I can move on to the next stage of my treatment.

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