the girl with the red face

I had a completely different blog in mind for today. However, today did not go to plan, again. My chemotherapy regime is going to have drastic changes from today onwards. To explain these changes further, here is a run down of how today played out.

My appointment was booked for 9:40 to review my blood test results with my oncologist. There is always a wait, so the oncology coordinators tend to mingle with the patients in the waiting room, asking how we have been, how we are managing with the treatment…etc..etc…

The coordinator I have dealt with the most, Jana was eager to chat to me. She had a few exiting things to tell me. Firstly, I had popped up on her Facebook news feed! Last Sunday, a photo was taken of myself and sister, along with one of her friends dressed up in a Pink Bunny Onesie. My sister is still fundraising for the Walk to End Women’s Cancers that she participated in recently. Donations were offered if her friend walked around Riverlink Shopping Center, for an hour, in the onesie. Strangely enough, Jana’s husband is friends with the guy who snapped the photo (that’s you, Trev, if you’re reading this). Secondly, a lady who was already in receiving treatment this morning, had asked who else was coming back today. “Is the 22-year-old back in today?” she asked. I am the 22-year-old! Bless…nothing like having 10 years knocked off, especially whist receiving treatment.

As usual, on arrival, I weigh myself. The quantity of drugs administered is worked out on your body weight. I hate to admit it, but I have put on 1.9kg’s! Last round I weighed 63.5kg, this round 65.4kg. I could easily pass the blame and say it’s from the chemotherapy and steroids…but let’s be honest…I’ve just been eating too much cake. Story of my life.

The bump-and-grind of chemo day finally started at 10:20 when the doctor called me in. My usual doctor, Dr Niara Olivera was away this week – she’s in Paris for a work conference, doing it tough I’m sure. Today I was greeted with another oncologist from the Mater, Dr Jim Coward. Dr Coward is a big, burly, African man with a posh English accent. I do miss the English accent. We discussed my blood test results from Tuesday. This indicates if I am “healthy” enough to receive treatment today. I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous about the ‘ol WBC’s. Hearing “your white blood cells are high enough for you to commence treatment today,” was music to my ears. The meeting was short and sweet and after 5 minutes, “let’s crack on” was his closing speech. Shakes hand. Bye.

What comes next?…

Where to sit. Unfortunately, I don’t get to choose where I sit, the nurses do. My heart started to race, my palms became sweaty with anticipation. I was getting nervous about WHERE they were going to sit me, more than knowing poisonous drugs were about to be injected into my veins! Mother and I followed the nurse. I felt like I was walking on tiptoes, as if walking silently through the ward would work in my favor and the angels above would pick a different suite for me, anything but SEVEN. Gently, quietly, one foot in front of the other, we continued following the nurse. Today was a full-house, all I could see was a lot of full chairs…all except SEVEN! NOOOO. I explained my plight with the number seven to the nurse and she advised five would be free shortly, if I wanted to move. We decided to give seven one more try to redeem itself. I don’t like to be difficult. The nurse guaranteed me if any issues occurred today, they would never sit me in seven again, ever!

Let’s crack on! Cannula in – first attempt – success. Phew…Pre-meds administered. The Phenergan was given to me first, so I “shouldn’t” have another reaction. Within 5 min’s I was sleepy and slurring.

“What’s your name and D.O.B?,” asked the nurse. This is part of their checks to ensure the correct drugs are administered to the correct patient.

“Roshellllle Vaisanennn, 14 Ougust 1981,” I replied, or tried to reply.

Off I drifted, eyelids fighting against the medicine to try and stay awake. Even though I was sleepy from the Phenergan, it wasn’t enough to hide the symptoms of a reaction. I remember the feeling all too well. I was quick to recognise them again: tight chest, flushed face, and stabbing pains down my spine. How was this happening again! They gave me drugs to stop this happening. Mother was quick to call the nurse over. By then my face was as red as my red skinny jeans. I like to coordinate, but not that much.

So here we go again…counter-drugs, halt IV infusion of Taxotere and recover. This caused a lot of discussion between the nurses and doctor. There was a stop-work-meeting, all about me. I don’t like to be fussed over, but I guess this is an exception.

They decided that I can not, nor should not, receive Taxotere again. My body keeps reacting to it, and they have not been successful in controlling this. The suggestion is to switch me to another drug. The new drug will contain the same properties as Taxotere, however it is administered weekly! I have heard that weekly chemo is actually easier as it is in smaller doses – let’s see. So today I only received half of my prescribed chemo regime – only Cyclophosphamide, the “C” part of TC.

There are other implications that go hand-in-hand with weekly treatment. Needles, needles, and more needles! I am generally ok with needles, but having weekly blood tests and cannualas for the next 2 months is not going to be favourable for the health and well-being of my poor veins.

There are two options given to chemotherapy patients to assist in destroying the veins through treatment: a PICC Line, or Port-a-Cath.

  • A ‘PICC Line’ is a permanent cannula put into your upper arm. It’s not the most practical of options: you have to cover it when showering, and NO swimming. No thanks! Hello, it’s SUMMER.
  • A ‘Port-A-Cath’ is a small port implanted under your skin in your chest. It’s implanted under general anaesthesia – more day surgery *cringe*. The only major downfall is it can be visible under the skin and a small incision scar may remain. I’m actually not too bothered by these details. If it means not having to worry about needles for the rest of treatment, book me in.

As my usual oncologist is away, we need to wait for her to approve the change to my treatment regime. If she does, I should be booked in next week to have the Port implanted, then commence my weekly treatment next Thursday.

As the ward is small, most of the patients catch on pretty quickly to what’s going on with other patients. Two ladies, who had been there during my last treatment – when I also had a reaction – and also went red in the face, expressed their sympathy for my bad luck. “You went a little red in the face, again.”

This is my new nickname at the hospital. The girl with the red face.

Time to keep rollin’ with the punches. Relinquish control, accept the setbacks, and CRACK ON!

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