I wake up in the morning, and remember: today is chemo-day.... ugh... maybe I can grab a few more minutes of sleep....
When I have no time left, I get up and put anisthetic ointment on my port. If I don't, it will hurt when the nurse sticks me with the needle. Then I get ready quickly and we leave for the hospital, anxious about getting there on time. (We are always running "late.")
We usually have to search for parking. By the time we get there, even the handicapped spaces are often all full. It is too difficult for us to get out of the house earlier.
We arrive at the oncology day ward, and wait for our turn to check in. The waiting time varies dramatically, from zero to twenty minutes. It all depends on how many peope are in front of you.
You never know in advance what will be.
Once I am checked in, I go for a blood test. People like me, wait for their port to be "opened." Others wait for a heparin lock to be inserted into a vein in their arm or hand. Here too, we wait. The wait is usually between twenty minutes and an hour, but occasionally it takes longer. It is not uncommon to wait an hour and a half. Again, you never know in advance.
Once blood is drawn, we wait again, for the results (white/red blood cell count, kidney/liver functions, etc.). For some, this is a very stressful time, because only once they get the results, will they know if they will receive treatment. It is very stressful to be sent home with no treatment.
Thank God, my counts are usually good, so waiting is just a necessary inconvenience.
Once the blood work has been processed and confirmed, the nurses order the drugs to be prepared by the pharmacy. Again, all this involves waiting: waiting for the nurses to check the bloodwork; waiting for the pharmacy to prepare the prescription; etc. It can take the pharmacy up to several hours to prepare a prescription. Again, it all depends how much work they have on any given day.
We never know in advance.
Once the drugs are ready, we wait for them to be brought to the department. Then, we wait for someone who can administer the drugs to hook us up or give us the shot. When we receive more than one treatment, or additional preparations, we wait each time one of the IV bags needs to be switched.
Individual IV treatments can take anytime, from twenty minutes to several hours, depending on the type of treatment and the person receiving the treatment. (For example, I was sensitive to Herceptin, so it had to be administered slowly, taking 3 to 3 1/2 hours, instead of the "normal" hour and a half.)
When we are finally done with all our treatments, the entrance to the vein (via port or whatever) is washed with saline and heparin, to prevent clotting. Of course, there is often a wait for that as well.
Then, the needle is removed, the needle mark is covered with gauze and tape, and we are done.
The waiting is over; we can go.
Overall time: 3-5 hours on a "good" day.
Some chemo days last 5-7 hours.
I never know how long I will have to be there.
I do not plan anything on days that I need to be at the hospital. I certainly do not need any additional, and unnecessary, pressure.
Just waiting all that time can cause stress and anxiety.
Not for me. I fill my time with good company and good conversation (and, if I'm lucky, a massage).
On chemo days, I clear my calendar, and make a date with a friend, for "coffee and chemo."
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,