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Friday, February 19, 2010

A Day In The Life....

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,


Baila said...

I remember that routine well, more from my daughter's illness than my own. What was so scary the first time became almost (but not quite) routine. Of course it was an experience we would rather not have had, but the people we developed relationships with--both the professionals and patients--enriched us greatly.

I know how hard it is, but you're amazing for always trying to make the best of a crummy experience.

shabbat shalom.

Ilana said...

You fill your time with mending too!

RivkA with a capital A said...

Baila -- this post was not meant as a complaint, but rather as a description.

Square Peg -- Thanks for remembering! I almost forgot.

I stopped mending, when I received Taxotere and had to keep my hands in ice-gloves.

I have not really gotten back into it, since I am only at the hospital for a short time when I have doctor's appointments (every three weeks).

I am only at the hosptial once a month for actual treatments. Even then, I am always moving about, so I don't really get settled enough to take out my mending.

The last few times I went, I actually brought my mending, but I did not get a chance to accomplish much. I would like to get back into it. I felt so efficient

michele said...

What a long tiring day. I had no idea.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...I didn't really understand what a chemo treatment was like either. I really appreciate your sharing this and giving me a better understanding of what you, and so many, are facing.


HolyCityPrayer said...

where do we sign up to be on the waiting list to be your C&C date?

RivkA with a capital A said...

Michele -- it really is tiring! that said, it's not a bad day. between the friends that come with me and the friends I have at the hospital, it can even be fun!

Rivster -- thanks. that's why I wrote the post.

HolyCityPrayer -- it's pretty easy, just call or email me. when I was doing chemo every week, I had dates planned months in advance. But now that I'm really only there for a "full day" (as opposed to just a dr.'s appt.) once a month, I don't always remember to make a date. Besides, I have three friends who get regular treatments on the same day, so I always have someone with whom to hang out.