It’s been over 24 hours since my first chemo so sorry for not letting folk know sooner how things went – I’m sure you’ll let me off 😉. Thank you for all the well wishes, it’s been overwhelming and is just fuelling my positivity even more ✊🏻.
Yesterday was my first session. I’d had a good sleep the night before, Will and I got the kids to nursery and went straight to Bexley Wing at St James’ Hospital, Leeds for 9am.
Outpatients Day Case Unit
The day case unit in the Oncology department is where all chemotherapy treatment is given. There are over 20 bays with about 8 comfy chairs in each and extra chairs for visitors. I had visions of a miserable Breaking Bad scenario of chairs squeezed in like sardines and people virtually sitting on top of each other, but there was no one in my bay when I arrived and only at 11am did an elderly gent join me two seats down. It felt very spacious, light, calm and overall it was a very relaxing environment given the circumstance of the patients being treated 😊.
I was introduced to my nurse – Sara Goodbody – who was there to prep me for administering the cancer drugs by hand. For my first 3 sessions of chemo (which will be 3 weeks apart) I will be having two drugs separately called – EC or Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide. The dosage is based on your BMI – which I was pleasantly surprised to learn I was within normal limits due to my height – upper normal – but I’ll take that! 🤣
Staff Nurse: Sara Goodbody – she was amazing. We had a great chat and she explained fully what was going on clearly but without patronising and was incredibly warm natured and approachable 😊.
Chemo process step by step:
- Consent: First up was the consent form which couldn’t be found for some reasonable at first and then was stapled to the back of another form. By the time it was found Will had already driven home for our copy and returned. Oh well! Chemo cannot be administered without it as it’s the authorisation from my consultant and myself in the presence of each other.
- Prepping the veins: First I bathed my hands in hot water for a few minutes. This was to make my veins expand and pop out so they could easily be seen and accessed. What they are looking for is a good long straight vein so the cannula can go in much easier.
- Inserting the cannula: I’ve been used to being prodded and poked with a cannula having gone through surgery. From what I had heard/read this can become problematic as your chemo sessions progress as your veins can collapse and become weakened due to the drugs. Luckily for me this wasn’t a problem this time and the cannula went in fine, nor did I have any pain or discomfort throughout the administering of the drugs which was brill.
- Anti-sickness drug – I was given a 48hr lasting anti-sickness tablet next.
- Administering the drugs: at first a saline fluid drip was flushed through my cannula. It was incredibly cold as it went up my arm and was a very strange sensation. The saline is to ensure the drug is suitably diluted – both are administered simultaneously and Sara constantly checked the levels of saline dripping and very slowly plunged the large syringes of chemo drugs into the second opening in the cannula. If the saline isn’t dripping it’s a sign that things might be leaking at the cannula site. I also had a heated pad over my cannula arm to ensure my veins kept nicely warm and expanded.
- The cannula drugs:
- A steroid drug called Dexamethazone for anti sickness. Sara explained that some people get a “prickly bottom” when this drug is administered (!!???). Apparently this drug can react to the nerve endings in your bottom and cause a ‘pins and needles’ effect. SO WEIRD. Just when I thought the side-effects couldn’t get any weirder! Luckily today wasn’t my day for a prickly bottom 😳.
- 3 x syringes of Epirubicin. This is a bright red drug and can cause tissue damage if it leaks at the site or administered incorrectly. Sara warned me that if I feel any pain to let her know. I didn’t so all was good. I popped to the loo before the next drug and luckily she shouted to me at the last minute to remind me that my urine would also be bright red. Sounds obvious – but glad she forwarned me!
- 2 x syringes of Cyclophosphamide. This was a clear drug and I was again warned of possible temporary nose blocking and ‘pins and needle’ sensations in the nasal passage. I got these! Very perculiar but it passed quickly afterwards.
- The end – after the drugs had been administered my cannula was taken out and I was given: 2 lots of anti-sickness/side-effect drugs; gel for my cannula arm to help with any pain or bruising and antiseptic mouthwash to go home with. I was reminded of the 24/7 telephone numbers to call if my temperature starts to get high or if I have any queries or concerns. I received an appointment card which showed the date/time for my next session and then I was gone. You also receive free parking at the hospital if you’re undergoing chemotherapy which is a nice gesture 😃.
I’ve decided to complete a chemo diary – in a similar fashion to my boob diary. It’s a page rather than a post as it’s a repeating theme about the same topic – rather than a one-off post. The main reason for this is so that I can complete a log of all the things I want to keep a close eye. By recording numbers and taking honest photos it will record whatever effects take hold. So take a look here if interested. Here’s what I’ll be monitoring:
- Temperature – a classic sign of infection if raised. I have to call the hospital immediately if it raises to 37.5
- Weight – 70% of people put on weight with chemo. The anti- sickness/side effect drugs usually contain a steroid and they can trick the brain into thinking you’re hungry when you’re not. Mr Turton gave me this tip beforehand because his patients are normally (and understandably) less body confident because of their hair-loss and change in appearance after chemo . What you don’t want is to feel like this at the end of chemo and be 2 stone heavier as well! I still haven’t lost my baby weight (not that I’ve been trying) and have put on more weight since surgery as I’ve been eating the same but doing no exercise. So I’m not in a great place with my weight and not at a good starting point. My aim is to maintain my body weight throughout the chemo. I’ll allow myself a few pounds leeway but no more. I’m using My Fitness Pal which I’ve used before to loose weight so I’m familiar with the App and it does work a treat 👍🏻.
- Facial appearance – your face can become quite ravaged from chemo – and there definitely is a ‘chemo’ look which without being disrespectful to those suffering, you’ll all be familiar with. Your skin is usually not at its best due to all the good cells being destroyed. You can look gaunt, ill, pale and the rest! Saying that I’ve heard accounts of people’s skin looking amazing!! So I am interested in seeing the effects on my face. Of course my hair will have fallen out in a few weeks so that in itself will have an interesting impact on my face so let’s see how it develops 😬.
- Side-effects – as previously mentioned in my ‘chemo prep‘ blog it’s a list WAY longer than your arms! So I need to log whatever’s thrown at me.
Chemo prep kit
I’m sure this will grow but here’s my lil prep kit at the moment for keeping myself infection free and healthy 👍. I’m also looking closely into nutrition and what food I need to crank up to help my health and diet.
Let’s see how it goes 🤞.
Liz Spice, 15th August 2017