The day began well. I had tons of energy on my walk with Kevin. Although it was dark and rainy, I needed this walk to get my game face on. I was feeling very positive, likely as a result of the good new from yesterday. We didn’t have to be at the hospital until 8:45, so there was lots of time.
I packed my computer, my books, and my health journal. I also packed some cheese and crackers thinking that would be a good snack for this six hour chemo. By 8:15, Kevin and I were off. Kevin dropped me off to park the car and I walked confidently into the chemo suite to register.
“Is it busy today?” I inquired of the receptionist.
“Is was nuts this morning, but it has since died down.” she replied.
I was tagged and invited to sit in the waiting room where I would be called to my chair. Yes, I chuckled at that one under my breath. Moments later Kevin arrived. Moments after that I was invited in.
It was chair 22 this time – in a more open area where two nurses serviced six clients. No one in that area was on their first chemo. This was the “pro” section.
“No reactions to the last medications, Stacey?
“None.” I happily replied.
“How are you feeling?” asked the nurse.
“Great. I feel great. I had no nausea last time, but I have had a head-ache.”
“Okay, well let’s get you ready to go then. First a saline flush, followed by Benadryl and then your Tamoxifen.”
“Let’s do it! ” I said with a jump in my voice. I was ready.
I heard over-head a variety of other statements my fellow poison – consumers were making to other nurses. And relaxed, I was entertained by them. “I have chemo brain. Thanks for dropping in. Why is the sky blue? My legs are restless. Everybody’s different. Should we wear gloves when we clean the toilet? It will be in your system for 72 hours. Your stools will be different at first. This drug is like a vitamin rescue. Will I feel anything? I am a pic line virgin.” I chuckled and thought, “this will make good fodder for today’s blog.”. I was ready to be hooked up so that I could get out the computer and begin.
But that was not to be because five minutes into the Tamoxifen, things went terribly wrong. I began to feel ill. It started in my stomach and then the heat progress to my face. It took less than five seconds. I thought my face was going to explode. “Excuse me.” I interrupted the nurse. “I think I am having a reaction.”
“Oh, yes you most certainly are.” affirmed the nurse who had not left my side, just in case. “Okay Stacey, we are going to stop your chemo and give you another dose of Benadryl. It will work quickly and you will feel better as quickly as you felt the reaction. Can you breathe? Just take deep breaths.”
“Fuck!” I said in my indoor voice. “Okay.” I breathed in my outdoor voice. I had never felt like that before. I was terrified. I quickly turned to my “I am in child labour” rhythmic breath in and breath out. I focused on my breathing. I still think that’s a ploy to get to distracted – but it worked and although it seemed like hours, it was likely only minutes that the explosions in my face began to subside.
“I’m going to give you another dose of steroid that is a longer lasting one. You won’t likely sleep tonight, though. Are you okay with that?” the nurse inquired of me.
I looked at Kevin whose face told it all. He was watching intently to what was happening. I knew this look. It meant I am being brave, but what is going on?
“That’s find. Inject away.” I said in my outside voice. “Just please don’t stop the chemo.” I begged inside my head.”
“We will delay your chemo until I speak with the doctor. We will either stop or proceed with the chemo. I have to wait until then. Are you okay? Your face looks better.”
“Yes. I feel much better. Almost normal – other than the panic. I think my blood pressure is way up due to the anxiety.” I explained.
The nurse took my blood pressure. Yup. Elevated. But that was to be expected. Over the next ten minutes or so while the steroid was being administered, my blood pressure lowered.
“The doctor said to re-start the chemo, but drop the speed. Are you okay to try that? I’ll be here.” queried the nurse.
“Let’s do it!” I said. “I know you can help if that happens again.”
And away we went. I watched the clock. At the five minute mark, I felt a slight heart palpitation and increase in heart rate, but then, it left. The drugs had worked.”
Eight hours later, Kevin and I were in the car coming home. And this was to be my time allotment from then on as the next chemo would be slower and there would be additional drugs administered before the chemo.
“Kevin, I am so grateful that you were there today. I was so scared.” I announced to Kevin.
“I’m glad I was there for you, Stacey.” he replied.
And we drove home in silence.
I had a shower to wash off the hospital smell and to try to get rid of my head-ache with comes after, what the had explained, an anaphylactic reaction – similar to a bee sting. “Your body had had the poison before and didn’t like it. So this time, there was anticipation and it wanted to FIGHT. You will likely have this reaction again – but we will be ready. You need to have some Benadryl at home, just in case.” I recalled the nurse saying to us.
Bed has never felt so good. Indeed, post chematic stress disorder kicked in. This second chemo was definitely more of a challenge. But what better place to be than in a hospital was caring and attentive nurses by your side? The good news is, I know the chemo is worked and I CAN continue my regime. I WILL beat this disease – even if it kills me! Well, maybe not the right choice of words, but you get my drift.