Round 1 (ok so I'll talk about it a little) there were a bunch of women in the room that came in, got hooked up to the IV, put their feet up on the recliner, took a snooze, finished up and left. These poor women had to hear whining, complaining Round 1 me. By Round 2, I was one of those women.
The visit starts with a chat with the nurse practitioner. She reviews the side affects I had last time and the duration. I was happy to say that I was off of any anti-nausea meds a week later and basically resumed normal life. Side affects also include constipation and diarrhea which I was able to manage as well. Other than the allergic reaction to a change in laundry detergent that took over my life, I was fine.
There are two blood tests that are taken in between rounds. The first one is taken 10 days after treatment to measure red and white blood counts and platelets. At this point, they should be the lowest they are going to get and then build up. The next blood test is the Friday before the next treatment (or the day for some patients) that makes sure the blood cell counts have come back up. If they haven't, the next round of chemo is delayed until they do.
For me, the ca125 levels are also checked. While there is no test or screening for ovarian cancer (that's a problem isn't it?) ca125 can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. It can also detect a bunch of different things, you can look it up and have someone smarter than me explain it. Anyway, my ca125 level was 36 which is a bit above "normal" but the number can soar into the thousands. Our goal was to get that number into the single digits.
When the NP got to my blood results she said the blood counts were all right where they should be but the ca125...(my heart stopped right here) had decrease 4 fold from 36 to 9! (My heart soared right here) SINGLE DIGITS BABY! As my NP pointed out, it is not only great that the number went down, but it proves that the chemo was necessary and the right choice. Perhaps someday I'll write about the great chemo debate, but it was a big one and I can't believe that the decision has been affirmed so quickly.
So I walked into the chemo room, got my chair in the corner, got my port hooked up, took a snooze, talked to my mom and Mike and left by 2pm. I like to say I had a port installed in my chest for chemo. Apparently "installed" is the wrong word but its the one I use. A port is "a small round metal or plastic disc is placed under your skin through an inch-or-two-long incision. This may be located on your upper chest or occasionally your upper arm. This port is then attached to a catheter tube that is threaded into one of the large veins near your neck, such as the subclavian vein or jugular vein, and ends near the top of your heart." Source
They start with IV fluids, including steroids and benadryl to prevent allergic reactions. This part is usually nap time as the room starts spinning and my words tend to slur. After that there is a machine that gets attached to the IV pole that regulates the chemo. I have taxol and carbo combination. The taxol take about 3 hours to administer, the carbo takes about 30 minutes. There are two nurses that are specifically assigned to the chemo room and they monitor the administration, change the speed and deal with any surprises. They teach us all about the medicines and what we can expect. We all chat throughout the day and its a pretty nice atmosphere to be kicking cancer's ass.
After that, we went home, ate, slept, ate, slept some more. I gotta to tell you, it was fun to wake up and remind myself that I am in the single digits and that this is actually working!