Sunday, July 24, 2016

CHEMO Part 2

Okay, here we are back at Penrose Hospital for the promised second half of the Chemo saga.

Patients - the Good, (there are no Bad), and the Interesting.

Here are just a few of the courageous people I have shared a session with.

The Sports Writer - On permanent maintenance (every month for like forever). Cool guy, good attitude, no hair.

Lamenting Lady - Overheard talking on the phone. Has already run through her life savings and yet can laugh about it. Chemo is crazy expensive. Sweet lady.

Super Lamenting Guy- Cannot hold down food. Is at his wits end. Unfortunately, this is a common story in the ward. Chemo can make you nauseous. You're just not hungry. Still, he keeps coming back. Folks can be so brave.

The Staff - Angels all

These ladies started me off by telling me they have saved far more patients then they have lost to cancer. I didn't know it at the time but I needed to hear that.

Angel 1 - We have a friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) feud going. I took a tutorial on how to disconnect the take-home device and, if I say so myself, am good at it. She gave me hell when she learned that another staff member taught me this arcane skill - wanted to know the name of the offending nurse. I refused to give it. I also told her "you're wrong" when she gave me the process for turning off the delivery device. I wish I hadn't done that.

Doctor - Cool guy, soft spoken. Love him.

Advisors, receptionists, schedulers - Sooooo nice to me. I'm pretty sure it's just me because I am such a cool fellow.

Side Effects of Chemo

First of all, I came home from the hospital on my first day with literature outlining about 50 side effects. Thankfully, I have not experienced most of these. Here are few I did.

Cold Sensitivity - A common one. I cannot, during my home delivery 46 hours, and for several days after, touch even moderately cold things. They burn my fingertips. Of course, I experimented with this weirdie. Touched a buttload of stuff in my refrigerator and freezer. Sure enough, got burned.

Hair loss - Being already somewhat bald, I had little to lose. I still have most of my now white hair but I have noticed more hair than usual in my towel after a shower. Oh well.

Nausea - I get this and am treating it with traditional and non-tradition means. Wink Wink.

Feeling Weak and Puny - This one I get a lot. Remedies - exercise as much as I can and then nap.

There  are a few others: headache, backache, and the jitters. But you know what? I still think I'm a pretty luck guy. I have the best wife and some very killer friends.

I'm doing okay. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

CHEMO - Part 1

Okay, folks. I promised to blog with an eye toward sharing what I learned along the colon cancer trail. I, regretfully, have fallen way short. However, here I am with some insight into chemotherapy. This will be the first part -the part where I show off my knowledge of devices and chemicals. The second part will talk about my personal experiences.

Chemicals - Folfox
- Folfox is actually 3 chemicals, sort of specialized for colon and a few related cancers.

FOL- Folinic Acid
F - Fluorouracil
OX - Oxaliplatin

These are administered at different times for maximum effect, since they all do slightly different things. The Oxaliplatin comes first because it enhances the other two.

Hospital Regimen - OX, The Heart Port, and the Big Push

A typical chemo day has me arriving at the cancer ward of Penrose Hospital in mid-morning. I am led to a very comfy reclining chair.

and I introduce myself to the other folks in chairs (they are not there on a research project; they are there to receive chemo as well). I am introduced to the OX part of the chemo. This and some steroids and a final push (Hypo of 7.1 milliliters of F and Fol, the other two components of the trio, takes about two and a half hours. All of this goop is administered by a heart port (yes, into my very own heart).

This little device is under my skin up around my collar bone on the right side. A tube from the port runs under my ribs and into the bottom of my heart. Thus, when chemo is administered, it is my very own heart that is pumping the stuff into my cells.

Home again, Home again Jiggedy Jig - Chemo Fanny pack

At this stage, I go on home but not alone.  I take with me 105 milliliters of F and Fol and a compact device to deliver same and a fanny pack to carry with me. This process will take 46 hours ( 2.28 ml per hour) because the device only administers 1 microliter every 75 seconds or so. Now wrap your head around how miniscule this is. A milliliter is basically the amount of liquid found in a human tear. A microliter is one thousandth of that. Tiny huh?

Back to the Cancer Ward.

46 hours later my device signals me (an alarm) that it is empty. I turn off the  device and return to the cancer ward and the flexible needle that has been stuck into my port all this time is removed.

I am free.

For two weeks.

I'll do this process 9 more times.

Welcome to my world. It's not so bad.