Posted 3/8/2018 1:36 PM (GMT -6)
I can remember even as a little kid hearing or seeing on television about people having chemotherapy and it seems it was always presented a very scary thing to fear. The truth is, the idea scared me worse than my surgery, radiation, and ADT had. Reading the stories of others here and the generous encouragement I’ve received through email from some of these Healing Well guys really comforted me. I’m hoping that posting a diary of my experience will pay this forward to future guys who face starting Taxotere.
Quick background. I’m scheduled for four infusions of Taxotere as elective, adjuvant therapy for my initial treatment for prostate cancer. To make it just a bit more challenging, I decided to get it a bit far away from home. Despite the travel requirement, this was what I felt was best for me because I feel very comfortable with the doctor and staff I’m working with at a smaller, more personalized medicine-type clinic.
Tuesday, March 6th (The night before)
After working on Tuesday, my wife and I hopped on a plane and landed at LAX late that night. I drastically changed my diet when I was diagnosed and haven’t eaten red meat or French fries in about a year and a half. Aside from the combo pizza at Costco, In-N-Out Burger is one of the things I’ve definitely missed. I decided the start of chemo deserved a treat so an In-N-Out cheeseburger and French fries were much enjoyed before checking into the hotel for the night. It won’t be a habit, and I blame Cyclone_ISU for giving me the idea in his write up about going to his favorite eatery for a treat on his infusion days!
Day 1 (1st infusion). Wednesday March 7th.
Much ado about nothing. Really, fearing infusion day was a waste of worry. I got to the office and reclined on a very comfortable chair. Getting the IV needle put in is never really pleasant but that was the extent of anything remotely painful and even that is fairly painless. Next came IV infusions of about 45 minutes of pre-chemo drugs – a steroid, an antacid, Benadryl, and an anti-nausea medication. A little drowsiness came from the Benadryl but it didn’t last long. After a trip to the bathroom (drinking water like a fish thanks to recommendations from Cyclone), the nurse brought out a cup of ice cubes, two Elasta-Gel hand mittens and two Elasta-Gel frozen booties for my feet. I put them on, grabbed an ice cube for my mouth and the one hour infusion of the Taxotere began. The frozen booties stayed on the entire time, but I had to take my fingers out of the mittens for a couple of minutes every ten minutes or so to warm them up a bit as they really got uncomfortably cold. Two things I learned here – 1. The Elasta-Gel products stayed very cold for the entire one-hour infusion, they didn’t need to get replaced due to warm up as I’ve read others had experienced with some ice mitts. 2. Worries of boredom in the chair weren’t needed. Having to replenish the ice cubes for your mouth, taking your hands in and out of the gloves, a couple minutes of closing your eyes, and the time blew by quickly.
When the Taxotere bag was empty, the nurse brought out a Neulasta on body auto injector. I’ve seen all the commercials where they show it on people’s upper arm so I was a bit surprised when the nurse told me that it was going on my stomach. She said that putting it on the stomach is better so that I can see it easier. You have to check the blinking light on it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t turn from green to red because red indicates a problem. Anyway, she stuck it on and in a couple of minutes it activated with a loud click which made me jump (sounded much like the prostate biopsy needle click) but unlike a biopsy needle for me, it was painless. The nurse explained that the needle is inserted at activation and remains in until after the drug is auto administered at a later time so I don’t have to worry about a needle prick later. After this, I was all set. Met with the doctor, got all my follow up instructions and out the door. Appointment started at 8:30, done about 11:45. My plane back home boarded at 2:30 so we had time to grab lunch at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos (another, much healthier fare favorite) before heading to the airport.
A couple of notes on the Neulasta on body auto injector. If you get it on your stomach as I did, take seat belts into consideration when the nurse is placing it. Next time, I will ask that it be placed a little higher because the seat belt in the car and on the plane bumped up against it. If you are flying, going through the TSA checkpoint with a liquid filled, electronic device with a flashing LED light strapped to your stomach gets their attention. Luckily, the TSA guys were very professional and understanding when you mention chemo. I did have to lift up my shirt and get my hands swabbed for bomb residue but it was fairly quick and a minuscule hassle.
Day 2 (Thursday, March 8th)
I had already taken today off work as I wasn’t sure what to expect. I slept in a bit but woke up feeling good. I went out and fired up my snow blower and cleared my driveway and sidewalks of a big snow from last night to remind myself that the tiny taste of 70 degree weather I experienced in LA is a long way away from us here in Cleveland. After posting this, I’m going to go to the gym to work out since as I’m still feeling good. I’m just a bit nervous about what happens when the Neulasta unit works it magic tonight about 5 PM, and as I understand it, the ugly chemo crash days are looking over my shoulder so I’m going to enjoy this good day while I can.