No one Said Chemo Was Going to Be Easy
Being told you were having Chemo for six months was a bit of a shock. We thought it would only be for 12 weeks at the most. However, when we were told that intravenous chemotherapy would only be for two hours every three weeks, we both said, “That’s not too bad!” My sister had been at the hospital most of the day when she had her chemo treatment. And they were long days.
Thinking it would only be a couple of hours and we would be gone, was not really the case. The actual reality was a bit different.
We went into the hospital the day before and were taken through an “interview” process. We thought it was just going to be a few questions and the opportunity to ask anything we needed to. But it was a lot more than that.
Gordon and I ended up in a meeting room with another couple who were having treatment. Over the next 2 hours we were given a huge amount of information by a lovely nurse called Kim. It was wonderful to be able to ask questions and learn more about cancer and chemotherapy. IconCare who ran the sessions, were very good. We got a pack of information and lots of pamphlets, instructions and a range of different people who came in to talk to us.
Kym (the nurse), talked about the side effects of chemo in relation to the particular drug Gordon was on. The side effects could range from nausea, sensitivity to cold, losing his nails and losing his hair to affecting his ability to speak. Numbness and tingling in his extremities were common as was ‘chemo fog’. The ability to concentrate and remember things.
While we were sitting there, and Gordon was having treatment, a pharmacist came in and explained how chemo was actually produced. It was made up to order in the hospital and produced to the patient the next day. It was a rigorous process.
A dietician was also involved because of the likely chance of developing mouth ulcers and the need to eat soft foods. They also gave tips on how to encourage the actual act of eating, because apparently during treatment, you won’t feel like it. I’m going to look for some chemo cookbooks that might be available so that Gordon doesn’t end up with mashed potato each night!
It was an exhausting day, but worthwhile for the amount of information we got. However, it only reinforced what we had been saying from the beginning – this information should have been given to us the minute we were diagnosed, not 8 weeks later. As I write this, I am still trying to work out a way to get every doctor to have a brochure to give to their patients when they are diagnosed. Even if it just contained a list of resources, it would help. If anyone has any ideas about this, please let me know.
Actually Having Chemo Treatment
On the actual day of chemo, we were pretty relaxed. We didn’t have to be at the hospital until 3pm to see the dietician, so we had the day free. Which was nice.
When we got to IconCare, we were seen straight away. We were given a few different options for Gordon’s diet, and were given more handouts. At last we were getting information! It was a great relief not to have to trawl through websites that were irrelevant or not related to our journey.
At 4pm, we were taken into an open room where Gordon was given a reclining chair to sit in. Kim (from the previous day), was our nurse and she looked after us the whole time. She was so lovely! IconCare certainly did a good job of picking their nurses.
We had to wait for an hour before the actual chemotherapy as Gordon had to have anti nausea medication dripped through first. Kim had to insert a needle into Gordon’s Porta-Cath which would feed the medication and chemo straight to his heart. I asked him if it hurt and he said he no, so I was relieved to hear that.
After the hour was up, Kim came in with a black bag over the chemo pouch. Apparently it wasn’t allowed to be exposed to light. Maybe some savvy readers can explain why as I’ve been told a number of different stories.
We all sat their for the next 2 hours, talking as if we were just sitting around the dining table at home.
My sister dropped in to say hello and brought Gordon a little Australian Kookaburra. She said that when she was going through her cancer treatment and chemo, she found it helpful to have a soft toy to squeeze when things got too painful. It’s the little things that make you realise who the truly special people are in your life.
After the two hours were up, it was finished! Hurray! Because Gordon had been given steroids to help with the nausea, he was told that he would be feeling good for a few days after chemo. We were quite excited at that prospect as other people had bad side effects the minute they walked out of the treatment room.
When we did leave the room, Gordon said he was feeling squirmy in the tummy and his vision wasn’t clear.
It was difficult. We hoped that his symptoms were normal after chemo, but if you hadn’t lived it before, how would you know?
To read about the next few days after chemo, click here…