What is it like to get chemo?
If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked this...
I'd have a lot of dollars. What chemo actually is and how you actually "get it" seems so mysterious, right? I really didn't even know until I was sitting in the chair getting ready for Round 1!
First, let me stress that everyone's treatment plan and experience is different. This is solely based on my own plan and my own experience.
The first step, a few days before my first treatment, was to get a port placed. BreastCancer.org is a great resource and can tell you all about it here. It's a small disc looking thing that is surgically placed under the skin and allows the doctors to simply administer my chemo drugs and even draw blood so I don't have to get pricked every time I go in.
The surgery to place it was pretty simple. I went to the hospital and my breast surgeon quickly placed the port while I was under anesthesia. I was a little loopy for a few hours, but other than that, it was a really simple surgery. I was pretty sore for a couple of days and was given a prescription medication to manage my pain.
For me, a round of chemo consists of an infusion day, a hydration and check-up day the next day and then a 3 week break before beginning the next round.
An hour before my chemo appointment, I have one of my family members help me apply a prescription numbing cream to the skin over the port. By the time the nurse accesses the port, the area is completely numb so all I really feel is a little pressure. I'm a huge baby when it comes to needles so it's nice that this part isn't very scary.
The nurse takes my vitals, draws some blood from the port to make sure I'm doing well with my levels and gives me some fluids and Benadryl.
Getting Benadryl directly in my veins knocks me TF out and I usually sleep through the first few hours. It takes me about 7 hours (!!!CRAZY RIGHT?!) to finish the infusions of each chemo drug.
Throughout that time though, you can really do whatever you want. I'm lucky enough to have a huge support system of family and friends that rotate spending time with me throughout the day. I pass the time chatting with them, coloring, playing card games and monitoring my email in case anything urgent comes up with work. The rooms also have their own TVs for when boredom really strikes.
One good thing about infusion day is that you still have an appetite so I make sure to snack throughout the day. I also get extremely tired for the first few days immediately following my infusions and I'm not able to move around much. To make sure I'm not sitting for 7 hours straight, I try to get up once an hour to at least stand and chat with my family or do a quick lap around the floor. Getting all these fluids also makes you have to take lots of bathroom breaks, which guarantees I have to get up and get that blood flowing!
Once you're done with all the drugs, you're good to go home for the night. Since I go back the very next day, I keep the needle in my port. You can kinda see what that looks like in the picture below.
Keeping this in overnight makes the next day a lot more convenient. The downsides are sleeping that night is really tough and uncomfortable and I also can't shower... which means my fiance has to give me a sponge bath that night (something I'm sure he loves, lol!)
The next day, I meet with my oncologist to make sure everything is going well, then head upstairs for a quick bag of fluids.
And that my Titty Committee, is what it's like to get chemo. Have more questions for me? Starting chemo soon and you're nervous (don't be)? Let me know below. I'm here for you!