Today I arrived at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Lab at 8:00am. Originally, I was scheduled for 7:30am but received a call on Sunday evening that my oncologist had a family emergency and would not in the office today so they moved the lab appointment to 8:00am.
Instead of searching for a vein in my arm or hand for an IV needle, the lab technical used my newly implanted IV infusion port above my left breast. The area around the port was still sensitive from the surgery only four days earlier. So the needle insertion was more painful than I expected, but the pain went away after a few minutes. The needle and about 6 inches of tubing will remain attached for the rest of the week. The lab technician first took blood samples. Later it will be used to deliver chemotherapy and other drugs.
Next, Mary and I were off to the Chemo Infusion Suite where I checked in and would need to wait about an hour before the lab results were back. Apparently, if the blood test shows any out of range levels they would postpone the chemotherapy treatment. While I was getting blood drawn, my brother Dave called and, since I “couldn’t come to the phone” I let it go to voice mail. I returned Dave’s call from the waiting room. Next we meet with the oncology fellow who is working with my oncologist. He explained what would be happening today and had 6 prescriptions to deal with the side effects of the chemotherapy. Four to be taken a prescribed times during the next 6 days and two to be taken as needed in case the others don’t work as expected;)
Around 9:30am or so they called me back to the treatment room – yes individual rooms with a nice recliner chair for me plus another comfortable chair for Mary, and a TV. Some rooms have beds for the patients. Andrea was my nurse today – she’s wonderful. She explained everything that was going to happen and got me hooked my IV to initial drugs – no chemo drugs yet. First drugs are to eliminate/reduce side effects (fun things like nausea, etc.). Andrea also asked how the IV port was feeling and I told her that it was sore when they inserted the needle. She suggested getting another prescription to help with in the future so she email the oncologist office. They agreed and now I have seven prescriptions to take home.
While that was happening, we watched a DVD created by Vanderbilt explaining their services; giving suggestions for dealing with potential side effects; and things to pay attention to. Mary had fixed a snack mixture of several nuts, craisins (cranberry raisins), blueberry raisins, etc. so we (mostly me) started snacking as we watched the “movie.”
Next, I was ready for the first chemo drug. Some people have a reaction to first infusion of this drug so Andrea monitored me closely for the first several minutes. Fortunately, I tolerated the drug just fine so we sat back and relaxed. I watched TV, but not much of a selection at 11:00am. So I listen to a book on tape and Mary got some work done. Around noon Mary left on a mission – take the prescriptions to the clinic pharmacy on the first floor and find some food.
Early afternoon, the first chemo drug was all in, so it was time for the second one. I’m still feeling fine. With all the fluids, I made several trips to the bathroom pushing my IV pole. I received two chem drugs in the clinic today. A third chemo drug would be administered through a portable IV pump strapped to my waist in a fanny pack. It is fortunate that I can receive this third chemo drug at home because is take 96 hours (that’s 4 day for the mathematically challenged). Mid-afternoon, Rita arrived to train us (actually to train Mary) on the use of the portable IV pump, dispose of the hazardous material (you know the chemo drugs), and how to remove the needle from my chest on Friday. I sure am glad that Mary is at my side during this adventure. Among other talents she’s a registered nurse so has much experience and knowledge about needles, drugs, side effects, etc.
We finished the second chemo drug and Andrea had one final solution to administer. Well, we were on track to finish that around 4:00pm, but the portable pump and third chemo drug had not yet arrived. So Andrea slowed down the deliver so we could move from one drug to the next to keep the lines from clogging (or something like that).
Sometime after 5:15pm the portable pump arrived and Mary hooked me up (with Rita’s guidance). More instructions now that we had an actual pump with buttons and display panel to push and read. Then we packed up, said our good-byes, and left the clinic around 6:00pm.
We were home just after 6:30pm and Mary’s Mom, Lois, had chicken and dumplings waiting for us. My Mom, Mary, joined us for dinner and we retold the events of the day. It’s great to have a loving, supportive family.
There are more photos from today’s experience on the “Photo” page. Just click here or click on the “Photos” button at the top of the page.
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers, Dick