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Early May 2014: Chemo Prep and Getting My Port

ejourneys's picture

T Minus 4 Days to Chemo (copied from blog entry dated May 4, 2014)

Did a bit of yard work -- perhaps the last yard work I'll do for a while (whatever that will mean).

My list of phone calls to make for tomorrow includes:

1. The pharmacy for the anti-nausea meds, to get their tracking number and reconfirm that the meds will be sent to the cancer center directly rather than to my home, since I am having surgery on the day of delivery.

2. The cancer center, to (a) give them a heads-up about the package delivery; (b) give them the PET scan authorization number for their billing; (c) get more info on when to take Claritin and Tylenol on the day of chemo (before chemo? During? After? Does it matter?) as a side effect preventative*; and (d) ask about L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps with body rebuilding. A friend had used it during her chemo and recommended it, but one of our reference books says it can be hard on kidneys.

* Claritin and Tylenol are taken on the day of chemo plus 4-5 days afterward to mitigate the effects of the Neulasta shot I'll be given the day after chemo. The shot is meant to help my body rebuild, but it causes bone marrow to work overtime, creating pain.

3. Call the mechanic to tell him about the car leak and to detail our car needs.

4. Call the dentist to reschedule M's cleaning, which falls on the same day as chemo. I had left a message on Friday.

5. Call the taxi company I'm using on Tuesday for surgery, to let them know when I need to be at the hospital. I won't know that until the hospital calls and tells me on Monday.

I now have my "Chemo Calendar" posted above my desk, along with the word "Crossing" in a red circle with a big red slash through it. Instructions from the cancer center say to not cross my legs while under chemo, so starting today I am working to break that habit. Here's why. I will also need to get up at regular intervals and do some movement.

Setting alarms to eat and drink if I lose my appetite is another strategy, along with eating small amounts at a time and frequently, according to this strategy. On the other hand, appetite can also increase, as described in this video. Nothing is clear-cut, so I'm trying to prepare for as many contingencies as I can.

I actually made my first smoothie this morning (since smoothies are recommended): 8 oz. of plain Greek yogurt, a banana, 3 Tbsp. honey, and a half-cup of water. I can get used to this. :-)

After reading this list of things to bring to chemo and this follow-up, I have my chemo bag partially packed, with pillow, hoodie, slipper socks, MP3 player, eReader, journal, pillow, hand lotion, lip balm, and hand sanitizer (some of these already live in my fanny pack). A warm hat and easy-to-manage food are also on the list. I already have a blanket in the car (one can get cold during chemo) and will need to pack a second blanket for M.

I have a reminder to myself to wear a front-buttoning shirt to surgery on Tuesday and also to chemo on Thursday, to enable access to my port.

More as I think of it. :-)

Port of Call (copied from blog entry dated May 6, 2014)

Yesterday I had called same-day surgery before they had finalized their schedule, but they never called back. Fortunately, I eventually got the info from Bed Control and could call my cabbie to tell him when to pick us up.

It meant that I grabbed my phone off the hook before the answering machine did. Two calls came in while I waited, the first from a person and the second from a robot, both claiming to be Microsoft. An after-hours call to tell me they'd found a problem on my computer? Nuh-uh. Before the live person could get another word in edgewise, I informed him that I was waiting for a call from the hospital, said, "Thanks for trying," and hung up. Some minutes later the robocall came in and I just hung up on that one.

Then, to be sure, I signed on at the Microsoft website and chatted with one of their techs, who confirmed for me that Microsoft doesn't do that sort of thing. Then I resumed waiting by the phone until I got fed up, called, and learned that same-day surgery had gone home. Thank goodness for Bed Control.

Yesterday morning I had called the pharmacy that's sending my anti-nausea meds. They couldn't give me a tracking number because they hadn't sent anything out yet, but they did confirm that they're sending the meds directly to the cancer center. I then called the cancer center, which already knew the meds were coming. I also had a couple of questions for the chemo nurse, who told me that (a) I can take Tylenol and Claritin at any time on the day of chemo, and (b) taking L-glutamine is not recommended because it can interfere with chemo, at least my version of it.

I also changed M's dental appointment, which had conflicted with my first chemo infusion.

This morning my chemo port was put in. Got home, had a smoothie, took a four-hour nap, and am now working on getting enough calories into my system. Supporting my head with one hand as I lie down and get up helps alleviate a lot of discomfort. My neck is sore, but not enough for painkillers. I've eaten chewable food, but anything that uses my neck muscles is a bit of a challenge right now.

M did very well at the hospital. She brought her own food and a book with her, and also had a meal at the hospital cafeteria (whose foods she likes; she raved about their chicken entree).

Believe it or not, I didn't start making smoothies until a couple of days ago: 8 oz. plain Greek yogurt, half-cup of water, 1 banana, 3 tbsp. honey, all kinds of awesome. I am reminding myself to enjoy the taste of food while I still can.

I've got a water bottle (wide-mouthed with a cap) and protein powder by my bed, for those times if/when I don't feel like getting up once chemo starts. I've also salted basins at strategic points throughout the house, just in case.

I've prepared a squeeze bottle of lemon juice, since someone on the What Next forums said it helps with drinking. While getting chemo, I need to aim to down at least 10 glasses of water a day, and chemo can make water taste icky. Another member said that it's good to start that water consumption the day before chemo, so I'll start ramping up my kidneys tomorrow. :-)

Here are some recent arrivals:

These pillows attach to seat belts. The one on the left was given to me by the cancer center. I ordered the one on the right from Hello Courage, run by Denise McCroskey. She writes a great breast cancer blog that I found when I was reading up on ports.

I expect to lose my hair during chemo. I ordered the cap on the left from Hello Courage and the cap on the right from TLC, run by the American Cancer Society. Skin becomes very sensitive during chemo; the caps are manufactured to help protect the scalp. (TLC also has more colorful products. I like this model of cap, which comes in monotone.)

For the non-squeamish: I took a chemo port selfie here. I feel like Frankenstein's monster but without the neck bling.

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