It’s quite surreal… first time in the chemo suite.
For years up to that point, I’d only poked my head in to say hello to the medical staff I already knew—never wanting to invade the privacy of the other patients—never daring to cross the threshold into that sacred space—never feeling worthy enough to set foot on such hallowed ground.
Yet here I was—worthy now, I hoped—ready or not for my first infusion.
I’ll spare you my multimedia description of the chemo suite. Suffice it to say that it’s pretty much exactly as you imagine it.
But there are many things I do feel compelled to share… because it wasn’t until I took my seat in one of those enormous “easy” chairs that I realized there were so many things to learn–some trivial, some not…
For one, you need to learn about the infusion itself…
- The interview questions you’ll be asked before each infusion and why they matter.
- What the poke will feel like. (By the way, no big deal).
- How long it would take (longer than expected)
- The saline flush before and after… and the weird taste that comes with it.
- The heparin push to prevent blood clots in the port and catheter.
- Falling asleep for the first part because an antihistamine (Benadryl) infusion is standard practice in order to prevent an allergic reaction to the chemo.
- The need to ice your hands and feet to minimize peripheral neuropathy (Don’t ignore this part).
- How the Neulasta OnPro Injector is installed and operated… and what it feels like.
For two, there’s the routine housekeeping stuff…
- Where’s the toilet?
- Where are the drinks and snacks?
- Is it okay to help yourself?
- Are you free to get up and wheel yourself around?
For three, all the stuff you need to know and do when you get back home…
- The extra tests you’re now responsible for scheduling and preparing for.
- When the Neulasta OnPro Injector will fire and how to dispose of it properly after it’s done pumping the next day.
- What symptoms to be on the lookout for. And what to do and who to call if there’s a problem. (I learned that there’s such a person as a triage nurse).
- When you might expect the onset of the nasty side effects that are pretty much guaranteed to occur.
And finally, the ongoing human interaction stuff…
- Getting to know the pharmacists, medical assistants, and nurses. And them getting to know you.
- Meeting the other patients (or not) and learning how to respect each other’s boundaries.
- What you are free to do on your own and what requires assistance or permission.
- Knowing when to ask for help.
- Learning to ask for help.
- Learning that it’s ok—and appreciated—when you’re a good helper, too.
- Knowing when it’s time to be serious, but also when it’s time to have some fun. Having fun. Yes, seriously, having fun! (not being facetious in the least)
2 thoughts on “A Cancer Journey: My Prostate Cancer, Part 7”
Frank, you are an awesome guide to this “underworld” that no one hopes to visit.
I went with another member of the old gang to visit our recently-diagnosed friend this afternoon. He started chemo on Saturday. He was a nurse before he retired, and so he had been in the chemo suite before, but on the “other side of the curtain.” We didn’t talk about that experience today, though. Instead we exchanged funny stories of the old days.
His wife wept briefly on my shoulder just before we left. I can’t imagine…
Thank you so much for sharing all that, Teresa.
Your most kind words of appreciation are powerful medicine for me as I wind down before bed.
And your being there for your friend and his wife is powerful medicine for them.
Thank you for not shying away from the heaviness of all this. May we all have the humanity to laugh together and cry together every day.