Date: May 20, 2024
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My first chemo infusion

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No surprise, but I don't think I slept a wink! I am sure it was a combination of nerves and the steroids that had my anxiety and mind racing faster than I even knew possible. The last time I looked at the clock was 4:30 am, my infusion started at 9 am so, it was a short night!

We arrived at the Cancer Center of Kansas and were led back to the infusion room. Since I am HER2+ I was seated in a separate room due to a shot that would need to be given in my leg before receiving my chemo. The nurses were amazing and explained everything from how the medicine would be administered, to what medications I would receive, and how long everything would take.

When they asked if I had questions I only had one, it was related to timing. Since I was trying to wear a cold cap I knew I needed to put it on 30 min before the actual chemo, once that was answered it was go time!

This would be the first time my port would be accessed and it was one for the books, or at least my books! Some people/patients feel their ports very easily, and some patient's ports are slightly visible under the skin, mine is neither. Don't get me wrong, I can feel mine, but you have to press down a little and you can't see the ridge, you have to feel for it. While this is amazing for healing, sleeping, and driving in a car with a seat belt on, when it comes to accessing it, that was going to take a few times, especially this first time.

The nurses brought in a regular length need to access my port and we would all quickly learn that it would not be long enough. After a few attempts by a couple of nurses, in a hot room, crunching through scar tissue, I was starting to feel that unmistakable fainting feeling and some nausea. My husband, bless him was telling me how tough I was that, "I was like Iron Man" and "You got this!" I quickly told him, "I do not have this" and said, "Let's Go!"

Wondering what to expect at a chemo infusion? I hope sharing about my first chemo infusion will help you be informed and feel more confident as you start your treatment journey.

No, I am not kidding, I was asking to leave. How I was going to get out of there I had no clue, but I was going to! My husband was watching the color drain from my face as another nurse came in and he decided to come to my side. The nurses brought ice packs, a fan, and a longer needle. My husband held ice packs to help cool me down and using the longer needle, the nurses successfully accessed my port. The nurses felt horrible, and I reassured them I didn't think it was their fault. These nurses are amazing and I fully trust every one of them. They had no way of knowing that my port was so deep and, as they would figure out in future appointments, my port had also settled at an angle.

Even though I had cooled down, I was still a little nauseous, I asked my husband for a ginger chew. Side note, ginger chews have been a lifesaver for me. I loved them before, but now in addition to my Quesy Drops, they are always with me. Anywho, as he dug through my bag he asked which color, a.k.a flavor and I said, "Whatever!" I was like, dude! I don't care what flavor I am trying to prevent losing my stomach. Looking back it was one of those moments that you have to laugh about.

After this, it was time to get the IV started and deliver my pre-meds. Since this was my first appointment I was given Benedryl and let me tell you, a few minutes later it was lights out! I am sure my body was exhausted between not sleeping, being anxious, the excitement from the moments before, and then the meds. I was ready for a good nap.

A short time later the nurses woke me up so they could administer the shot into my leg, Phesgo is the medicine's name. This would be my first time receiving the injection so it would take eight min for the nurses to administer the drug to me. Yes, you read that right, they had to administer while holding the syringe for eight minutes slowly to help reduce the pain from the drug. Oh, and they also had to help "move" the medicine down my leg with their other hand so that it would disperse and not just stay at the injection site. When I tell you that my hat is off to these nurses, I mean it!

The Phesgo was a surprise, like all of this, I had no idea what it would feel like and I was so sensitive due to the exhaustion of my body and just being a "first." I told the nurses it felt like stickers, you know the kind you find on the lawn when you are least expecting it, yeah, that is what it felt like on round one, stepping on stickers! Not fun, but thankfully I was quickly back asleep after the medicine was delivered and things were staying on schedule.

The remaining meds were my actual chemotherapy drugs. The nurses came in to have me verify my information and the chemo meds began. I slept through the entire thing and snored quite a bit, or so I am told! Then, as soon as those were completed it was time to go home. Almost four and a half hours later, I was relieved and ready to go home.

While no two cancer journeys are the same, I hope sharing will help bring peace to those who need it. When you, or a loved one, have to have chemotherapy it is scary. I hope that knowing a little about what I have gone through will help.

As soon as I walked into our house, I went straight to bed. After a few more hours, I woke up to eat a little food, but after about 30 min., I was ready for bed. The Benedryl was still making me super sleepy and I was going to take advantage of it as long as I could. The next day I woke and I think I was still a little off from the Benedryl. I felt warm, but I also had been sleeping for almost a day so I thought that was it. Then I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror, my face and neck were red, like completely flushed red, and were warm to the touch. I started to panic but then called my sister. She said it was probably Chemo face/rash. This is a common side effect, especially in the beginning. Another "first" that I would learn about on the fly.

I returned to CCK to receive my Nuelasta shot. The nurses asked how I was doing and I said good, but did talk through my redness with them. They also recommended that I take Claritin to help with things, especially the bone pain. No one knows why it works, but it does. I am sure someone somewhere knows why it works, but no one in my circle. Looking back, there was only one day I forgot to take my Claritin and I never did again. After my shot, we were off and my husband took me for a walk around Target to get out of the house before I would begin my weekend slumber.

This first round took me about a week to process and sleep off. I had high hopes that I would be back to work by Monday or Tuesday, but that didn't happen. I have learned so much as I have gone through all of this which is part of why I am writing and sharing what I am. One of the biggest things, I wish I had planned to take more time off, and not push myself as hard. You can always come back early, but it is a lot harder to take extra time if you are like me.

Again, I don't share my experience to scare but to help shed some light on what an infusion appointment is like. If I had not gone to one of my sister's infusions, I would have had so many questions and so much more anxiety. I hope my sharing my experience will allow others to be more mentally prepared because that is just as important as listening to your medical professionals!

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