Chemotherapy Journal

By Jonathan Timar
Chemotherapy IV
Chemotherapy IV

When I visited the BC Cancer Agency last week for my “chemo teach” session, I was given a very nice paper journal which I took as an indication that journaling was a popular and encouraged activity during chemotherapy treatment.

Well, I am not much for writing in journals, but I do blog and after my first chemo session yesterday I felt inclined to write down a few thoughts. So this page will serve to document the chemotherapy stage of my cancer treatment. My goal is to update this page after each treatment session.

Day 1: February 2nd, 2015

Ever since I was first diagnosed with testicular cancer I have been impressed with the care I have received through the BC Cancer Agency. Both of the oncologists I have seen have been excellent, as have been the nurses that take care of things in the chemo room.

While our medical system is not without its flaws (and indeed the care I received *prior* to being diagnosed left something to be desired) the care the cancer patients in BC receive (and I would expect across Canada) is truly excellent. Also knowing that my care is fully covered by true universal health care is a beautiful thing (insert your Breaking Bad or Obamacare joke here). I can’t imagine how horrible this experience would be if I had to worry about paying for it.

Today started with a questionnaire about my current state of health, to establish a baseline which will help to track how I am reacting to the chemo which, let’s face it, is basically poison being pumped into my veins. Then I was assisted with dosing my anti-nausea drug cocktail and given a review of all the numbers to call/what to do in the event that I come down with a fever as the chemo drugs will lower my white blood cell count meaning an infection. Then the nurse set-up the IV and started me on saline fluids which took about an hour. After that is was hydro-cortisone to prevent me from reacting to the chemo drugs which were to follow, three in all, and then another litre of saline. So it was a lot of sitting around, and a lot of getting up to pee.

Luckily Rachelle was here to keep me company, as luck would have it she ended up between contracts at just the right time, so she is off work.

All told I was in the chemo room for about 5 hours or so. Tomorrow there will be two fewer IV bags, so it should be slightly faster. But it’s four more days like this and then a short break for the long weekend.

When I got home I felt very, very tired. There was a delicious roast beef dinner awaiting me which smelled awful for some reason but thankfully tasted great. By 8:30 I was ready for bed.

Day 2: February 3rd, 2015

Today it’s already starting to feel like routine. I had a not-so-great sleep last night after my cat woke me up at around 2am and I was not able to get back to sleep. The nurse explained to me this morning that insomnia is a side effect of the steroid that is one of my anti-nausea drugs, and that it should be better next week. We shall see.

This day has done by much faster this time, partly because there were two fewer IV bags to get through, and partly because I actually got my computer set up this time and have been passing the time tinkering with my website and with the website for The Brainiacs, my Ride to Conquer Cancer cycling team. My final IV bag is about half-way done as a write this so it’s almost time to go home. Hopefully I will have a bit more energy today.

Day 3: February 4th, 2015

And thus starts day 3 of chemo, on World Cancer Day, no less. Once again I woke up at some time early in the morning so I was not able to get to sleep for several hours. Despite that I started the day feeling essentially normal.

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    After I took my anti-nausea meds I became very flushed and red in the face. Apparently both of these issues are caused by the steroid that is keeping me from vomiting my guts out. Yay for not vomiting!

    So I am settling in for another 4 hours in this chair. The nurse that is looking after me today is an absolute sweetheart. She’s an older English lady who’s always in a rush but never seems stressed.

    Day 4: February 5th, 2015

    Is it really only day 4? Ugh.

    It was a rough start today. Despite crashing at only 8:30 pm last night and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep I woke up this morning feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. Apparently this is normal. It was an early appointment today so I had a quick breakfast of a Tim Horton’s muffin and a glass of Apple juice, downed my requisite litre of water, had a quick shower and was out the door.

    This is also the first day I have felt really emotional since my chemo treatment started. I was holding back the tears a bit for most of the morning. Despite all assurances that the cure rate for my cancer is extremely high and that the chances of a recurrence are very low, for every person I know that has beaten the odds, I know another who was beaten by the odds. So it’s still scary.

    I drifted in and out of sleep for most of my treatment. I was absolutely exhausted. When I got home I immediately went to sleep for an hour.

    On the plus side I have not been sick, and food still tastes good to me.

    Day 5: February 6th, 2015

    The last really tough day of the first cycle. The nurse tells me that the next couple of weeks will be much easier because I’ll only be having one medication on the first day of the week. So no need to take anti-nausea meds every day. This is welcome news because they have been wreaking havoc with my digestive system. Last night was spent downing laxatives and prune juice in an effort to get things moving.

    Today’s chemo was scheduled later in the day. This was nice because I go to experience a couple of hours of feeling somewhat “normal”. Tired, but normal. I think my body purges most of the chemo out during the night, so in the morning there’s a brief period where I feel fairly decent before heading down to the hospital to do it all again.

    ood has started to lose its taste. All I want is salt. And bacon. I really, really want some bacon right now.

    I still find all of this very surreal.