First Blood Cancer Chemo
Last updated: October 2020
All I can say is that it has been interesting to undergo chemotherapy for the first time for blood cancer. As you might imagine, I approached my first treatment with a great deal of apprehension. Naturally, I went online and read many accounts regarding patient experiences. I will say the various stores made an impression. While every part of me said: "Never presume that your personal reactions will be identical to someone else", the siren call of the internet combined with wanting to know more about the unknown is hard to resist.
My first pre-infusion meeting with the oncologist went well. He suggested that most folks tolerate the R-CHOP treatment well for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He checks my new under the skin infusion port, installed the day before, and is pleased with the outcome. I casually mentioned that the installation was a bit more involved than expected and he reminds me that it was after all a surgical procedure. So much for the internet and those comforting words of wisdom: installing a port is a quick, simple procedure. Plain and simple - it is surgery and while not the worst experience, the entire process on an outpatient basis did take over 3 hours.
The first infusion
The next day I am off to the infusion center for my first treatment. Rather than going to a local infusion center just 2 miles down the road, I am told the first treatment needs to at the main hospital several miles away. I am told that the first experience can be a bit intense and it is always best to be in a place where the medical team could react quickly if needed. Once again, my level of apprehension is raised to a new high.
Eight hours later infusion is over – no immediate effects until 2 days later when I notice severe bowel issues. Some folks experience loose movements mine apparently prefer being blocked. After a few more days, the issue requires an emergency hospital visit and cleanout. I will not go into the details, but it is quite extensive and requires several days in the hospital to recover. Life is good following the experience and by all accounts, I am feeling good even though I have lost some 20 lbs. over the last 30 days due to loss of taste for food and loss of appetite.
Three weeks pass quickly, and it is time for the second infusion. Again, the same symptoms begin to appear. Fortunately, this time I am just slightly ahead of the curve. My GI suggests a CAT scan just to be sure that no severe blockage has taken place. Within hours I am off to the emergency room on a beautiful Sunday to spend the next 8 hrs. in the system waiting to be scanned. Finally, at 10:30 PM I am given the ok to go home with a “sure-fire prescription” for a cure for the following day.
Why I want to share my story
I tell my story particularly to the men who may read this article in the hope it can offer some guidance. Each one of us is unique in many ways. Our bodies and life experiences are different and as such we can and most likely will react differently to various treatments. That said men generally tend not to speak up when they face medical issues or challenges. My advice for those who want to “macho it up” when it comes to treatment issues is as follows.
Take a big step back. Swallow your pride and speak up. Ask lots of questions. Tell your doctors what is going on even it may appear to be a petty concern. Issues can and do develop very quickly with chemo treatments and the sooner you speak up the easier it will be on you and your loved ones.
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?