Today I went in for my first chemotherapy session. A pretty classic combination I think: FEC-T (three sessions with FEC and then three with Taxotere.)
First, I had a PICC line inserted. I really wasn't looking forward to this part but it wasn't too bad. FEC is bad for the small veins of the hand and arm so a reguar IV isn't a good idea. The other option is a port inserted into your chest but this is a full surgical procedure and will leave a scar. So PICC line is a good middle road: they insert thin tube into your upper arm and all the way along to a vein near the heart so the drugs pass straight into larger veins. It can be inserted with a local anaesthetic and taken out after a few weeks.
It was still quite a procedure though, I was taken back down the operation room (I'm getting to know it quite well now) and had to wait for an anaesthetist to perform the procedure. The first time they found a vein that wasn't straight so they had to remove it completely and start again. I found it uncomfortable but not really painful. The worst thing was that they bandaged it up very tightly so it was painful to bend my arm and, as my other arm still isn't fully recovered after the operation, I panicked a bit about having two bad arms. But the nurse reassured me that she would rebandage it after the chemo and it would be more comfortable. It is, indeed, just a minor discomfort now.
Now I have to arrange for a nurse to change the bandages every week and they will remove it after the three FEC sessions (Taxotere can be administered through an IV). No baths, a plastic cover for showers, no swimming and no squash... I guess getting back to playing squash was optimistic when I'm having chemo anyway (the nurse certainly thought so)...
Chemotherapy itself was no problem at all, though the whole process was long. There was quite a queue for surgery so the PICC line process took a three hours (the acutal insertion, probably just half an hour) and then we had to wait a while to get the drugs set up. I started and finished with saline and each drug came in a separate bottle, so every time one had emptied I had to wait for busy nurses to come and change it for the next one. In the end I was at the hospital for seven hours, but they tell me it will be much quicker in future as the drugs will be ready and I have the PICC line inserted.
And the side effects? So far, nothing. (except that the middle drug has turned my wee bright red). But to be honest it's only been a few hours so I guess it is all to come. Although they have equipped me with an array of drugs for nausea (prevention and cure) and mouth ulcers. I was originally going to drive myself home from the hospital and actually that would have been fine. But a friend insisted on coming to pick me up and I'm glad...it was much nicer.
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