Everyone knows in general what chemotherapy is, including the fact that it is different for every person. Until I started this process, though, I don’t think I knew that there were many different drugs and many different combinations of drugs, including dosage and length of time between treatments. Here is a little bit of what I have learned about my particular mix of chemotherapy.
I will be receiving two drugs – Cisplatin and Pemetrexed (also known as Alimta, its brand name). Each of these drugs is going to be given to me intravenously every 21 days. A lot of people seem to think that this is a good thing – that I’m not having to go once a week or more. Truthfully, though, the reason the treatments are so far apart is because Cisplatin is rough. It is going to be extremely hard. I will only receive 6 treatments of Cisplatin because my kidneys and bone marrow would begin to fail if I received any more. As it is, I will receive the Pemetrexed for about ten minutes, then wait thirty minutes, then receive two hours of IV fluid, then the Cisplatin, and then two more hours of IV fluids. Chemo days are going to be very long days.
My “plan of action” for now is to have a CT scan, then receive two treatments, then have another scan, then have two more treatments, then have another scan, then have two more treatments, and then I will continue to have the Pemetrexed and CT scans for the rest of my life. Luckily, it is nowhere near as rough as the Cisplatin, but it can also cause kidney failure, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on my kidneys for the rest of my life. This is why I will no longer be able to drink caffeinated or alcoholic drinks – because I need to constantly drink 2 liters of water every day, and the alcohol or caffeine will make me dehydrated. As I said, we never expect this to go away (though they are making strides every single day), so my life will be lived in three week intervals for the rest of my life – which I hope will be a very long time.
I have to do several things over the next few weeks before we can even begin my chemotherapy. I am meeting today with a surgeon to schedule a time for an outpatient surgery to have my port put in. The port is where I will receive all of my treatments and how they will draw my blood for testing. They will be taking my blood very regularly, to check my platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, potassium, and magnesium levels. If one of the first three are too low, I may have to receive blood transfusions. If the other two are too low, I’ll have to receive them pretty quickly because those are what helps my heart to pump! I forgot how she said they would replace those; probably IV if I have to guess.
After my port is inserted, I will still need to have my CT scan, then have two more meetings at the cancer clinic. One is with “nurse education”, where they will go over all the things the doctor already went over in more detail. The other one is a short meeting with Dr. F. where she will go over all the drugs I will need to take before/during/after the treatments. This will put my pill count up to 10 per day with an optional sleeping pill and a pain patch. Whew. Another thing Dr. F. talked about in the meeting that really drove it home to me was “quality of life”. It’s something you hear a lot when talking about cancer patients but not so much in the general public. Basically because all these things are going to happen over the next couple of weeks, I would not be able to receive my first chemo treatment until May 21. However, we’re scheduled to go to the beach on May 24. For Christmas this year, my parents gave us a week at the beach (they have partial ownership in a condo). So we’re incredibly lucky to get to spend a week in Gulf Shores. I really didn’t want to be sick while I was down there, so Dr. F. made the decision to put off the chemo until we return. “It’s a quality of life thing.” is what she said. It’s a bit sobering but I think I will come back from vacation refreshed and ready to start this. As of right now my first treatment is scheduled for June 1 (the hubby’s b’day) but I think I will ask if we can put it off until the Monday after, just because I don’t want to be sick over the weekend while Aiden is home. It will be much better to be sick during the week while he is in day care.
So that’s about it for now. If I think of anything else I’ll post it later. I have an appointment with the surgeon in a couple of hours and my very first peritoneal mesothelioma support group over the phone tonight. I’m going to do my best to post about that tomorrow, but it looks like our hot water heater is going out, so I may be taking care of that tomorrow! And just an FYI: I don’t ever expect to post much on the weekends, especially while we’re down to one computer.