Monday, December 27, 2010

A Day in the Chemo Den


Prior to being a cancer patient I really had no idea where chemo was administered. My aunt went through various chemo treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (blood cancer) and I always thought she got her treatment in a hospital room. While the hospital route does apply in certain circumstances, I later learned that the majority of her chemo sessions were administered in her doctor's office. And much to my surprise, the same office where I would be getting my treatments!!! It was comforting to know my aunt had gone through the same routine as I was facing and ultimately ended with her in remission enjoying life to the fullest.

So, here was my typical chemo day appointment schedule:

10:30am - arrive, check in, validate parking, pay copay (bummer)
10:45am - weigh in, blood pressure, temperature check
11am - blood draw/port hook up, meet with oncologist to go over treatment progress, and get what basically was a physical (I would typically meet with my oncologist every other treatment so in the off weeks it was right to the Chemo Den for blood draw and chemicals)
11:30am - into the Chemo Den for treatment consisting of pre-meds (anti nausea/steroids/Tylenol/bennadryl) and ABVD
1:15pm - pay validated parking and drive home w/ stop at Wendy's for a frosty and french fries

It didn't take me long to coin the term Chemo Den... You walk into a large room on the corner of an office building (prob 1/4 of a floor) and there are blue Lazy-Boy medical recliners lining the windows with various cancer patients getting juiced up on their respective cocktails and a nurse center in the middle. For some reason I just though it looked like the pictures of opium dens I have seen in books with everyone laid out looking all loopy and tired... So Chemo Den it was!

Here are a couple cell phone pics I snapped on my second to last treatment:



Notice the various chemo taste deflectors (jolly ranchers/gum/Vitamin Water/Kashi bar). At first the tastes of saline and the chemicals were alright, but pretty soon they become really annoying and you find ways to deal. For me it was gum for saline, Jolly Ranchers for my chemo pushes, and a Vitamin Water chug when they flush my port at the end. Tunes from my i-pod drowned out the background noise of the IV machine, other beeping, puke noises from the bathroom, etc...

All of this sounds bad, but really I have no complaints. All the doctors were awesome, my nurses were great, and all of the other cancer fighters (avg. age 30+ years older than me!) were rocking treatment with strength and grace. There were often 1 to 2 people per patient there for support which is an awesome sight. For me it was my amazing wife or my parents.

If you are in the unfortunate position where a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and has to complete chemo treatment I strongly recommend making the trip into the treatment center not only for support, but also to get inspired by all of the fighters.

It shouldn't take such a heavy life event to inspire, but sometimes we need a swift kick in our daily routines to get us back in touch with what matters in life.

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