Preparing For Chemotherapy

Now that I have a proper diagnosis, the next step is chemotherapy as the treatment. This brings on a bit of anxiety for most. Let’s face it, everyone’s heard of chemo, and I would assume they associate it with something dark and scary used to ward off the ever so sinister disease of cancer.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I can’t say enough good about the medical team involved with my diagnosis and treatment. The quality of communication, and the level of professionalism I’ve experienced, is above and beyond what I had expected. The preparation for my chemotherapy sessions was no exception.

I recommend that you take someone you care about with you to all of your appointments. There is a lot of new, unfamiliar information being shared with you. This can be overwhelming, and two sets of ears are a definite advantage in retaining all of the important details. I even went so far as to use my MP3 player to record the conversation, and listened to it several times during my commute to and from work.

Nicole Presents the Info

My oncologyst’s nurse practitioner, Nicole, provided a very thorough presentation on the processes involved, as well as the medications that would be employed. In my particular case, I would be starting out with some medication a few days before the chemo was to begin. There are three different types of medicines prescribed:

  • Allopurenal – This helps the kidneys and liver process the additional waste from the cancerous materials being dissolved by the chemo treatment. This medication is only taken in the first 30 days of treatment, when the largest amount of cancer cells are being destroyed
  • Sulfamethoxazole – This is an antibiotic to help maintain the strength of the immune system. During chemo, the treatment kills good cells along with bad cells, leaving your immune system depreciated.
  • Valacyclovir – Used for similar reasons as the antibiotic. This medication is an anti-viral, used to help battle against viral infections such as a cold or the flu.

She dove deep into the subject of possible side effects. It kind of reminded me of one of those medicine commercials you see on TV, spending 55 of the 60 seconds of the commercial time telling the side effects rather than marketing the product. For your convenience, I’ve included copies of the chemo med reports for the drugs used during my treatments.

Here are the PDF versions for you to read. Please note that these files will open in a new window.

Rituxan Info:  Download the Rituxan PDF here

Cyclophosphamide Info: Download the Cyclophosphamide PDF here

Fludarabine Info: Download the Fludarabine PDF here

Nicole was adamant about the fact that everyone is different in the way they react to treatments. There’s really no way to tell how you’ll be affected until your first session. They will normally start the process on a slower feed, and adjust according to how well you’re getting along.

The Treatment

The most common problems during the actual chemotherapy treatments are nausea and allergic reactions. There will be “pre-meds” administered prior to the chemo formulas which are intended to reduce the likelihood of possible side effects.

There are two methods of administration of your medication. Both are intravenous, one through a normal IV through a vein in your arm, the other through what is referred to as a “port”.

The port is a device that is implanted in the upper chest that is tied into a main artery, and has a large area for an IV to be inserted. This saves you from long term damage to the veins in your arms caused by repeated IV insertions. It also serves as a more direct passage of the medication into the bloodstream, with less likelihood of seepage into surrounding tissue.

I learned that my monthly chemo treatments would consist of three consecutive days. The first involving the largest amount of medication, at the slowest feed rate lasting 5-6 hours, with the second and third days lasting about 3 hours each.

At the time of my first scheduled session, I won’t have a port installed yet, but it has been scheduled shortly afterwards. I’ll get into the details of how my first chemo session went, and what side effects were present during and after the treatments in my next blog article.

The information contained in the PDF documents was procured from the ChemoCare.com website. There is a wealth of great information available about everything to do with chemotherapy.

Please feel free to comment here, or send me an e-mail if you have any questions or want to share your story. I’d like to invite you to continue to follow along as I document the details of my journey.

Thanks for visiting, and be sure to share this with someone who may benefit from it.

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