This past Monday I had my first dose of Cetuximab. This is the chemo I am getting as part of the trial I am on. Eight weeks of Cetuximab costs about $30,000.
The Oncology waiting area is quiet when we arrive shortly after 7:00a.m. I have some blood drawn for lab work. Jerry is the nurse who draws the blood. I’m glad it’s Jerry because I saw him come out a couple of times and the regulars, who know him, brightened up on seeing him. He’s been doing this for thirty years. He gets a needle in like no other, fast, painless, perfect.
Jerry goes on missionary trips to Europe. He passes thru London. Jerry asked me if I knew Brixton. Of course, used to live near there. I told him about my experience when the Police ‘De-criminalised’ pot in Brixton. We were driving thru late on a Saturday night taking my nephew home. The streets were packed with people buying and selling pot. It was insane and personally I found it quite scary. Not sure if that experiment continues – I doubt it.
I am called thru for treatment and Eva joins me. I’m grateful she can come with me to most appointments. The chemo treatment rooms are about 15′ x 15′. There is a TV on the wall, two lounge chairs and for the patient a large reclining chair with swing over work surfaces. You can bring your laptop and work if you want. You can also watch TV or DVDs. Down the corridor is a break room with snacks and drinks and a microwave if you happen to bring your lunch. There is an air of quiet, efficiency.
There is a some delay because the person in charge of the trial is missing and needs to see my lab results before she gives the go-ahead. We wait a lot. In general we wait a lot. If they say your appointment is at 2:00p.m. you might be called around that time and you think “Great – we are getting on with it.” But all they do is take you to a different room, ask some questions and leave you to wait again for whoever you have to meet. I normally expect about an hour to elapse between the appointment time and the actual time I see someone.
Devrie is the nurse who is going to carry out the treatment. First she tries to get an I.V. in me, but apparently I have ‘rolling’ veins. Rolling veins are veins that run away from the needle, thus making it hard to penetrate them. Another nurse is brought in and finally gets plugged in.
Because of the nature of Cetuximab, I am given liquid Benadryl. This helps prevent any allergic reactions which, in rare cases, can be life-threatening. Liquid Benadryl also makes you very, very sleepy. I am awake as the bag of Cetuximab is introduced into the I.V. but fall asleep soon after and stay asleep for the full two hours the treatment takes.
I felt fine that day. The next morning I have a terrible headache. I forget that I have a swarm of killer chemo warriors in my bloodstream and am surprised when I feel nauseous or get the horrible headache or just want to lie down. I keep thinking I am ‘well.’
After the surgery I thought that the worst is over. I’m starting to feel that maybe we have just begun.