2016 August 24

High Fashion (and Elephants)

Topics

Chemo infusion pump in waist pack

What's the difference between an elephant and a grape?
One's purple.

First day of chemo treatment is over, and although I haven't been hit yet with major side effects it hasn't exactly been fun either. So I figured some anecdotes about everyone's favorite pachyderm would lighten the mood a bit. (Is “favorite pachyderm” redundant? Can anyone name another pachyderm?)

Above you can see me modeling my infusion pump in its très chic waist pack. I know, I know—you're all thinking, “Where can I get one?” Well, if you've been following these posts really closely, I think you already know how. But honestly, I don't recommend it. Cancer certainly sounds cool (“I have a disease named for a zodiac sign!”), but frankly it's just a drag.

Why did the elephant wear sunglasses?
He didn't want to be recognized.

So… chemo. Wasn't quite sure what to expect, but mostly it's tedium. The drugs all come in significant quantities, which means you can't just get a shot. Instead, they're administered through an IV drip. Which means it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours per dose. Some drugs can be given simultaneously, but it's still 4–6 hours of sitting back in a reclining chair with whatever amusements you have brought (unless you enjoy daytime TV, which I don't.)

I was started off with four non-chemo drugs that aim to prevent side effects like nausea or diarrhea. They're pretty benign to the system (at least to me), so no noticeable effects. After a few hours of those opening acts, it was time for the stars of the show: Oxaliplatin and Irinotecan, half of the FOLFIRINOX quartet. That's when the side effects started.

What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephant walking over the hill?
Nothing. He didn't recognize it, because the elephant was wearing sunglasses.

Let's quickly run over the list of possible side effects and see which I actually contracted:

Side Effects


Neither, thankfully.


Definitely some, but not debilitating. Hoping my sleep schedule clears up soon—typically I nap a lot during the day, so I'm up all night, which makes me nap during the day…


Who can tell? ;-)


This covers a wide variety of side effects. I'm extremely sensitive to salt right now, and also need to avoid spicy foods. (Bit of a bummer, that. Hoping it doesn't last.) I've also been advised to eschew cold food and drink—can set off stinging sensations in mouth.


Not yet.


Nope.


So far, so good.


A little the night right after treatment. Nothing the following day.


Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, my old nemesis—we meet again. I don't think I mentioned this previously, but the first night home after surgery I was plagued by a nearly 3-hour fit of hiccups that were somewhat painful as well as sleep-preventative. Well, they returned the night after treatment. Not painful anymore (my stomach has mostly healed from the surgery), but definitely not conducive to slumber. They finally went away after an hour or so… then came back. Then went away, then back, then gone again. Occasional one-offs the day after, but nothing lasting.


Different from hiccups. While I was getting the final chemo IV, muscles all over my body started twitching. Nothing painful or even that uncomfortable, just a little disconcerting.


Apparently one of the chemo drugs makes you feel like you've gotten a huge dose of Novocaine to the mouth. Hoo, yeah. (NDPBRN folks, if you couldn't understand me on the conference call, that's why.) All gone after a few hours.

You may have noticed that there were only two chemo drugs in the lineup above. The final doses take so long to infuse that they're administered through that small pump inside the pictured waist pack over the course of 48 hours.

So that's where things stand. All in all, I feel pretty good on day 2—slept in late, have been (finally) getting around to answering emails, took a little walk around the yard… Part of me thinks I can feel the lovely, toxic medicines flowing through my GI system, but most of me feels it's just imagined.

Want to give a special shout-out to Bunny, Caryn, Diane, and everybody else at the Infusion Center. You're a great team, and make this difficult process as good as it can be. Thank you!

What did Jane say when she saw the elephant walking over the hill?
She said, “Here comes the grape!” because she's color-blind.

PS. “Pachyderm” isn't a real biological classification anymore, because it's based on physical appearance rather than actual genetic lineage. (It literally means “thick skin.”) Traditionally, the other common pachyderms are rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses. I had to look it up.