Did you ever notice that the word “treatment” begins with treat? It’s a connection that’s not readily apparent. Now I have successfully begun the most important one of my life and, so far, it doesn’t seem too bad. Not yet, anyway.
I had my first chemo treat on Wednesday. No nasty side effects, but more on this later.
The first thing I want to emphasize is that I am not an oncological nurse. They all have a place in the treatment room, but I function at a slightly higher level. I had the good fortune to complete a couple of advanced geriatric oncology courses at the Google College of Medical Knowledge. These came in handy on Wednesday. The nurses on duty were very impressed when I was able to advise them about what they should do and explain how they should do it. It’s always nice to be appreciated.
The other thing I should point out is that I am not a feel your feelings therapist. If you are going through a similar adventure, you’ll just have to set your own goals and work your way towards them with little or no advice from me. I’m here primarily to write my own way through it and to take a look at the quirky side of getting rid of neuroendocrine carcinomas. When I find them, that is.
If you’re good with that, why not scroll down the page and sign up for an e-mail notification when I put up a new blog post? The e-mail list is never made public. I can barely find it myself. I don’t do ads and make no money from this blog.
The first thing you’ll want to know is what soup the hospital pharmacist cooks up for me. On Wednesday I had two of them. They come in plastic bags that hang on a contraption and drip through a small tube into a vein in my arm. Next Wednesday I get one. Third time out I get lucky and get none. Cycles of two, one, none, repeat.
Considering what’s in it, you’ll know that it’s going to be a single-use plastic bag. I’m sorry about that. If it was up to me, they’d use hemp bags that can be put through a laundry machine, hung on a clothesline in the parking lot and reused. Change comes slowly to the big little hospital on Delhi Street, and that can be a good thing. Perhaps one day they’ll catch up to the three Rs of waste management.
To their credit, they are trying to reduce the need for chemotherapy bags by reducing the amount of cancer in the world. They’re not there yet. Nor have they caught up on the reuse and recycle pieces of environmental sustainability.
So, what’s in the bags? The first one contains Carboplatin, a clear, colourless solution mixed into larger bags of fluids. The second holds Irinotecan, a clear, light-yellow solution mixed into larger bags of fluids.
That’s all you need to know about that. There are bunches of other pharmaceuticals that go with it to help your body cope with the highly toxic chemicals and poisons they pump through your body to help cure you. How bad are they? The poison leaves your body in the couple of days following treatment. It leaves in your urine, your stools, your sweat, and your vomit.
Gentlemen are advised to sit down to pee. This eliminates the chance of aiming at the bowl but misfiring onto the seat or the floor. Then flush twice with the lid down. This takes some getting used to. The worst of it is after you’ve relieved yourself, you flush for the first time and then wash your hands. All while the tank is filling up. You dry your hands and stand there staring at the toilet and wondering why. By the time you get into the living room you remember and go back for the second flush. No one ever said that catching cancer in your mid-seventies would be easy.
Then there are the side effects. Irinotecan has two conflicting ones. A common side effect that hits over half the people is diarrhea. Another common one, but not as much, is constipation. You won’t get both at the same time.
I don’t know if you get to choose. If you do, think of it in terms of the American election coming next November, if Trump doesn’t keep the pandemic going for long enough to avoid the vote.
Think of Donald Trump as the diarrhea and Joe Biden as the constipation. Then think of a contest between two white millionaires, both older than dirt. One is not as messy as the other, but neither is good enough. They really do symbolize the cancer stage of American democracy.
Myself, I’d choose none of the above.