Today was my first day of treatment - Rituxan day. Rituxan is an antibody treatment that targets the lymphoma cells and kills only those cells, unlike chemotherapy. It doesn't work on all kinds of cancer, but has proven effective on the kind that I have, so we are adding it to my treatment regimen.
I arrived at Carolina Blood & Cancer (catchy name, huh?) at 9:00 am, and was soon tucked away in a huge recliner, where I would remain for the next eight hours. First, (you guessed it) yet another IV was started. The nurse found what she termed a "really pretty vein" and set out to get it. Unfortunately, my veins have all gotten wise to this kind of treatment lately, and this one decided to go into hiding - sliding all around the needle as the nurse tried to get in. I had my foot tucked up underneath me and was twisting the leg of my jeans up into a sweaty fist to take my mind off of the proceedings. It didn't work. Another nurse was summoned and a smaller needle procured - this one sliding almost effortlessly into the vein. Whew. Have I mentioned that I hate needles?
For the next three hours, I was infused with Benadryl, saline solution and finally, Rituxan. Since this was my first Rituxan infusion, they started me at a low rate, gradually increasing it every half hour after checking my blood pressure. I busy myself with magazines, email and music. For excitement, I wheel my IV pole to the rest room. There's no Wi-Fi connection - thank goodness for my iPhone. Friends text me to let me know I'm in their thoughts, and I am able to catch up with my Ruby friends. I am amazed at the number of people who are praying for me - it's a wonderful feeling.
Around noon my flow rate was adjusted up again. All of a sudden my throat started to hurt. Then my ears felt funny and my nose got stuffy. And then the chills started. It's a cold that starts from the inside and spreads out. The nurses were really quick to cover me with warm blankets, as was the sweet wife of the patient next to me. One of the nurses makes me a cup of hot herbal tea. It tastes like floor sweepings, but it's warm and I am very grateful. Before I knew it, Dr. Naidu was there checking on me. The Rituxan was stopped, and the saline turned up. Pretty soon the shaking slowed down, and I was able to eat my PB&J sandwich - best thing I have ever tasted. (Yes, I know the tenses are messed up in this paragraph, but I'm too tired to fix them. Deal with it.)
After a while, the Rituxan was re-started and I was able to tolerate it with no further problems. By 5:00, I was packing up all of my stuff and heading for the door. By 5:30, I was shaking uncontrollably again, teeth chattering, muscles tight. David tucked me into bed with the heating pad and a pile of blankets. That helped after a while and I was able to sleep for a bit after eating about four bites of chicken chow mein - all I could manage. It's 10:18 pm now, and I am feeling fine.
Tomorrow, I start my Prednisone and head back to the cancer center for my chemo - Cytoxan and Vincristine. It should be a much shorter visit this time - the nurse told me I'd probably be there for about an hour and a half. Good news, but I am dreading the side effects. Praying mightily. Good night all!