Chemo #11 – Attack of The Red Devil

I went in this morning for chemo #11 which turned out to be my first round of AC. From what I’ve read, people seem to be split with some people being more afraid of the Taxol and some being more afraid of the AC. I fit squarely into that second category. Mostly because I was told from the beginning that the AC has way worse side effects, although Taxol isn’t a party by any means. So far it’s living up to it as I feel like absolute crap and it hasn’t even really hit me yet.

Dad took me this week and we went in at 9am. All of the nurses wanted to check in with me since they knew something had to be off when I didn’t come in on Tuesday. I was glad I got a chance to see them before surgery so they know what’s going on. I actually had a new nurse today – she has been on maternity leave the whole time I’ve been going in and has an 11 week old little girl (how sweet is that?)

Before we got started my oncologist’s nurse sat with me for a long time to explain everything, have me sign all the releases for the new drugs and get me ready for all the side effects. There are a lot. A little while after she left, my oncologist came and sat with me for a while. I’d never seen her in the infusion center that I can recall so I was surprised in a good way that she did that for me. She said she had met with the doctor from imaging the day before to go over my ultrasound and told me that the tumor was bigger and about the other masses in there. Of course I knew, but she wanted to make sure I understood. She asked about the PET scan and I told her I haven’t heard anything so she said she would get that moving. She needs to see me the week before surgery (Thanksgiving week) to clear me for surgery so she would like me to have the scan on Monday of that week and see me on Wednesday. Hopefully that will work out. I also found this interesting because when I saw her on Monday she really didn’t want further imaging because it was so clear from feeling the tumor that it had grown. Now that we know about all of the changes she clearly wants the scan. Part of me thinks that should worry me (she wouldn’t want the scan if she didn’t think it may have spread) but part of me thinks she just wants to be clear and rule it out (hope, hope). In any case, it sounds like she is going to push it so that it gets done.

Then the oncologist’s nurse came back in with a pill pack for me – she said the pack of 3 pills costs $400 so this one was a sample and for the future AC treatments she works with insurance and gets them from the pharmacy there so I will get them at the treatments rather than having to remember to pick up a prescription. I take the first pill with chemo today, another one at the same time tomorrow and the last one the following day. Anti-nausea. Should last about 5 days. Also, I would be getting another anti-nausea pushed into my IV along with a stronger dose of the steroid. They’ve found that the three of these together has the best results with the nausea. But I may still be puking, so I’ve got some meds at home too. She said to eat frequent snacks – graze all day – because I don’t ever want my stomach to get empty if I can help it. Also, I will get acid refulx so Previcid should be taken every day. Lastly, I go back tomorrow to get a Neulasta injection to promote white blood cell production. This can cause bone pain because the bone marrow is jolted into rapid production and somewhere in there it causes a spike in histamine so today, tomorrow and Sunday I need to take Aleve and Claritin to try and help the pain. She said it will mostly be in my large bones like the pelvis and femurs. We also talked about my cold and she recommended using a Neti Pot which I think is helping a lot.

Then we got started. The anti nausea that pushed into my IV made me a little light headed and honestly I haven’t felt right since. Not sure if it’s from that med or just a combination of everything. The new drugs I got are Adriamycin and Cytoxan (hence calling it AC). The Adriamycin is also known as The Red Devil. It is red like cherry Cool Aid and has a lot of protocols. It has to be given through a central line (which the port is) because it will burn the veins in the arms. If the central line somehow came out, it would go into the chest cavity and kill the tissue in there so they have to manually push a small amount, let saline rinse through, pull back to verify blood return to ensure it’s in the vein and repeat. It takes about 20 minutes. Here are some pics:

So this one shows the syringe, the safety matt they are required to have under it just in case there are any drips, and the lines. The line coming in from the right is the saline hanging from the IV pole, it drips constantly. Then the line coming up towards the camera is what is going into my port so at this moment I was just getting saline.

This is a shot of the Adriamycin coming into the port with the saline wash behind it. I figured you guys probably don’t want to see the blood return but I can always get that in the future if it’s requested. The second shot also shows you that I was eating oatmeal for breakfast.

After this, I got the Cytoxan which was just a normal looking IV bag and took about 30-40 minutes.

While I didn’t know about all the protocols involved with administering Adriamycin, I did know that one of the reasons it’s called The Red Devil is that it is bright red and turns your pee just as bright red. Friends had warned me, the nurse warned me, I totally knew. But when I got up to pee while I was getting the Cytoxan, I was shocked when my pee was TOTALLY red. I did not realize that it would happen that fast. I would say 15 minutes or so after getting it. It has worn off though – at best it’s light pink now.

This dose of AC will make my remaining hair all fall out. I forgot to post about my eyebrows, but I lost most of them on Monday. I had kind of an itch and pulled on my eyebrow hair and look what happened:

So that kept happening for a few minutes until I had pulled out almost all of my eyebrow hair. Figured I better get a picture in there somewhere. My glasses disguise it pretty well and luckily they both still have some patches of hair that don’t make it as completely obvious it’s gone if I don’t pencil them in. But the AC will make all my remaining hair go “poof” pretty quickly. It’s usually right at two weeks but because of all the Taxol they don’t expect it to take that long for me. We’ll see.

So far, I feel pretty crappy. I came home from chemo and took a 3+ hour nap. I am a little nauseated but not a ton, I took some Tums since sometimes it’s the reflux according to the nurse. I’m very fatigued even though I had 10mg of IV steroids which is different than the Taxol. I just kind of have an overall exhausted, cruddy, might throw up feeling. I am struggling to write this before going to bed but I want to get it done.

I did go over to one of my friend’s houses with mom for a little while because she was hosting a Lemongrass show as a fundraiser for us. It was wonderful to get a foot soak. I am also hosting a fundraiser/fall launch at Cheesecake Therapy in Arvada between 3-6 on Sunday. If anyone wants to stop by you are welcome to! I’ll have the new fall Pampered Chef products to try out and my friend Jill will have her Lemongrass products that I love so much. Cheesecake Therapy is just amazing and Heather, the owner, is one of my favorite people. Jill and Heather are both donating a portion of the sales for the day to our medical bills as well which is just awesome – I have AMAZING friends! Of course we set up this event over a month ago when Sundays were always a good day for me so it’s a bit up in the air if I will actually be able to attend. My team will be there regardless, like I said – amazing friends. And I am really hoping for many reasons that I feel good enough to be there. So fingers crossed I will see lots of you on Sunday!

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5 Responses to Chemo #11 – Attack of The Red Devil

  1. Sara R says:

    It was so great to see your smiling face tonight! Fingers crossed and prayers on the way for lessened side effects!

  2. Karen Patrick says:

    Hi, I am Jamie Reed’s mom and I asked her to forward me your blog. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

  3. Hi Jen,
    I find myself looking for to your daily entries more than any other email I am expecting…my prayers are with you daily! God has a plan and you are not suffering for NOTHING. Since I first discovered your journal I have found myself a lot more humble about keeping my attitude and my life (both ups and downs) a LOT more in perspective. Thank you for that!! I have shared and will continue sharing your blog with others… it’s what this whole world needs right now, more than EVER.
    Keep the faith.

  4. Brandi says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the new tumor news 😦 I know what it’s like to get bad news with your scans, and it pretty much sucks. I’ll be sending positive thoughts your way that the PET scan doesn’t show that the tumors have spread. I’m stage IV right now (with 2 little kids ages 6 and 3) so I really do understand! I also live in Arvada. I saw your post about your mastectomy. Believe it or not, my mastectomy was listed as an out patient procedure! But my doctor said he always keeps his patients for overnight observation, then it’s still coded to out patient but you get the overnight without an extra charge. Although it does seem strange they send you home so early, I actually was ready to go! I really thought it would be extremely traumatic to lose my breast, but to be honest – at this stage (and I know you are there too) I would do ANYTHING to live, so losing body parts wasn’t nearly as upsetting as I thought it would be. I was pretty sad about it for a few days, but bounced back pretty quickly – I hope the same for you! I just completed 4 rounds of AC and recently started Taxol. So far I think AC is worse, just due to the nausea. My biggest advice is to keep up the communication with your doctor and nurses about the nausea. It got to the point where just thinking about the infusion room, or anything red (that color will get to you!) made me nauseous. I told my doctor and it’s called anticipatory nausea and it’s REALLY common – especially with AC. They gave me Ativan before my infusions and it made a WORLD of difference! I’ll be thinking of you and sending tons of positive thoughts and prayers your way. If you ever want to chat, here is my e-mail: brandi_svoboda at yahoo dot com

  5. Terri says:

    Your blog was awsome. It was very helpful and somewhat educational. My husband has merkle cell cancer and is on his second round of red devil. Jim is 70 and he just amazes me. Fatiuge is the hardest part but he is always cheerful. Since I work he goes to chemo by himself. Sleeps thu it and prefers it that way. I will look for future blogs from you and keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck and god bless!

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