Tag Archives: Chemo

Surgery and return to the day hospital

4 Aug

Wednesday was the big day; the day that I had my port put in. At first I was very nervous about the operation but it quickly became obvious that the procedure is very routine and that there’s not a lot to be worried about. At 7:30 AM my Dad and I checked in with interventional radiology. Very quickly we were taken back to the sedation unit of the interventional radiology suite. Just like with chemo I began the process with a nurse taking my vitals. Afterwards the nurse took me back to my own simple room where I had to wipe myself down before changing into scrubs. Finally, the nurses gave me an IV. Luckily they were able to insert the IV at my elbow. I doubt they would’ve been able to find a vein anywhere else! Finally after I was finished being physically prepped for surgery, the nurse practitioner came back to go through her final checklist. She mostly went over preexisting conditions. Luckily, besides a brain tumor of course, I don’t have any preexisting conditions so my dad signed off on the surgery and I was given the green light.

I was supposed to go into surgery at 9:30. However, the surgeon was busy so I didn’t end up going into surgery until around 10:30. Before I was wheeled back to the OR one of the doctors came back to talk to my dad and I about some of the after effects of the surgery and the deep sedation. Finally two nurses wheeled me back to the OR. Due to the fact that the surgeon was running a little late, I was waiting and talking with the nurses back in the OR for about twenty minutes before the operation started. They were extremely friendly and it was very comforting to see how relaxed they were. More than anything they gave off the impression that they’ve placed tons of ports and that I’m really not that special.

The next thing I knew I woke up in the same room where the day had started. My dad was sitting there with me and in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t feel that bad. It took me awhile before I was ready to stand up and walk. However, once I did get up I was almost immediately given permission to leave the hospital. The nurses insisted that I rode down to the parking garage with my dad in a wheelchair, however, after that I was on my own again.

The port itself hasn’t been too bad. It was definitely uncomfortable the first couple of days, but now I’m starting to get used to it. It’s been tough not being able to take a real shower, and the site of the incision has been a little itchy as it heals but that’s about it!

The port really did help makes things easy the following day when I stated my maintenance period chemo treatments. Like always the nurses started by taking my vitals. Afterwards I was called back to the room where the nurses would normally put in my IV. This time all they had to do was draw blood. This was literally painless because the surgeon left a line into the port the day before when I had my surgery. This meant that the nurses didn’t even have to access the port to draw blood.

Eventually I was sent back to the waiting room and I began bracing myself for the normal prolonged wait. However, it was only about thirty minutes before I was called back to see my oncologist! Record time! The meeting was very regular. We basically went over some of the restrictions that go along with the first week of having a port. Afterwards I was taking back to the day hospital to begin my treatment.

The nurses decided to start my treatment with Benadryl and a precaution to a small reaction I had in the tenth week of my intensive. One thing that I had heard before about Benadryl is that it either puts you straight to sleep or makes you very agitated. The last time I had Benadryl it made me sleepy. However, unfortunately this time it made me very agitated.  It was hard to stay still and I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin. Luckily after about twenty minutes the Ativan kicked in and I fell asleep again.

When I next woke up, my chemo regiment was all finished for the day. The only thing that was left to do was for the nurse to take the needle out of my port. This was pretty painful. However, she reassured me that the port was extra sensitive because it was brand new and that the following week shouldn’t be nearly as bad. My dad and I packed up our stuff and made our way home. Over the days that followed my treatment I was feeling pretty sick. I can’t help but think that having a brand new port had something to do with it. Luckily that’s all passed now and I can enjoy the next few days before my next round of treatment. Right now I am on my way down to DC to set up my room before I make the move permanently later this month.

As always, thank you for following my journey. If you have any questions or anything you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask.

-Josh

Good news!

13 Jul

This morning my family and I got some very good news! We heard the results of the MRI and it showed that the tumor had stopped growing and might have even shrunk a little. This means that the chemo has been working well and that I’m clear to go onto the next step of my treatment. The next step is called the maintenance period where I have chemo for a month straight and then have two weeks off. This maintenance period lasts for almost a year.  The next big step, however, of my treatment will be getting a port later this month before I start the next stage of treatment. Getting a port means that I don’t have to get IVs when I go to the hospital.

Thank you to everyone who has been following my journey. I really appreciate your support.

-Josh

Chemotherapy Week 9; Family Outing

28 Jun

Chemo started later this week. Normally my checkin is scheduled for around 9:00 AM. This week I didn’t need to arrive until 10:30 AM because my oncologist was doing rounds down in the main hospital. However, once we did arrive I checked in like normal and proceeded to have my vitals taken. When the nurse went to put in my IV she searched my hands for a possible vein. In the end she decided to leave my hands alone and actually insert the IV right above my elbow. I found this very surprising considering that I knew the nurses weren’t allowed to insert at the elbow with a chemo as toxic as Vancristine. I guess right above the elbow is okay! I did, however, find having the IV right above my elbow much more uncomfortable.

Here you can see the nurse putting the IV in right about my elbow instead of in my hand.

Here you can see the nurse putting the IV in right about my elbow instead of in my hand.

As I was leaving the room where the nurse inserted the IV I asked how long it would be before I saw my oncologist. They told me that there was only one person in front of me. However, she wasn’t even back from the main hospital yet. I sat down and the waiting game began. Eventually the nurse practitioner in training came over to let me know that my oncologist was running quite late. However, she said that she’d be able to do my examination if I’d like as to speed up the process. I hopped on this offer knowing she is a very thorough nurse and that I’d be willing to do anything to get things rolling.

When we went back to the examination room she asked if I’d be willing to allow her supervisor to sit in on the exam. Still being in training she had to have her supervisor look in on an exam. I was totally fine with this; I knew she’d be great. The exam began like normal and about halfway through my normal oncologist arrived. It was an oncology party! There must have been about five people in the little exam room. One of the things that was different about this week was that some of my counts had dropped more than I’d previously seen from the week beforehand. We talked about them and made sure there wasn’t anything to worry about. The nurse let me know that even know my counts had dropped, they were still extremely high and there was nothing to worry about.

That’s when I went back to the day hospital to begin my treatment. This week I was also given an anti-nausea patch along with the Zofran and the Ativan. Another difference in this week’s treatment was that my mom and brother accompanied me during treatment instead of my father. It was really great for them to be there with me and to see what the whole process is like. It became really obvious that I had really mastered the whole process. Being with family members who hadn’t been through the process meant that I really took the lead. I knew this process well! I have it down! The number of people I knew at the hospital also really stuck out. I knew tons of people around the hospital who were greeting me and checking it. At that moment one thing became apparent; I was no longer a beginner to this whole process. I’m a regular now. During the chemo one of the social workers came to talk to my family and I to discuss any possible changes that I’d like to see in the future. They wanted some feed back and I really thought it was awesome that they’re always looking to improve.

As always, if you have any questions let me know. Thanks for reading.

-Josh

Chemotherapy Week 8; IV Issues

23 Jun

This week was almost exactly the same as last week except for one major exception. I arrived and checked in like normal, then nurses took my vitals. However, issues occurred when my nurse went to put in my IV. Unlike other days the nurse couldn’t find a vein for the IV. She searched my hands using tourniquets and hot packs, however she couldn’t find any obvious veins. She even searched my arms which is something they hadn’t previously done. They couldn’t go in at my elbow because apparently that’s very risky with the highly toxic Vancristine.

Finally the nurse chose a vein in my left hand that seemed to be somewhat hidden, however, she thought it would do the job. She wanted to use my left hand because my right was still bruised from the previous week and she wanted to give it a chance to recover. As soon as the needle pierced my hand the vein seemed to vanish. The nurse began “digging” around in my hand attempting to find the vein. Halfway through this process another nurse, looking to use the room to put in another patient’s IV, came in. After some more “digging” the other nurse took over. She was able to pierce the vein, however, when the IV went into the vein hardly any blood came out. The nurses decided that because the Vancristine is so toxic, and that the vein wasn’t responding well, they wouldn’t be able to use it.

Finally the second nurse found a much smaller vein in my right hand, the one they wanted to give a week to recover, and was able to insert the IV. There was very good blood flow and everything was working well. However, because the IV was in a much smaller vein I could easily feel it and it was slightly more irritable.

After waiting about an hour and a half, I met with my oncologist. I began talking with her about my vein and the possibility of getting a port. As I’ve said before, I really wanted to avoid getting a port. I didn’t want to have another surgery. However getting a port now seemed inevitable. I knew that if I had to get a port,then I just wanted to get it over with. My oncologist encouraged my dad and I to wait two more weeks until the intensive period was finished. She encouraged me to do so because once the intensive was finished, and I had my next MRI, we would know more about how the tumor is reacting. We decided that if this form of chemo was working, then it would be a good idea to receive a port. However, the reason she was having me wait was if this form of chemo wasn’t working. If this form of chemo is not working, then I would only have to get an IV every two weeks and getting a port might be pointless. The rest of the chemo in the second option would be administered orally.

Later on that day when I was in the day hospital, the nurse who put in my IV stopped by. She said that she overheard my discussion with the oncologist and that she thought I would be able to make it through another two weeks. She said that even know putting in my IV was painful, they didn’t even need to call in the IV specialists. I actually found this reassuring because I imagined that putting in the IV was more frustrating for my nurses than it was for me. I guess not!

So now I’m waiting. Hopefully the chemo is working. If it is then I’ll be getting a port before the maintenance period starts. Sorry I was a little late posting this week. As always if you have any questions or anything you’d like to hear about, please let me know.

-Josh

Chemotherapy Week 7; Back to the Carboplatin

15 Jun

Well unfortunately after having two very manageable doses of chemo, I had to go back to the full regiment this week. Just like every other week we arrived at the hospital where we checked in and then the nurses proceeded to take my vitals and give me my IV. However, the most “painful” part of the day was waiting to meet with my oncologist. My dad and I had to wait for just over two hours to see my oncologist! We never mind waiting, because it just means that she is being very thorough, however it just makes the day even longer and more tedious.

Finally when I met with my oncologist she let me know that my blood counts were looking amazing. The only thing that was different about my normal examination was that my reflexes were totally gone! The previous week it because obvious that my reflexes were declining, however, this week they were totally defunct! The oncologist said that with most people they come back, however, even if they didn’t as long as I had full control over my feet then I would be fine.

The biggest thing that was different about this week’s treatment, was that my oncologist added Adivan to my regiment. Adivan is a drug normally used as anxiety medicine. However, in my situation it’s used to prevent nausea. The logic behind using Adivan is that the nausea I feel each week isn’t actually coming from my stomach, it’s coming from signals in my brain. Therefore, if I can use a drug like Adivan to calm my brain down I’m less likely to experience nausea.

Once I finally went back to the day hospital I received the Zofran first and the nurses warned me to eat my lunch before the Adivan was in my system. I ate my lunch as I was told. Next thing you knew, I was out! The Adivan put me straight to sleep! When I next woke up, the chemo was done for the day!

It was an average day, we arrived at the hospital at about 9:20 AM and left at 3:00 PM. I am very happy knowing I only have three weeks left in the intensive.

Today, the day after I had the chemo, I woke up in the morning feeling rotten. As a result, hoping to deal with the nausea, I took a Zofran and a Adivan. The Adivan caused me to fall asleep around 8:30AM and I didn’t wake up again until 2:20 PM! That medicine works wonders! I also woke up feeling much better than I was feeling when I feel asleep. Sleep is magical.

As always if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I really appreciate all your support!

-Josh