If you or a loved one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the recommended treatment involves chemotherapy, I write to share what a typical chemotherapy session entails for me in hopes of demystifying this type of cancer treatment that strikes fear in the hearts of patients and their families (it certainly did for me, initially).
Since cancer and I are duking it out (as you may know if you read my previous article, I'm up against stage IV-A cervical cancer), I prefer to call each chemotherapy session a "round" à la a boxing match. However, unlike a round in boxing, a round of chemo in my case endures not for minutes but for an average of 10 hours. Every three weeks, once my body's recovered from the last round, I enter the ring for a chemo round.
The number of chemo rounds, the interval between each round, and the duration of the round itself varies from person to person fighting cancer. In line with that, there are over 100 different types of chemotherapy drugs that can be given to a patient in different ways, such as orally or intravenously, and in different doses, and can be administered in different settings. As you might guess, different side effects like neuropathy can accompany a chemotherapy drug. I keep track of mine in a notebook, but you might also find this work sheet handy.
The best piece of advice that I received from a survivor–guardian angel was to be a squeaky wheel with my oncologist. I took that guidance to heart, so much so that I annoyed my oncologist and got scolded for calling a nurse’s line too much. Turned out what I thought was a 24/7 nurse’s line wasn’t that. Oops! But hey, this is about survival and a successful fight, so have at it: Call your doc, send an email, tweet, etc.! If you get scolded too, blame me.
From morning to night, this is how my chemo day goes:
7 a.m.-ish (emphasis on the -ish):