What is Treatment like?
Since my diagnosis in March of 2014, I have had 5 types of chemo, one short segment of radiation, genome mapping to match the tumor to an FDA-approved drug, a Phase II trial drug, and an FDA approved PARP inhibitor designed for Ovarian Cancer.
My first treatment following diagnosis (first line) was a chemo called Taxol. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s blog about the first time I got Taxol:
Everything went well today. We left Lafayette for Indy at 1045, and we arrived at 1200 for a 1230 appointment. In the lobby, they have puzzles set out for patients awaiting their appointment times, and Lori and I crushed one puzzle (smallish one), started another, and found 11 missing pieces from the first puzzle mixed into the second puzzle’s box! So needless to say, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. They say pride comes before the fall, but we just kept on whipping those puzzles…..
Eventually, they called Lori back to the infusion room. They have a nice setup for each patient. There is a large community room with recliner chairs set up along the outside wall for the patients. There are privacy partitions between each recliner. There are TVs as well, but no one seems to care to watch. In the middle of the room , they have a guest waiting area with recliners and magazines. A snack area is set up with a big Keurig coffee maker, popsicles, ice cream, crackers, chips, etc. Interestingly, each patient reacts differently to the treatment, and the various snacks meet the various needs of the patients. The popsicles, for example, help many patients stymie the onset of sores in the mouth.
A nurse came by and gave a quick summary of how the day would proceed. He set up her IV and began running saline mixed with Benadryl and then steroids. The Benadryl helps patients who struggle with anxiety and nausea. Lori probably didn’t need that today, but I guess it’s protocol. Those took about an hour to infuse, and the Benadryl really made Lori tired. When those bags were empty, they began the chemo. This requires two nurses to administer for accountability purposes. I suppose you really can’t afford to give the the wrong patient the wrong type of chemo, so I fully support the buddy system. Her type of chemo is called Taxol, and it is potent for both the triple negative and the HER2 types. This is good for Lori because we still don’t know which type has blessed her. The chemo took one hour to infuse, and she slept through most of it. She stayed cuddled under a bunch of blankets; the cold from the IV fluid had her struggling to keep warm. Next time, I’ll be prepared with a heated blanket!
When the bag was empty, they pulled out the IV, and we got up and walked out. She slept for the vast majority of the 1+15 hr ride home, and then she slept for quite a bit more in her bed. She doesn’t show any side effects from the chemo yet, but that is not expected for a few days. The steroids kind of hold off those effects for a couple of days. Taxol can have quite a few side effects however, so we are bracing for those. Google it if you’re curious; it’s a really long list of bad stuff. It’s actually really amazing that someone figured this out, because chemo is basically a toxin that eats up everything in its path. It wreaks havoc on the body, but it also attacks the cancer and so we consider it worth the trade-off. The body would naturally reject the toxin, but the chemo is delivered with a natural substance found in plants which the body will readily accept. Once the fluid is running in the veins, the natural substance dissolves, and the chemo is left to do its thing. We basically trick the body into accepting something very harmful to itself using a Trojan chemical cocktail.
So that’s it. Day 1 of treatment is done. Hopefully, her body reacts well to this type of chemo.
Taxol was given once a week for three straight weeks followed by a week off. That 4-week period was considered one cycle. There is no set length of time that cancer patients like Lori are on a particular type of chemo.
Other brands of chemo were infused only once per month. Others were day 1 and 8 of a 21-day cycle. The trial drug was an oral pill taken twice a day. The PARP inhibitors were 16 pills each day (8 in the morning and 8 at night).
Radiation was done every weekday until I had completed 10 sessions. That is considered a very short line of radiation treatment. Most patients get approx 40 sessions. Mine was shorter because we were just trying to control the expanding tumor, not eliminate it.