Chemo is anticlimactic.

AC Chemo Round 1, Day 1

Well, the first day of chemo got off to a rough start. Matt and I both did not sleep well the night before and did not wake up as early as we usually do. When the boys started yelling, “The clock is green and yellow! Time to wake up!” Matt and I were not ready to start our day. We rushed to get the boys ready for breakfast and to get me ready for chemo. My chemo bag was not fully packed and there was no time for me to eat. I quickly got my stuff together, ran out the door, and left Matt with the boys to wait for our nanny to arrive. I stopped at the bagel store and ate a delicious scooped & toasted whole wheat everything bagel with egg, swiss, & avocado (yum) and headed to NYU for my 8am start time.

Each treatment day will have 3 parts. First, I have to get my blood drawn to make sure that all of my levels are what they are expected to be. Next, I wait to meet with my oncologist and NP to discuss my labs, symptoms, progress, and the plan for the day. Finally, I get comfortable in a chair and start the actual chemotherapy (which has many parts as well). It is a long day of sitting, waiting and more sitting, but it is also very anti-climactic.

Since I only had my port put in the day before, the area was still very sore. Getting the port ready for my blood draws and chemo was really painful. I didn’t know it at the time, but my chemo nurse, Stacy, told me that there is a numbing cream that I could have put on my skin 30 minutes earlier to numb the area and reduce the pain – I’ll know better for next time. Once I had my blood drawn, I had to wait about 45 minutes to meet with my doctors.

Matt and I met with my oncologist, Dr. Sylvia Adams, and the Nurse Practitioner Anna Lucas (both amazing!). They reviewed my labs, said my numbers looked good and cleared me to start chemo. We talked about all of the possible symptoms that I might experience from chemotherapy and what to do to alleviate the symptoms. It was comforting to hear that there is a solution for every symptom and that I shouldn’t feel completely debilitated from this. We also talked about using CBD or THC to help with nausea, anxiety and insomnia. Because there is no science research to support its effectiveness, Dr. Adams and Anna cannot recommend using it, though they did not discourage it either. If anyone has any experience with this I would love to hear about it!

Next, it was back to my cozy chair by the window to get started with the actual treatments. First, I got “pre-medicine”, anti-nausea & steroids to alleviate the symptoms, and then began actual chemo. The type of chemo used to treat triple negative breast cancer is called AC-T. I will have 4 sessions of AC (Adriamycin & Cytoxan) and 12 sessions of T (Taxol) with Carboplatin. First, the nurse administers the Adriamycin (Red Devil). She holds a syringe to control the speed that it enters my port. During the Adriamycin, I have to either eat an ice pop (yum) or chew on ice chips to avoid getting mouth sores. Then the Cytoxan is added to the port. I did not feel a thing the entire time – it is very strange. Overall, I spent about 3 hours in the chair.

Many of our family members wanted to be there with us at chemotherapy to show their support. I get it. This is a scary time that affects all of us and seeing me go through chemo is a way for everyone to connect to this experience. But, it was very anticlimactic. Everyone was just sitting around in the room, watching me sit in a chair. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, but it was kind of boring- and crowded. I think it would have been easier to have visitors stagger in throughout the treatment instead of having a full room from start-to-finish or visit us at home afterwards. It was a bit overwhelming. 

At 1pm, after I got disconnected from all of the wires and got cleared to leave, Matt and I walked home. I didn’t really let myself have any expectations of what chemotherapy would feel like but at the end of my treatment I was a bit surprised by how normal I felt. It was faster and easier than I thought it would be. As I write this, I am 6 hours post-treatment and I haven’t experienced any major symptoms. I am a little jittery from the steroids but the nausea and fatigue hasn’t hit me… yet. 

Special Thanks to my Round 1 Team: Matt, Mom, Dad, Mimi, Poppop, Grandpa, Jordan, Dan & Noam

25% done with AC 6.25% done with chemo!  #shaystrong

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