Back to School

The kids start the new academic year next Tuesday.  Earl and I, however, headed back to class this morning.  Chemo class, that is.

For us, the 2 hour class was a refresher course covering much of what we already knew about chemo mechanics (chemo kills fast growing cells – both healthy and cancerous) and side effects (healthy fast growing cells include blood, hair, gastrointestinal, nails, etc., so killing them results in hair loss, nausea, fatigue, blood clotting problems, immune system dysfunction, mouth sores, diarrhea, taste changes, and neuropathy, to name a few).  Here are some new bits of information:

1)  Nausea typically doesn’t hit until after the infusion.  However, to accommodate patients who might already be nauseated, no perfume or aftershave is allowed in the infusion clinic.

2)  DVD and CD players and WiFi are available for my use.  Too bad there’s no Wii on site.

3)  During the 12 week Taxol/Herceptin phase, my immune system will be suppressed. Consequently, I will need to be especially vigilant in preventing or containing infections by washing hands, avoiding crowds, and immediately reporting any fever above 100.5F.  I also have to be careful with food, eschewing raw non-self-contained fruits (bananas, melons, oranges ok; grapes, strawberries, cherries not) and raw thin-skinned vegetables (peeled cucumber, peeled carrots ok; lettuce and spinach not).  Well-cooked produce of any type is fine, though.  No raw milk, raw juice, raw cheese, raw fish, rawhide.

4)  I should get a flu shot.  Dental appointments should be scheduled before or after chemotherapy, but not during the treatment phase.

I also met with the oncology pharmacist after our chemo class.  He went over some specifics for my particular therapy.

1)  The first treatment, currently scheduled for the first week of October, should take approximately 3 hours:  0.5 hours for premeds (Dethamexasone + Benadryl to prevent allergic reactions to the Taxol), 1.5 hours for Taxol, and 1 hour for Herceptin.

2)  The 2nd through 12th treatments will take just 2 hours, less time than the 1st when they will be watching me carefully for allergic reactions.  The Herceptin only treatments after the first 12 weeks should take even less time, maybe 30 minutes every 3 weeks.

3)  Taxol frequently causes neuropathy.  He recommends some over the counter supplements to help prevent or ameliorate this side effect:

a)  Vitamin B-6 — 50-100mg/day
b)  Glutamine (also helps with GI issues and boosts immunity) — 10g powder/day
c)  Acetyl-L-Carnitine — 1g 2x/day

4)  He anticipates body aches will be less pronounced for me than for people on the higher dosage 3 week cycle.  Fingers crossed.

5)  The Dexamethasone is an anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergy medication. Alas, it has its own side effects and can cause facial flushing, sleeping problems, hiccups, and increased hunger.  My initial dose will only be 10mg (vs. 22 mg for patients on the 3 week dosage), and these side effects should dissipate within 24 hours.

6)  Fatigue can become an issue with the weekly regimen since my body won’t have much recovery time (compared to the 3 week cycle).

7)  He also recommends Vitamin D (4000 units/day) and Omega 3 to help prevent new and combat existing cancer.

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