Chemo 8/12

Chemo session #8 proceeded smoothly and pleasantly.  The nurse was ready to start my I.V. shortly after I was seated and although I had to wait before each infusion bag (first saline, then Herceptin, premeds, and lastly Taxol), we were out the door within 3.5 hours.  Each medication is prepared just in time in the oncology pharmacist’s office down the hall and delivered chairside.  The nurses then follow a strict protocol to ensure that the correct item is being delivered to the intended patient:  they flag down a collaborating colleague and together check and electronically scan my wristband, ask for my name, call out the medical record number, medication, dosage, and finally enter everything into a nearby computer.

Earl’s proficiency with the Cold Caps has been garnering praise from the observing nurses.  In fact, the head nurse commented that they need carbon copies of him to better help the other two patients currently using Cold Caps (on different days from mine — we have yet to see someone else using them).  From what she was saying, those patients’ helpers aren’t as efficient in extracting, warming, measuring, kneading, fitting, and recooling the Cold Caps as Earl has become.  We now have just 4 more Taxol-Herceptin treatments left, which means around 56 more Cold Caps for him to fit and for me to wear.  I will continue on Herceptin through next October after the Taxol ends, but the Herceptin doesn’t cause hair loss so won’t require Cold Cap usage.

I am ever refining my own infusion regimen.  This week, I decided that sucking on mostly ice cubes interspersed with some frozen banana and mango chunks worked most palatably to keep my mouth cold during Taxol.  I have thus far managed to avoid the taste changes and mouth sores frequently suffered during chemotherapy.  At this point, I think I can guardedly conclude that mouth cooling is working, with the obvious alternative conclusion that the Taxol dosage is too low to actually trigger these side effects in me.

I decided to stop using moleskin under my chin.  At earlier infusions I had been using a maxipad (yes, that kind), then moleskin, and have now switched to a folded washcloth to cushion my neck from the scratchy and hard Cold Cap chin straps.  I do have to hold the washcloth in place during cap changes, but the cloth is much softer and there’s no moleskin residue to clean off afterwards.  I also cut holes in the centers of the moleskin protecting my ears from frostbite.  Before, I was close to deaf from the layers of moleskin and the Cold Caps blanketing my ears.

Just as we thought we were clear and free when leaving the infusion clinic, we discovered the building’s elevator to be newly out of order.  Poor Earl ended up having to carry our Cold Cap and dry ice filled cooler (~100 pounds total) all the way down the stairs.  At least we only started out on the second floor.

The big question for me this week has been whether I can stay healthy and energetic enough for a half-marathon tomorrow at the Palo Alto Baylands.  I have intentionally taken a break from running over the past week to avoid last-minute knee problems, something I’ve been cautious with since I injured my right knee while training for my first half-marathon.  Overuse during last winter’s training led to acute pain which then forced me to take a break and reassess.  Since then, I have worked on improving both form and stride and have moved towards a more minimal style of running.

Here’s a fantastic new pair of shoes I bought recently that really underscores how differently I’m moving.  Gone is the thick bed of cushioning typical of today’s running shoes and in its place is a super-flexible, slightly compressible, low to the ground, lightweight bit of engineering. They’re not the most attractive shoes but more importantly feel great.  We’ll see how they feel after 13.1 miles tomorrow, however.

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