My Story Part 4: The First Infusion

And now we come to the tough part.  Enduring six months of weekly chemo was unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. The first thing I had to get by was inserting the needle.  Since I had a dual port installed it was a fairly simple procedure but I had no idea what to expect the first time through so there was some anxiety.  The needle is much wider than a standard needle.  It has two plastic flaps on the top that sort of look like a butterfly.  I guess that’s what they use to push it in and hold it in place.  My nurse cleaned the area, placed the needle just above one of the ports and then just pushed it straight in.  It hurt, but not all that much and the pain subsided quickly.  It was then taped secure and that was it.

My first infusion started with a dose of IV Benedril.  I was told it was the same dosage of two Benedril capsules but since it was an IV its effects were much stronger.  By the time the drip had completed I became very drowsy, but I do remember what came next.  One of the chemicals (I think they started with Erbitux) can cause breathing difficulties.  Well, I have a history of athsma, and not long after starting the drip I began to have what seemed like an athsma attack.  They quickly ordered an Albuterol inhaler an once I took a couple of puffs I felt better.  That was really the only time I had breathing problems.

When the Erbitux was finished, they started the series of FOLFOX chemicals.  It started with Leucovorin, then Oxaliplatin, then Fluorouracil (5FU).  The 5FU was a direct injection at the end and not slow a drip.  The combination of infusing all of these chemicals took several hours.

Once the drip was complete I had to hang around for a half hour just in case there was a bad reaction.  In the meantime,  I was hooked up to a portable infusion pump.  The purpose of this was to keep the 5FU slowly infusing for 46 hours.  It was a small device, maybe 4″ x 6″ and was placed in a pouch that in turn was hooked onto my belt.  Sleeping with this thing hanging connected to me was a joy.  I had to strategically place the line through my shirt so it wouldn’t get pulled,  and place the pump on my nightstand.  Several times I got up at night and forgot it was there so it went crashing to the floor.

I looked forward to Sundays so I could have the pump removed and be free for another 12 days.  My sister in-law is an NP and she was shown how to remove it so at least I didn’t have to drive all they way into Boston.  They provided me with a kit every two weeks that included everything she needed to unplug me.  This part actually didn’t hurt.  First she had to flush it to prevent clotting.  Then she removed the tape,  grabbed the flaps and yanked it out.  Some blood would come out but not much.  Once the bandage was applied I was FREE!  It felt SO good.

That essentially summarizes my first infusion.  Unfortunately it only got worse from there.

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