Today is the first day of the 3rd round of chemotherapy. This time we're trying Dacogen (Decitabine) which is a little different than Vidaza (Azacitidine), the chemo drug I was on for the last 2 rounds. We're switching since Dr. Goldberg isn't happy with the results of the Azacitidne. "It's not working" is what he said. Yup, I agree. So we're trying Decitabine, which is in the same family as Azicitidine but it's newer and apparently offers a similar chance at increasing the counts. It's new enough that it had to be special-ordered and the nurses were unfamiliar with it and had to learn about it. It's also administered intravenously instead of subcutaneously like the Azacitidine. The Azacitidine was nice since the sub-q injections only took a few minutes, but they left nasty bruises. The IV for the Decitabine on the other hand takes an hour to administer. Apparently if they try to squirt it in any faster it can burn your veins. Yuck. So either you get a quick injection with bruises, or a painless injection that takes an hour. I think I prefer the quick injection. Who cares about bruises. But those were the good old days I guess :) It's probably all IV from here on out.
Part of the chemo that's hard to accept is how toxic it is. You're reminded of this each time the nurse arrives with the drug and you can't help but notice the prominent warning labels on the bag. The nurses wear gloves and take the utmost care not to spill any when handling it. They're very careful. So it's disconcerting to watch them take so much care in handling it only to have it all get pumped directly into your veins. It's hard to grasp, especially for someone who generally tries to take care of himself and avoid situations that might be, oh say, super duper toxic. Oh well, such are the risks we take.
This round is also different in that instead of taking the anti-nausea drugs at home in pill form, they can just pump it into my veins along with the chemo, so it takes care of it all in one shot. So the whole process with the IV involves: finding a vein (they don't use the big veins in the crook of your arm since they don't want to pollute the area with the chemo drugs for any upcoming blood draws), hooking you up to the IV machine and taping all the tubing down, administering the "pre-med" anti-nausea drugs, waiting 30 minutes for the anti-nausea drugs to settle in, administering the chemo drug itself which take an hour to drip in, then unplugging you from the machine and dressing everything up. Today we showed up at 4:30 and didn't leave until 8pm. Woohoo! Only four more days of this to go.
Johanna was awesome and not only brought mexican food but also brought pizza as well! The treatment center has their own food and snacks and beverages so we had lots of food to tide us over. We all joked around and I read my New Yorker magazine for a bit and then it was all done. No side-effects yet, but I expect them to start in a couple of days if it's anything like the last 2 rounds.
Oh, and today was the first day of our Qigong class (pronounced "Chee-Gong"), which is an ancient Chinese technique similar to Tai-Chi. Our friend Greg recommended it since he found it helpful when he was going through the stuff he was dealing with, and he's been studying it ever since. The particular Qigong we're doing is called "Soaring Crane Qigong" and emphasizes the healing aspect (in general Qigong is used for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, and is also a component of Chinese martial arts). It's also very relaxing and peaceful to do.
Anyway, the class is over the lunch hour so it was great to have a break and be able to relax halfway through the day. The instructor was great, and Johanna and her mom and Greg all went with me so that was cool. A lot of people were there because they had cancer or knew someone with cancer who spoke highly of Qigong. All in all it was an interesting first day and I'm looking forward to the weekly classes.
Here are some pictures from the chemo treatment:
Me getting pumped up with the Decitabine chemotherapy drug (see it doesn't look that bad)
Johanna's mom Vernee was there to provide support and to see how all this stuff worked