Yesterday I received my new chemo protocol of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I’ll get 3 more infusions of these 2 chemo drugs over the next 7 weeks, and then Taxol, Herceptin and Perjeta over 12 weeks, once a week. Let’s concentrate on these two drugs for now.
I arrived early so that I could receive the education about these new drugs. My sister Lucy was with me; it’s always great to have another set of ears. Adriamycin (generic name Doxorubicin) is an antitumor antibiotic. It’s a vesicant, a chemical that causes extensive tissue damage and blistering if it escapes from the vein. So it’s given via “push” – the nurse injects it into my port rather than by drip. The other interesting thing is that the drug is a bright red, and for the next 24 hours my urine will be anywhere from orange to red! Sort of like eating an entire can of beets…
Cytoxan (generic name cyclophosphamide) is an alkylating agent, most active in the resting phase of the cell. Carboplatin, which was part of my first chemo protocol is the same type of agent. Cytoxan is a mustard gas derivative; Carboplatin is a metal salt. The interesting thing about Cytoxan is that it used to be given over 2 hours, then 90 minutes, then an hour, and Velia said that it would be given over 30 minutes. She said that one of the effects of giving it over 30 minutes is that I could feel sinus pressure and the start of a headache, and if that was the case, that I should ask the nurse to slow down the drip to go over 1 hour. Lucy was thinking that we should just do the infusion over an hour. Well, when it came time to the infusion, the nurse said that it would be given over an hour – that their experience is that the patients tolerated the infusion much better when given over an hour, so they’re going back to an hour rather than 30 minutes.
Now that I’ve had time to read the reams of information about these 2 new drugs, one of the slightly distressing things about both of them is a slight risk of developing a blood cancer such as leukemia. Feels like I can’t win for losing. But I really can’t worry about it right now.
Dr. K is still really concerned about my potassium level, and this time she wanted to check my magnesium level too. Still related to my diarrhea issues, my potassium was fine, but my magnesium was incredibly low. So after the chemo drugs were given, which didn’t take that long, I was given 3 gr of magnesium – which took 3 hours! So while my infusion started early (9 am) it didn’t end until 3 pm. Magnesium helps with regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA which is important! The premeds included Decadron (a steroid) and Zofran (anti-nausea drug), both of which were given the first 2 treatments as well, but this time Dr. K added Emend, a long acting anti-nausea drug. I think she REALLY wants me to have a nausea-free couple of weeks. Now I can only hope that I also have a diarrhea-free couple of weeks, too!
In addition to the possible diarrhea and nausea, these set of drugs can cause mouth sores. The first regimen does too, but apparently not as much as this set. I was prescribed a compounded mouthwash to help with the mouth sores. Obviously, aside from the pain from mouth sores the concern is that it makes it hard to eat, and I have to eat. And from the Cytoxan, everything may taste metallic, even water. So flavored waters, water enhancers, G2 will be my friends. And from the Adriamycin, darkened nail beds. I guess that’s better than nails falling off…
I got a visit during my infusion from my niece Alex, who’s home for a few days for spring break, and my friend and former colleague Lorrie arrived around 9:30 and stayed with me for the entire infusion. It was great to spend time with her, and she was gracious enough to buy me lunch (I didn’t think I’d be at the infusion center as long as I was, so I hadn’t packed a lunch) and take me home. I have such great support locally, and virtually across the country (and world). Thank you to each and every one of you who have reached out in whatever way you have – cards, gifts, emails, Facebook posts, visits – all of your tremendous support is what helps me get through this very long haul. With your help, I’ll get through this! Onward!