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Going, going...

     January 28th, 2004.     

     Ever since I got CHOP chemo #1 of this series (three weeks ago tomorrow) I've been seeing more and more hair in my comb each day.  First, there was a burning sensation on my scalp.  I figured it was probably my hair follicles going whacko on me, indicating it was about to start.  About a week ago, I started waking each morning to quite a bit of it on my pillow, after tossing and turning through each restless night.  Then I'd wake up to it tickling my nose.  There was so much of it, I was combing it off my pillow just to clean it!  The result each morning was enough to make a small toupee!  Hmmm... Maybe I shoulda saved it?  Hehehe!

     Well, yesterday, it decided to come out en masse!  When I woke up yesterday, you could tell that I was losing my hair if you looked close.  But at a glance from normal talking distance, it wasn't all that noticeable, especially since I usually wear a baseball cap anyway.  By evening though, there was a major change!  And here it is...


What a handsome devil, eh?! 

     Tomorrow, I get the second chemo round in this series.  I figure by sometime early next week, I'll be totally bald.  Well, that'll certainly be a new look for me!  Wait a minute now... This is ALREADY a new look for me!  Hehehe!

     Today, I went to the hospital for my S-L-O-W Rituxan drip.  Here's how it went...

     I woke up about 4:30 am.  Bored, I put on some coffee and snapped a few pics of ol' baldy up there, so you could see the change.  Then I did some email and web surfing till mom woke up, and we went to get a nice big breakfast at Denny's.  I figured I'd be in the hospital tethered to an IV tree for quite awhile, and I didn't want to feel like I was starving through it.

     We found a parking spot in the big lot across the street and adjacent to the hospital, then walked across and around the building to the main front desk, where I signed in at 8:20.  Being that we were early, mom sat in the waiting area and read, while I wandered around the area, looking at the art on the walls, which mostly consisted of huge, blown up photos of the area's mountains and valleys.  I imagined that many of my own photos would look just as good on those walls, if blown up to those humungous sizes and framed so nicely.  Hmmm...

     About quarter to nine, my name was called and I went up to the front desk again.  They didn't know anything about why I was there, and after an explanation of what a Rituxan treatment is and how it's done, they suggested I go to admitting, down the hall.  I thanked them and set off in search of admitting, which was not far at all.  In the very next big, open area on the other end of the short hall was a big fancy desk, and I asked if it was admitting.  The two ladies working it pointed to their right, and as I followed their fingers with my eyes, I saw the sign for it.

     A few more steps and I was through another doorway and in 'admitting'.  There, another hospital worker looked me up and said I was in the right place.  I explained that my insurance carrier changed on January 1st, and presented my new insurance card to her.  She made a photocopy and updated the info in her computer, then verified that the rest of the info she had, like address, phone number and employer were still correct.

     It only took a few minutes and then she asked if I needed a wheelchair, saying it was a pretty good walk from there to where I would actually get the treatment.  I told her I could walk it just fine, and we set out on a hike that took us toward the back of the hospital, which we'd passed on our way from the parking lot to the main sign in.  Mom commented that we were a lot closer to where we were parked, which was a good thing for when we were leaving.

     We were ushered into a typical two bed hospital room, where I was assigned bed #2, by the window.  Bed #1 was empty and looked like someone had just vacated it, with the bedding looking slept in.  The TV in the room was still on and facing it.  I wondered if they would be coming back from the bathroom or something soon, but a few minutes later a nurse came in and said that we would have the room to ourselves.  That being the case, I turned the TV so both mom and I could see it.  She was sitting at a little desk built into the wall with two chairs sitting at it, at the foot of my bed, so I swung it around pretty far.

     I took off my jacket and shoes and laid down on the bed to get comfortable, but the mattress was all lopsided and sunken in on one side, and I felt like I'd roll off it if I relaxed too much.  I'd worn a set of joggers in anticipation that I'd be laying in bed most of the day with wires and tubes connected to me.  I wanted to be comfortable for it.  Mom took the initiative and set out to find a nurse to complain about the bed, and soon enough, it was replaced with a new one that was just fine.  Well, actually, it was left outside the room and the guy that delivered it disappeared before anyone could stop him to get it set up in the room, so mom and the nurse did it.

     The nurse was a little exasperated over the whole thing, explaining that they keep sending the lopsided bed out of there with instructions not to return it, only to discover that it's back a few days later, and usually right back in the same place.  I suggested she set it on fire if she didn't want to see it again.  In any case, I had a new bed to get comfy in, so that's what I did.

     The nurse came in and asked a lot of questions and went over the procedure in detail, and it seemed like she did it several times, just to be sure.  She was very pleasant and smiling, and I answered all the best I could.

     The next step was to get my blood drawn, which was done by another nurse.  She filled three test tubes in the usual manner of using a tourniquet and syringe in my arm.  The first nurse explained that she wanted the lab work done before she started the treatment, but assured me it wouldn't take long.  In the meantime, she called my doctor to ask if she could use two more drugs as part of the pre-med package for the Rituxan treatment.  Usually, it's just a couple of Tylenol and some Benedryl.  This time, she wanted to add Decadron and Prevacid to the mix.  He must have agreed.

     It took longer than she'd anticipated to get the blood work results back, but in the meantime, she set up the IV and got some saline solution set up, then we did the pre-treatment med package described above, as she explained the whole procedure a few more times.  She was REALLY thorough about describing what was going on and what to expect pretty much every time we had any conversation.  Of course, this wasn't my first time on this ride, so I had to hold myself back from finishing her sentences most of the time, but she was pleasant and it was all good.

     She presented me with a menu for lunch, and I followed the instructions on it and circled all that I wanted.  I avoided the breakfast portion of it, as we'd already had Denny's not long before.  I didn't realize they'd even offer me anything to eat.  That hadn't happened before in any of my previous treatments.  If anything, mom would just take a trip to the cafeteria and get us something.  It was good to know they were going to feed me.  I've heard lots of people complain about hospital food, but I guess I'm a cheap date, 'cause I've always liked it just fine.

     Finally, the blood test results came back and the nurse set to work getting the Rituxan flowing through the IV and hooking me up to telemetry, which consisted of an automated blood pressure sleeve around my right arm and 3 electrodes stuck to my torso - two on my chest and one on my left side, down near my hip.  The BP sleeve occasionally inflates, takes the reading, and deflates - all on it's own.

     She said that I would be monitored there in the room but also, more importantly, from a remote location upstairs by hospital staff that spend all their time monitoring particular patients constantly.  The slightest abnormality would cause them to send in a nurse to deal with it pronto.  The one in the room did the blip, blip, blip in time to my beating heart to the right and sort of behind me, and I could see the electronic graph it made on it's screen in the mirror at mom's desk.

     As predicted from my previous Rituxan treatments, I was soon feeling groggy from the Benedryl, and drifted off for a nap.  The stuff makes me feel a little chilly too, so I climbed under the sheet and blanket.  I woke occasionally with the nurse making small adjustments to the sleeve or electrodes or the machine they were hooked up to, and each time she asked me how I was feeling and assured me all was going well.  Occasionally, she increased the rate of the Rituxan that was being dripped in.

     I woke again when a meal was brought in, and was surprised that it was already lunchtime.  When I uncovered it though, it was breakfast.  I didn't order it, but my name was on it, so I ate it anyway.  Then I watched TV for awhile and drifted off again.  Next thing I knew, it was lunch time, and I ate that as well.

     More TV, and somewhere along the line I became aware that the nurse was fussing over the wires and electrodes quite a bit.  She explained that she was doing it because 'they' upstairs kept sending her in when they'd get some erratic readings from me, and it was often.

     After much fooling around with the thing, another nurse came in and said it was the wrong machine, and that they needed to hook me up to one that uses five electrodes instead of three.  They made the switch, added some more electrodes to my torso here and there, and were on their way again.  Soon enough, they were back trying to figure out why they were still getting weird signals upstairs from me.  They'd fool with the wires again, get it all working properly, and then it would go and bust a move again for no apparent reason.  In any case, I was just fine, and it appeared to be a problem with the machinery or something.

     Several hours passed from the time I got there, and the nurse said she was leaving for the day, and that another nurse was taking over.  She estimated that I only had about half an hour of drip to go, and then I'd be able to get out of there.  We wished each other well, and I thanked her again.

     The new nurse came in a short time later to check on me, and said that when the Rituxan was all drained from it's IV bag and in me, she wanted to switch over to saline for about 15 minutes to flush everything.  It was standard and I expected it, so I gave her the "okey dokey".

     It was all over finally around 4:30 pm or so, and she unplugged all the stuff from me, pulled the IV, bandaged me up, and sent me on my way.  We left through a door in that ward that opened up to a small parking lot just across the street from where we parked, and it was only a short walk to our ride.  I got home about 5 or so and I went back to bed to sleep off the rest of the Benedryl.

     So, I had no reactions, didn't go into shock - no problems at all.  I think I'm all set after having my initial first time shock in the doc's office a few weeks ago.  With that behind us, maybe I can just get them at the doc's office from here on out, sitting in a recliner for about 4 hours.  We'll see how he and the nurse in his office feel about that.

     I'll be at the doc's office again tomorrow for my next CHOP chemo treatment, and I'll see if I can get an answer on that one.

     So far, so good!!!

     Next: CHOP II
                                                            Buck