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
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
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
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
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
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!!!