Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Chemo Course

Welcome to Café Chimio, where we serve the finest chimiothérapie cuisine!

Today our special is the ABVD full course chimio delight, a classic choice for our Hodgkin Lymphoma patrons. Each entrée is served with complementary nausea, vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, and a low blood count which leads to fatigue and an increased risk of infection.

Patrons may experience all, some, or few side effects to varying degrees of intensity. Sorry, no substitutions can be made.

When you arrive, our host will escort you to a private recliner. One of our expert servers will access your port-a-cath and flush it with prepackaged saline syringes in preparation for your chemo treatment. Patrons with a sensitivity to the prepackaged saline may request hand-prepared syringes.

Our servers are happy to accommodate your needs. Do not hesitate to ask for anything, whether it be a warm blanket, a pillow, a plastic puke bag, a light snack or drink, or extra antiemetics. We encourage feedback, so please also report any worrying side effects or discomfort.

While you wait between each course, we will serve you a constant vintage Saline Drip.

For an appetizer you will begin with Emend. This delightful refreshment will ensure you enjoy your full chemo course without side effects like nausea or vomiting. We want our guests to enjoy their treatment while they stay with us.

A second appetizer is a blend of Zofran and Decadron, more antiemetics to ward off nausea and vomiting.

As a palate cleanser, you will receive Tylenol to avoid potential headaches caused by Zofran and some of our main courses. You'll be glad you added it!

Let the main courses begin!

Your first entrée will be Adriamycin, also known as doxorubicin. Some of our patrons affectionately call it "The Red Devil." A server will sit by your side for ten minutes and carefully push small increments through a syringe into your IV. This decadent drug is lightly seasoned with possible heart damage. One course is enough to make your hair fall out! It may also cause savory mouth sores. You may notice a distinct chemical smell or aftertaste. When you sense this, you know Adriamycin is working its wonders! Another marvelous feature is that within a few hours, during your next trip or two to our toilet amenities you will excrete pink or orange urine.

Next, you will be served Vinblastine, also delicately hand-pushed through a syringe in small increments over the course of five or so minutes. This zingy medication is sautéed with peripheral neuropathy that will make your fingers and toes tingle. Painstakingly layered with nervous system changes including sensation changes, muscle weakness and pain, loss of coordination, and jaw pain. Other attributes include constipation and/or diarrhea. A pinch of headaches and a dash of depression perfect the Vinblastine side effect medley.

The third course, Bleomycin is served over thirty minutes as an IV drip. Garnished with possible lung damage, patrons may notice coughing and shortness of breath. Topped with possible chills, fever, and shaking, which subside after forty-eight hours. Many patrons report their skin darkening—who needs to visit a tanning salon? Additional side effects such as itching, shaking, and skin rashes are whipped together to perfection. Although this drug does not contain peanuts or shellfish, a few guests have reported allergic reactions. Our servers are well-prepared and will be on the lookout for any nasty reactions.

The final course, Dacarbazine is slowly served over sixty minutes, also as an IV drip. Like the previous courses, this lovely chemical also causes nausea, vomiting, and a low blood cell count. Headaches, body aches, weakness, and sinus congestion are simmered together for a twenty-four-hour flu-like experience. Sprinkled with just the right amount of metallic aftertaste.

When your infusion is complete, our experts will flush your port-a-cath to ensure you are ready for your next visit.

Before you leave, please stop by the Pharmacie. Your maître d' can recommend a number of take-home antiemetics (in pill form) to ward off nausea in the days to come and, if needed, can prescribe stronger pain relievers and medications to reduce symptoms as they arise.

For lesser aches and pains, many over-the-counter remedies can help, such as Tylenol for headaches and moderate pain (avoid NSAIDs). Laxatives such as Senna and Colace can overcome constipation.

During your many visits to Café Chimio, your maître d' will frequently check with you to guarantee your satisfaction and to monitor any pesky, severe, and/or long-lasting side effects. 

Be sure to immediately report any severe effects to your maître d', including but not limited to a fever over 100.5 °F, abnormal bleeding, and unrelieved pain.

Source: UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Chemo Class slide show

Bon appétit!

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  • Notes my oncologist provided me during my first consultation
  • Individual handouts about Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine provided by the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Further Reading ABVD
RxList: Adriamycin
RxList: Bleomycin
RxList: Vinblastine
RxList: Dacarbazine


Every person is different and their experiences will differ from mine. Always discuss your particular symptoms and concerns with your doctor.

I did not mention every side effect listed on the handouts and websites I consulted. Nor did I personally experience every side effect stated on this page. For example, I never developed mouth sores or a skin rash. I definitely experienced infectionfatiguemuscle aches, nausea. The peeing orange/pink thing is totally real with Adriamycin (makes one's urine smell extra bad, too. Blech). Some side effects I experienced weren't listed anywhere, such as the horrific mouth burning and overactive menstrual cycle. As for heart and lung damage, the odds are in my favor against those and so far so good. My oncologist will continue to monitor me in the years to come. 

You can read more about my personal side effect experiences through My Side Effects series

You can read about other ABVD side effects by clicking on the links above.

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