It's Saturday morning, after Day 1 of Cycle 4. On Day 1 of a cycle I'm in the infusion ward for at least seven hours; this time from 1 to after 8:30. So what are they actually doing all that time?
First, of course, they check your temperature, oxygen uptake and blood pressure. (These days you can't even go to the Jiffy Lube without someone wanting to take your blood pressure .)
Then they do a blood draw and send it off to the lab, and won't begin the infusion process until the report comes back. That can take up to an hour. If the report confirms that you're still alive, they start 2 hours of hydration (saline drip) for kidney protection, along with no fewer than three different anti-nausea drugs. Then the cisplatin, about an hour for that. Then a half-hour I think for the gemcitabine, then a couple more hours of hydration. Then they change the Picc dressing and you're good to go. It's a long process, but most of it is spent sitting around and doing whatever you feel like.
This time around was different because I had a cough/cold. With grandkids around (not to mention college kids) the only way to avoid getting sick would be to walk around all day in a hazmat suit. Although I try to keep sniffling grad students at bay, there's a point beyond which I refuse to miss my Kaia-Finley time! Last weekend we were up in my home office drawing pictures, using the electric pencil sharpener (I have exceptionally sharp pencils these days) and playing chess (Kaia is genuinely interested in how the pieces move; Finley is more interested in wreaking mass destruction across the board). Anyway, with Kaia sitting on my lap coughing, I guess it's no surprise that I finally got it too.
I called Sara the nurse practitioner for advice, she consulted the doc and the upshot was that I would come in anyway and she'd check me out at the beginning before giving the all clear.
So we're still awaiting the lab report when Sara, effervescently cheerful as always, pops her head into the luxury suite, in this instance serving as the biohazard isolation unit: "Mr. Mitchell! How ARE you?" Now, we've had "the talk" about how even my undergrads are given the choice of addressing me either as "Herr Professor Doctor Mitchell" or "Steve", but Sara (who I believe is in her 30's) insists on "Mr. Mitchell". At first I panicked: Should I have been calling her "Nurse Practitioner Hunt" all this time? "No, no" she laughed, just "Sara". Seems asymmetrical, but okay.
Then she sees the bandage on my right (non-Picc) forearm and wants to know what that's about. Oh, I took a fall on a steep, muddy, icy trail in the park during that cold weather. All the weight came down on the arm. "MISTER MITCHELL!!" she exclaims in some indeterminate mix of real and pretended horror, "WHAT are you doing? If your platelets are low you could bleed to death!" Yeah, but my platelets have been fine so far. Just then the lab report comes in on the computer. "Hematocrit looks fine...your platelets are good..." See? I told you so! These are not ordinary platelets we're talking about, they are the platelets of a TOPOLOGIST!
On the other hand, I was feeling worse and worse from the moment I set foot in the medical center.
It might be the cold, but I also suspect a certain psychosomatic effect, that my subconscious has learned that these visits are followed by feeling lousy the next day, and has perversely decided to speed up the process. I'll have to try some imagery/self-hypnosis/whatever ahead of time to ward it off. (Darn subconscious! If you have something to say, just say it for cryin' out loud!) Was only able to read a few pages of "Spin geometry", although it did result in a modest breakthrough. Switched to reading Italian. Even that was too much. Listened to my current audiobook, "La provinciale" by Alberto Moravia. Couldn't eat anything. The one saving grace, though, was that the Ducks were playing Arizona for the Pac-12 championship at 6, and for the first time ever I turned on the TV.
The Ducks being the Oregon Ducks, for those who are not quacker backers. (My infusion nurse's interest in such things was quickly revealed by her question "is it a basketball game?") Now, I can hear the gasps of horror coming from Husky-land, the horror that I, a Husky Professor, could even moonlight as a quacker backer. But in this, as in so many ways, I have always been peculiar. To me it is not so much about rooting for a home team, it is about the game itself. My dream, in fact, is that football games would be conducted like Wimbledon: As the players break from the huddle, the umpire admonishes the crowd "Quiet please", and there is absolute silence in the stadium as the quarterback calls the signals. It would be so much more exciting and suspenseful! And sensible; why should the crowd interfere with the opposing quarterback? It's about seeing excellent play, not artificially influencing the outcome. Oh well. I am resigned to my fate as a social outcast and oddity.
In any event, I was glad to be able to watch the entire first half and the start of the second, with my wonderful Wendy who arrived at dinner time. She likes the Ducks' uniforms.:) Still couldn't eat but the game was a nice distraction. Final score, in my book: Ducks 51, Cisplatin 13.
Well, my motto has always been: If you don't feel like getting out for a walk, you should immediately get out for a walk. As now I shall, topologically reinforced platelets and all. Quack Quack!