I began R-CHOP chemo the day after my first intrathecal chemotherapy procedure. In this post, I want to talk about my experience with my first treatment, what drugs are involved, and how I felt afterwards. I’m hoping this article is helpful to anyone who is about to start their first chemo treatment.
The procedure is very straight forward. Before beginning treatment, the area around the Port a Cath is numbed with either a mild freezing agent, or a shot of Lanacane. The port is then accessed with a special needle/catheter device, by piercing the the skin right above the access port. Since the port is so close to the skin, there is little to no pain.
After the port is accessed, it is flused with a Saline solution. This is to insure that there are no blood clots in the port. The nurse then tests the port, by drawing blood into the syringe, then injecting it back in. Once the functionallity of the Port a Cath is verified, they are ready to begin R-CHOP chemo.
The first step, is to administer Benadryl, which helps alleviate nausea. I was given a dose of Benadryl through an IV pump, connected to my port. Benadryl makes you very sleepy, yet is important to maintain the patient’s comfort.
The R-CHOP chemo regimen involves a series of drugs, which I will explain here in more detail. R-CHOP is actually an acronym, combining either the brand names of the drugs, or the chemical components within the drugs themselves.
If you’d like to learn more about each individual drug, just click on each name to be take to the National Cancer Institute’s website, for a description of each drug.
My first R-CHOP chemo lasted several hours. Three of the drugs are given via IV through the port, and the rate of injection varies with the patient. For a new patient, the IV pump is set to run slowly, so as not to overwhelm the body.
Doxorubicin can be given either via the IV, or through a handheld syringe into the Port a Cath. Finally, Prednisone is taken the 2 days following the treatment, in pill form. This has to be taken with food or milk, as it is extremely NASTY tasting, and can cause major nausea.
Chemotherapy does a great job of killing cancer cells. However, the drugs cannot differentiate between rapidly growning cancer cells, and other fast growing cells in the body (ie, red blood cells, white blood cells, and cells that are involved with hair, muscle, and skin development.)
To counteract this, I was given a shot of Neulasta the day after chemo. This drug stimulates activity in the bone marrow, to kickstart cell regeneration and production.
So, that was my first “R-CHOP chemo” treatment. I didn’t feel any nausea at all during this first regimen, which is common. Nausea usually doesn’t set in until future treatments. I’ll discuss future chemo sessions in my upcoming posts. For now, I hope this article is helpful to anyone who is about to begin R-CHOP chemo.