It was a large hospital complex, with multiple tall white buildings all named after different people. My mom wasn’t feeling well that day, and I didn’t want her to accidentally get someone who is immunocompromised sick, so we decided she wouldn’t come to my first chemo appointment.
Instead, my best friend and I walked through the automatic doors to a building I’d never been inside and immediately approached the desk to ask where to go. “The fourth floor and to the right, you’ll walk through the double doors.” We did as she said and were greeted immediately by a friendly nurse who assured us we were in the right place. She weighed me and then brought us to a curtained ‘room’ with two large, light green chairs each with their own IV stand with a monitor on it. My nerves kicked in, but I was ready to get this started as it had been such a long wait to get to this point, nearly 3.5 months since I first felt the lump.
The nurse had me confirm my name and date of birth that had been printed on my wristband, handed me a menu in case I wanted any hospital food, and explained the procedure to start treatment. Before I knew it, she had put on her mask, gloves and gown. I learned that healthcare workers handling chemo need to wear personal protective equipment because it can be toxic to inhale or touch. Imagine learning how toxic it is and then letting them put it in your body… sounds like fun, right?
It started with a cold anesthetic spray where my port lay beneath my skin on the left side of my chest. The port is a little device that goes just under the skin and provides direct access to the vein for chemo to enter. I found the needle entering the port to be far easier than anticipated. The pressure of the port being pushed into my chest muscle as the needle entered was uncomfortable, but the spray did a pretty good job at numbing the area locally from the needle itself. As soon as the needle was in, she drew a little blood to make sure the IV was in the right place before starting the chemo. If the needle isn’t in the right place or if the chemo leaks out of the vein under the skin, it can cause a burn. As I watched the bright red chemo, also referred to as the Red Devil, move down the tube, I knew there was no turning back. This was the beginning.