04/23/2011 11:58 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2011

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy 1st Cycle, Round 2

A new day. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. Time for chemotherapy 1st cycle, round 2. Why round 2, you ask? Well, prior to the first infusion, I did not take dexamethasone. Somehow, I missed that in the chemo preparation list.

One lesson I learned after the false start: make a comprehensive "pre-chemo to-do" list (which includes taking prerequisite medications).

Today is going to be a good day! I just know it. After my trial run yesterday, I woke up feeling much more calm this morning. For added strength, I decided to add a little confidence to that calmness.

Part of my confidence has always come from the way I dress, i.e., external presentation working with internal energy to produce confidence, energy and courage.

I believe that fashion has a wonderful power to transform the way a person feels and presents both the inner and outer self. With that thought in mind, I chose my outfit this morning with specific intention. I am fortunate to have some great friends who are designers. So, I thought that this morning's session would be enhanced by pulling myself together in my favorite clothing and accessories while simultaneously visualizing my friends with me.

Therefore, I wore an outfit made up of pieces from various collections, including Decades (, Lyn Devon (, and Alexandra Knight (

Back to the To Do list. This morning before I left, I took three medications:

  1. Ativan to relieve anxiety. This drug is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow for relaxation. The nurses jokingly call it "Vitamin A" because it is such an effective medication.
  2. Emend. Most drugs designed to prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting block the nausea signals from your stomach. But that clever chemotherapy can affect both the stomach AND the brain. So even when the stomach's response to chemotherapy is blocked by medication, the brain's nausea signals can still make a person feel sick or vomit. Emend blocks the vomiting signals from the brain, rather than the signals from the stomach. So when Emend is used with other drugs that block the stomach's nausea AND vomiting signals, a person can get more complete protection against nausea and vomiting. This is a real win-win! Emend is only used to help prevent nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy (i.e., it doesn't work after nausea and vomiting start).
  3. I applied my EMLA cream to my port-a-cath site an hour before the needle stick. As you may recall, EMLA cream is a local anesthetic that works by blocking nerves from transmitting painful impulses to the brain. This means that the needle stick (for my IV) won't hurt this time.

When I got to the clinic, the nurses were all FULLY prepared. Phew. What a relief.

First step: Huber needle insertion into EMLA-laden port-a-cath. Smooth sailing this time which meant it only took ONE pain-free stick to gain access to my port-a-cath (Gigantic Silver Lining)!
Before administering chemotherapy, I had to have the following three pre-chemo medications through my IV:

  1. Aloxi is a drug is used to prevent nausea and vomiting that may occur within 24 hours after receiving chemotherapy. It is also used to prevent delayed nausea and vomiting that may occur several days after receiving certain chemotherapy medications. Good and good.
  2. Dexamethasone is a steroid that relieves inflammation in various parts of the body, treats or prevents allergic reactions as well as nausea and vomiting associated the chemotherapy drugs I'll be taking. It can also stimulate appetite. For every chemo infusion, I get three doses of dexamethasone: one the day before chemo (by mouth), one the day of chemo (via IV), and one the day after (by mouth). Two of the most gnarly side effects of this steroid are: 'roid rage (anger and hostility that promptly makes me loose my cool at the drop of a hat!) and jitters (imagine 8 espresso's in someone who doesn't drink coffee - it ain't pretty!).
  3. Benadryl is used as another anti-nausea medication. It is also causes mild relaxation, or drowsiness, dry mouth and constipation. Constipation is a real bear. It knocked my socks off after surgery. Don't worry, though, I have the Senekot and Miralax ready to go to offset the plumbing problems.

TMI? Don't even get me started! It seems like for every medication given, there is another waiting in the wings to offset the side effects of the previous one. After all of the above drugs were given (which took about an hour and a half), it was time for the chemotherapy.

  1. Taxotere is the drug that is given first because it is most likely to produce immediate side effects (e.g., shortness of breath, throat closing and other unsavory reactions). Fortunately (Silver Lining) my airway stayed open!
  2. Adriamycin came next. This drug is hand-pushed slowly into the porta-cath because if the medication leaks out of the tubing, we would know immediately. As I mentioned in my last post, this drug is bright red and often referred to as the "Red Devil" because of its color and potential side effects. GULP.
  3. Cytoxan is the third drug. It is administered over 30 minutes. I was told to "let anyone know if I get any congestion issues" -- which I didn't (Silver Lining).

Today was a good, good, day. I was very sleepy from the Benadryl and the Ativan (truth be told: I actually felt quite tipsy) and went straight home for a drug-induced nap. I'm so incredibly grateful that everything went so smoothly today!

Upon returning home, our daughter, aka "4 ¾" found the Band-Aid covering my port-a-cath to be completely unacceptable and promptly changed it to a Cinderella Band-Aid. She put it on very carefully and gently, but not before telling me to "be brave." That sure made my day!
Wishing you all a day filled with SL's.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
--Denis Waitley

To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, Brookside Buzz ( You may email her at