Here is what happens in chemo.
First, I am somewhat lucky because my infusion only lasts around 2 hours, all told. Some people with other cancers have to be in infusion for 7 or 8 hours at a time.
The room where I go has wall of windows that face 38th Street. It's got several 4-chair "pods" of these really comfy chairs for you to sit in. Each one of these is paired with a chair for a visitor. It's less comfy. It's not a great place, all fluorescent and mamaw. I'd kill for an incandescent light source. I'd kill for some privacy, too.
Before I go, I take some drugs. First, Emend, to prevent nausea. Good stuff. On top of that, I take an Ativan. I call it a calm-the-fuck-down pill because that's what it does. As we all know, part of throwing up is getting scared you're going to throw up. You don't get scared of being nauseous when you're on Ativan. My doctor "prescribed" Benadryl on top of that, but I didn't want to be drowsy and cotton-mouthed for Pete's sake, so I didn't take it. I put on Emla cream on my chest where my port is and cover that up with a bitty piece of Saran Wrap. That numbs the skin so I don't feel any needles going in there.
My nurse, David, was so skilled I'm not sure I needed the Emla. The thought of having this was freaky — a lickety split way to get to the biggest friggin vein in my body to give me drugs — but I am very impressed with this system. David made it look easy, so I relaxed almost immediately. He started with a bag of saline, then gave me Aloxi, another anti-emetic. Then, as though he were presenting me with a bottle of wine I'd ordered for dinner, he displayed for me my giant syringe of a cranberry-colored drug called Adriamycin. I read a few days later that doctors have a cute nickname for it: "the red death." David plunged this into my IV. I felt like I was being fumigated, and indeed, due to Adriamycin's toxicity, in a way I was. Last, I was given a bag of Cytoxan, another vicious cancer killer. Near the end of this infusion, I got a major head rush. David said to tell the nurse next time to do this infusion more slowly so I don't get dizzy.
The day after this, I returned for my Neulasta shot. That takes about a minute to inject in your arm. It stings, but not bad. It made me dizzy, too. More Ativan and some time in bed helped.