At the conclusion of each chemo session, I get stabbed by a lovely little device called a Neulasta On-Body Injector. It’s on my abdomen, just to the side of my belly button.
I wear it for 28 hours after chemo. 27 hours after chemo it begins its injection cycle slowly pushing a drug called pegfilgrastim, which is a bone marrow stimulant. In other words, it stimulates my body to make white blood cells. It keeps me from getting infections, or at least, that’s the goal.
So, for one day, I wear this little device and periodically check to make sure the green light flashes (indicating the injector is working properly and has not come disconnected). When 27 hours pass, I hear a series of beeps then a clicking sound begins, signaling the beginning of the injection cycle. Throughout the injection cycle, I watch the little screen to ensure the cycle goes well and to ensure no medication leaks. I have an emergency number to call should something go wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues with it (and here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx injection cycle six since it’s going on as I type this post).
I have a love/hate relationship with this little device. I love it because I don’t have to drive back to Baylor Dallas every Saturday for a white blood cells stimulant shot. I love it because I’ve stayed relatively healthy since I started chemo. I love it because it’s part of the medications keeping me alive. I hate it because the application hurts. I hate it because I’m a stomach sleeper and can’t sleep on my stomach while wearing it. I hate it because the day after the injection, I will feel terrible.
Granted, it’s not the only reason I’ll feel terrible. Day 2 after chemo is never fun. But, the injection can cause bone pain, which I’m on something to counteract, headaches, and joint aches. Basically, it can cause flu-like symptoms. It’s really not fun.
Days 2-7 after chemo are hard for me. If I have a skin side effect from Perjeta, it happens by Day 7. I’ve had a skin side effect from every treatment, but Round 3 was the worst. Absolutely awful.
I go back to work on Day 3 after chemo. My chemo treatments are typically on Fridays. This treatment was going to take place on Wednesday, 1/6, but a scheduling snafu came up, so it was moved to Friday, 1/8, which was when it was supposed to be anyway. So, come Monday morning, three days after treatment, I head to work bright and early at 6:15 am. I’ll wake up with a headache, and the digestive side effects from Perjeta, Taxotere, and Carboplatin will begin to kick in, and if I’m caught without my medication to lessen those side effects, it’s a potential disaster, which has happened to me once. I went to work without my refill of the medication in my medicine bag. Halfway through first period, I knew I needed the medication. I went to my medicine bag and had a moment of panic when I didn’t find the prescription. A coworker offered to cover my class so I could run home to grab the refill I’d left sitting on the counter. I was back at work within 20 minutes. It’s not an event I want to repeat, so come Monday morning, I’ll make sure every medicine I need is in my medication bag.
I have a love/hate relationship with all of this. It keeps me alive, but my quality of life for the next week, at least, will be less.
Ultimately, while I may hate all of this, it’s a small price to pay to stay alive.