Feature image from ITPANDME
The following interview is a personal account and should in no way substitute for medical advice.
A few people have been curious about what is involved in Rituximab therapy as a treatment for Blood disorders. I had posted about earlier, but I decided the best way to get information was to interview a patient currently receiving treatment. Here is what she had to say about her first two visits to Oncology to receive this ‘Chemotherapy.’
What was your initial reaction to the drug?
Well, after I failed to respond to the steroids after a prolonged period of taking Prednisone daily (Over the last seven years) this treatment was my next option. I guess my initial reaction was excitement because I had been waiting for something for a little while. I was told that it had a success rate and that it just might kickstart my immune system back into functioning normally.
It is not like asking a perfectly healthy person if they would like to receive chemotherapy or not. When you have been sick for a long time, and the waiting has become tedious, and you are ready to get back into exercising and working and playing with your grandchildren. It felt quite obvious that I would give it a go.
What was involved?
I would be treated once a week for four weeks, in the Oncology department in the ACT. The treatment itself took a bit over two hours, but there was time before and after that would, all together take about 4 hours. I realise afterwards that it takes the whole day.
What happened when you arrived for your first treatment?
I arrived at the hospital and went straight into Oncology department. There was a waiting room, with chairs and magazines, much like a
At the reception desk, I introduced myself and the reception nurses seemed to have been waiting for me. They knew I was coming, and what I would be getting, it was all very organised and I relaxed a bit after that.
Everyone around me looked a lot sicker than me, and I wondered how many times they had been here, whether they could tell I was new. I started talking to another lady who had come in at the same time as me. She had lost her hair, seemed quite fragile and was a lot sicker than me – she talked of getting a favourite beanie – then we got called and went in.
Where were you taken to?
There was a big door beside us, and a nurse came out and called out your name. On the other side of the door was a huge room with heaps of chairs and people and trolleys and beds and curtains, it was overwhelming.
A big chair had been set aside for me, with all my information and medicine all laid out, even a bottle of water and a pillow. Everyone was quiet friendly and chatting with each other – the nurses were very entertaining and fun. It did seem a little bit like everyone knew each other and smiled as you walked past. I put my bag down beside my chair and made sure I had gone to the toilet before I sat down, worried about having to sit there for so long.
What is the process before treatment begins?
Um, I had just one nurse looking after me, I think everyone did. She took my blood pressure, my temperature, asked me how I was feeling and had to double check a few times that I was who I was meant to be… Age, Name that sort of thing.
I was given painkillers and anti-histamines as a table before we started, and then a line was put into the back of my hand, an anti-nausea shot was injected and then a saline solution added. That had run for a little while before the Rituximab was attached.
The Treatment itself –
Once you are ready for the drug itself, two nurses come over and do it together. They wear big gowns and gloves and glasses over their eyes. Always they are checking that you are the right person receiving the drug. They check each other’s work and tell each other what they are doing.
Watch first treatment – specialist coming – can tell.
Mostly I remember getting very sleeping. I was told that was because of the antihistamines. Everyone goes to sleep. Partners and family walk around and get the paper, eating lunch and doing other stuff. I was left alone while the drug was going through, slept most of the time and my family read books.
At lunch time, they serve a hot lunch, but I wasn’t interested in eating. There are sandwiches and tea and coffee available the whole time you’re there, but we had brought our own food. My daughter just wanted to eat chocolate brownies
Who else is there when you get treatment?
Oh, there were lots of people there, all together, in a big circle. There were young and old, men and women, all sorts of people getting chemo together. Everyone seemed to be in a different stage of their treatment. A few people could not sit up in the blue chairs and were getting treatment in their beds in the same room.
The nurses and admin ladies were very entertaining, walking around singing to the radio, talking about knitting and dancing along to songs. They were young and friendly and keen for a chat if you were awake. Afterwards, it is all very simple. I was taken off the drip, helped out of the child and told I could go home. They knew I had family with me, but I am sure they would not have let me go home on my own.
How do you feel?
Sleepy – Tired. There is a fog that tends to come in waves; I am awake and then suddenly I fall asleep. I don’t feel too sick all the time, but I haven’t really eaten a lot. I am hating having all this time at home but feeling so terrible I can’t use it. The psychology of the whole thing is hard too. Looking back on the treatment I realise I am a lot sicker than I thought I was.
Well I am excited to see what will happen, I am ready to get back into swimming again really soon.