Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chemo @ Home?

I just read about a new breakthrough in cancer treatment being pioneered in Canada: Chemotherapy at home.

A nurse shows up at your door, starts your IV, monitors you in your home. You are surrounded by loving pets and have access to bathroom necessities.

It sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

I began fantasizing about how that would go down in my house.


It's the day before chemo, and I start nagging my family. "Pick up your stuff! Clean the counters! Don't you know the nurse is coming over tomorrow?" No matter how sick and tired I feel, a stranger is coming over, and I can't have them see this mess. I get my my aching, exhausted bones up, inspect the kitchen, wax the hardwood floor, clean the leather couch, and wash my blankets. All the detritus that collected in the house since the last chemo visit three weeks ago; the stuff that comes from living with all males - school books, papers, socks, sweaters, balls, shoes - all that has to be picked up and put away.

I'd better schedule my treatment on Mondays, so I have the weekend to clean.

Of course, I'll have to hit the store. The nurse will want something to drink and it would be rude of me to allow her to sit for hours without offering her an iced tea or a soda. What kind of soda will she like? Should I get sugar-free, just in case? Should I have a variety? And, what if it's a long chemo session - sometimes they take 6 or 7 hours. I'll have to have food too, the poor thing has to eat.

I'd better make a shopping list. I wonder what kind of sandwiches she likes? I make a pretty good chicken salad. I can make fruit salad too, everybody likes that. Or, perhaps a quiche would be better, and salad to go with it.

What if I get a male nurse? Will he eat quiche? I've heard real men don't eat quiche, but then again, these are male nurses, they've already broken one mold. Should I get some salami or something though? I guess I better get a variety, just in case.

I'll shop and clean on Saturday, and Sunday I'll cook.

The nurse might get bored, sitting there with only one patient. It's my house so no daytime TV allowed. The View is banned in my home. But, since I'm going to the store, I will pick up some magazines, so she'll have something to do. What if it's a dude? Maybe he'll like Wired. I should get some Suduku too, most people seem to enjoy that puzzle.

I ask my husband to sweep the front porch and get rid of the spider webs.

It's Monday and time for the nurse to arrive. Having your dogs around you during chemo is lovely. Unless, you happen to have a 125 pound boisterous Labrador Retriever who absolutely LOVES everybody he meets and greets everybody the same way. First, with the traditional crotch sniffing, then with the friendly tail whip, and finally the big smile/drool on pants. My sedate greyhound would look up from his bed, wag his tail, fart, and then take a nap.

The smell of greyhound gas would fill the room, and if you have never smelled that scent before, all I have to say is chemo does not make you as sick as the smell of greyhound innards.

I light a candle, and as I settle in my chair, the nurse untangles the airline tubing from the neck of my Lab, and tries to access my vein without hitting the curious dog's nose. The dog helps sterilize my arm with his tongue.

She begins the drip, the dog calms down, and I sit on the couch, playing with iPhone games and chatting with her. I refuse to buy a big, ugly barcalounger but after an hour my back starts to hurt, and I want to change spots. So, I get up, waking the dog, who comes and sniffs the pole and tubing.

Just then, Chuck the mailman comes, and the dog goes ballistic, barking and knocking down the IV pole and tangling up the tubing. The nurse has to replace the tubing and my IV.

I offer her a drink. She wants juice.


I sit back down. The cat meows, wanting water. I get back up to get her some and sit back down again. Kitty comes to sit on my lap and idly bats at the tubing dangling from the pole, and pokes a hole in it.

The nurse replaces it and starts the drip anew.

I look around, and see a tumbleweed of dog hair under the couch. I see dust behind the TV. The fireplace screen needs scrubbing. How did I not notice all that before? I am trapped, I can't get up and clean it now. How frustrating! I hope she doesn't think I'm a slob.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The kid comes home from school and wants a snack. I get up to get him one, dragging the IV pole behind me, and I get one for the nurse too. The phone rings, and I answer it, only to find out it's work needing a question answered.

I have my arm bent so long from the phone call that the drip stops. The nurse suctions out the air and restarts it.

My husband comes home from work and turns on baseball, a sound I dislike almost as much as the sound of the screeching women on the View. The nurse, though, is a fan, and they chat about baseball and outings and innings, boring me to tears.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Is it over yet?

In the original story, the guy pushing for chemo at home had to take anxiety medication before his hospital infusion days.


I'd need anxiety medication to have treatment at home.

Give me a nice, relaxing infusion room any day.



  1. Yeah, I'm with ya sister!

    But I do have to say that even though I laughed like crazy over this post, the fact is this. I've gotten much more laid back about stuff since cancer. I doubt that I would care quite as much as I used to. I'd take the chemo at home just to be able to doze off and not feel obvious.

  2. I think it is okay if that is what they want, but I do worry about patients hiding in their homes......even if it is going out for chemo it is still time away from home and talking with other people.
    I so loved your post, still chuckling over it. I am like Debby, when I went through my treatments I did very little housework but then I had my sisters with me who find housework fascinating. I didn't even extra clean for their arrival..LOL
    Be well my friend......:-) Hugs

  3. LOL, it's alot easier to just go in for chemo!!! I'd freak if they came to my house. I had to have six rounds of chemo, last thing I wanted to do was clean house! Thanks for the laugh!

  4. Chemo, and now herceptin, have become social experiences for me. I have met some very nice people in the chemo room. I'd hate for people to miss that because of fear. On the other hand, I'm not stage 4. They may have concerns about privacy that I don't have. I also never got sick so didn't have to worry about puking in a room full of others.

    Reading that story, it seems to me they have problems with their cancer center, that if they fixed, they wouldn't need to have chemo nurses do home visits. In the long run, a new building or upgrades would be more cost effective.

  5. Your favorite nursing student would have wanted a glass of wine. But, no drinking on the job!!!! Would love to hear from you.

  6. DANA!!!!!!! By far my favorite nurse I ever had. Will never forget your compassion! How are you? Email me! It's in my profile. Would love to hear from you and how school is going.


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