Once I got the hang of administering subcutaneous immunoglobulin, my life was so much easier, as I no longer had to undergo monthly IV infusions for my cancer-related compromised immune system.
After having small lymphocytic lymphoma for 10 years and keeping up with treatments when needed, I began to develop upper respiratory tract infections way too often.
My oncologist recognized this and tested my antibodies, which showed that they were below normal. At that time, he suggested starting IV immunoglobulin infusions (IVIG). I was open to anything that would help me fight these infections that were now affecting my daily life.
He informed me that I could do this at home with a subcutaneous method rather than an IV. The thought of that was too scary for me. I didn’t want to hear anything about it.
After a while, it became tiresome to work all my plans around an every four-week trip to the infusion center for at least five hours. More importantly, I was dreading the IV part of it! I was requiring more and more pokes to try to get the IV started.
Meanwhile, my husband was keeping up with the literature on immunoglobulin infusions. He began telling me about new subcutaneous infusions that I could do at home, every four weeks. Three years later, they came out with newer medications that took less time and could still be administered every four weeks.
I was skeptical and not sure I wanted to rock the boat. My husband kept reading articles about it and encouraged me to think about how freeing this could be.
Finally, I decided we should look into it. At this point in our lives, we were trying to travel more. I loved the idea of not having to go to the infusion center for five hours at a time. I also loved the idea of not having my veins poked at all!
It wasn’t an easy transition, but my doctor was on board, and he wrote the prescription so that we could get the ball rolling. We first had to go to an infusion center to learn how to administer this new medication — it was a steep learning curve.
We went to four supervised sessions, and we were determined to be successful. During the last treatment, we went as far as to video the whole process. We were given the telephone number and name of the nurse who trained us. The nurse assured us we were ready! The specialty pharmacy called, we reviewed the order, and they shipped the medication to our house.
It was a bit daunting when everything arrived, but we were determined.
You might ask, “Why go through all this?” We could do the infusion every four weeks on our schedule, and the infusion took half the time from start to finish. I also had much fewer side effects.
Now, the immunoglobulin medication was connected to a pre-programmed pump that went directly under the skin of my abdomen via a tiny needle. One of the problems I had with the IVIG was at times it would go into my veins too quickly, causing a severe reaction. This never happened with the new method, and yet it took so much less time.
The only drawback that I would want people to know before they even begin investigating this alternative immunoglobulin infusion is that when given at my doctor’s infusion center, there was no cost to me at all. It was completely covered. Now we have an out-of-pocket monthly expense because it is given at home, and I am not home bound. This was the reason I was given, but I was also told this could change in the future. Most likely, it all depends on one’s insurance coverage. I do recommend checking that out first.
Personally, the flexible schedule, shorter duration with fewer side effects was life-changing for me and made the decision well worth it.
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