Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pain, drugs, gratitude and perspective (as well as the possibility of vampire rat conventions between my armpit and my elbow.)

I just took a little blue pill to help me sleep.

I just took a little seafoam green pill to help reduce any swelling in my brain caused by the cisplatin (chemo drug).

I just took two oval yellowish nasty tasting pills to get rid of the bronchitis/pnemonia that I've been walking around with since probably November or December.

I just took three medium white round pills to help boost the big yucky yellow antibiotics.

I just took two oval white pills to help to break up the conjestion in my chest due to the bronchitis/pnemonia.

I just took two puffs on one inhaler.

I just took one puff on another inhaler.

I just took two yellow capsules as part of my complementary medicine approach to the cancer.

I just debated about taking my perscription fish oil capsuls but decided to wait until tomorrow due to their blood thinning properties.

This morning I took one squarish pill so I don't sneeze and snot all over myself every time I even look at my cats, one of whom likes me to pet her while I'm in the bathroom and one of whom likes to sleep on my pillow and purr and drewil (I know I spellllled it wron, I'll explain that one in a minute.)

I just took another pill to keep from throwing up (I believe my insurance company pays about $30 per pill or more for that one.)

I have felt fairly drunk/stoned for about the last 8 hours, I think due to the other anti-throw-up medicine that they shot into my PICC line this afternoon (thus, my glassey eyes, slurred speech and messed-up spelling and writing).

They also put in a steroid, another anti-nausea medicine, (I think something else can't remember),2 liters of saline, lasex, and poison that will help me kill the cancer, while all the other stuff is to help counteract the helpful poison.

They stopped the drip and unhooked me in the middle so that I could take the elevator down two floors to get radiation in four points around my lower abdomen and tell the radiation doc that I'm fine, started the chemo, no side effects yet from either treatment.

They gave me a subcue shot in the back of my arm so that my kidneys wouldn't soak up the cisplatin, but would let it slide through (like an "oil slick in my kidneys").

I've been peeing every 15-60 minutes due to the almost gallon of water I drank, the 2 liters of saline in my vein, the oil slick drug and the lasex during the last part of my treatment.

And before all that, after having the nighmare PICC line experience, I had to wait in the waiting goom for over two hours before going in back, getting the line flushed with saline and heprin, and waiting another 1/2 hour or so before getting hooked up to the anti-puke meds and saline.

I had my first panic attack today, just as they were finishing up putting in my PICC line. (That was a really interesting sensation. It came on just as I was letting go of my panic since it was done, not in the middle of it. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, with some pain in my solar plexus and heart areas. Pulse normal, heart rythem normal, pulsox never went below 92, blood sugar 124. Go figure.)

One of my cat's is eating the $100 bill that I owe to U of M Flint for dropping classes a week into summer semester. (I was a little pre-occupied to drop out earlier and I thought the semester started later than it did.) Someone let my soc prof know that cats really do eat homework!!

When the IV nurse tried to insert my PICC line (an extra long IV that stays in long term and places the medicine in a vein just north of the heart), she used the ultrasound machine to find the vein she wanted to use. She gave me two shots of lidocane to numb up the area, which hurt like crazy. Then, she inserted another needle near that spot to try to get it into the vein, using the ultrasound as a guide to the vein. The lidocane hadn't totally numbed it, but the pain wasn't that bad. The first time. She got into the vein, got a bit of blood out of it, which is good, indicating it is in the vein for sure. Then she inserted a guide wire a couple of inches where it stuck and wouldn't go any further ('twas supposed to be 43 centimeters). So, she pulled out the wire and tried again. Found another vein, gave two very painful shots of lidocane and the vein suddenly disappeared from the ultrasound. Tried again, went very much like the first try with the wire, and the lidocane totally did not work. On this try, I did keep my arm still, but I was kicking my feet and yelling "Ow, F....." at least twice. Maybe more. And I was crying (which I very rarely do in front of other people, but seem to be doing a lot these past couple of months). She went to get the other, very busy, more experienced nurse. This second nurse was much handier with the lidocane, but again, my veins kept dissappearing. She tried another 3-4 times, I lost count. I'm going by the found veins and lidocane punctures. Deb says that doesn't count, only when they got into the vein with needle or guidewire. By my count, I see 9 areas that were at least punctured with two lidocane needles, and about half of those have additional needle punctures indicating that they tried for the vein there. (By the way, they could't find a vein in my left arm, this all happened on the right. My dominant hand.) Finally, when I was about to walk out in frustration, pain and anger, they called radiology to see if they could put in the line. They said that they could do it on Thursday. I cried again and yelled, "I was supposed to have started my chemo about ten minutes ago!!". Radiation agreed to squeeze me in today.

I went to radiology where a very well organized team worked together to insert the line. The Physicians' Assistant found a vein in the left arm. She hit me with one shot of lidocane, but spread it out enough to cover the area well. They waited a minute or so to let it take effect. Then she put in the needle. Saw it in place on the ultrasound. Then, put the guidewire in while watching an x-ray to make sure the placement was perfect. She even let me see when she was done. It was pretty cool. After all of that was when I had my "panic attack" after the panic subsided. It was interesting and scary, but mostly interesting.

Before the bruising showed up on my right arm, when just the needle pokes showed, it looked like I had been attacked by a pack of vampire rats in the tenderest part of my upper arm. Now the bruises are there along with the pokes and instead, I look like a junkie who couldn't decide were to shoot up.

I went to a friend's house for her religious birthday celebration. One potato chip made me nauseated, but carrot cake, greek salad and spaghetti went down fine. Didn't want a beer because I already felt like I'd had a pint. I got hot in the house, just as she turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows. I thought I was going to cool off more. I got warmer. We went outside for our final goodbyes and finally, I couldn't stand to keep my big mouth shut. I asked, "is it warm out here?" They all laughed and said no. I realized that I was probably having my first hot flash. My period stopped with the second radiation treatment last Friday. Today is Tuesday (actually, Wednesday). Yet another reminder that I will never have children. (My brain can't figure out why that's a problem, since Deb and I years ago decided not to have children for several reasons. But, if we ever did, I would be the biological mama. But now there is no going back on that choice. Ever. No kids. Nope. Never.)

Today, I had a lesson in humility and gratitude as I talked with the other chemo patients sharing space with me. One, like me, was on her first ever cancer journey. Hers is in her lungs. The others have had long hard battles before and are at the beginning of another one. My measily once a week experience is nothing compared to their daily chemo, in addition to pumps to take home and continue the process between treatments in the clinic. A messed up port and a woman whos bones and joints hurt because of the treatments and she was so skinny that it hurt to lay her hand in her lap. She used a pillow. Doctors not communicating with one another seems to be the norm rather than just my own personal reason to be pissed off and losing sleep. Several of us there are on sleeping meds because of insomnia due to all of the terror running loose in our brains. Even for those who have had cancer before. They know the procedures and protocols, but each time, they experience the terror all over again like I did today and yesterday when looking toward getting a PICC line.

I pray that I can keep my experience inperspective.
In 100 years, this journey of mine won't matter to anyone.
In 1000 years, this journey of mine won't need to be taken by anyone because prevention will be the norm.
I pray that each of the women who were in the room with me today experience true healing for whatever the divine sees fit.
It may be physical healing.
It may be a solid night's sleep.
It may be a pair of comfortable pants.
I pray that my illness does not define my wellness.
I refuse to become my diagnosis.
I embrace my body's remarkable healing potential and use these treatments as tools along that journey of healing.
I am learning to ask others for help.


  1. I was doing a search on PICCs (my second round of one might be coming up- ugh) and wanted to say that I thought your entry was so truthful, honest, pure, and that I also loved the list of prayers you enclosed near the end of it. I pray for all of those prayers to come to fruition. And all of the ones unwritten or unspoken by you as you go through and get through each moment. With hugs from a stranger,
    Dawn Wilson