Friday, August 27, 2010

Chemo Twister and God's Cake

Thank goodness our weather has cooled down.  It has really helped my arm not feel so swollen and achy.  I arrived at the Cancer Center a minute or two after nine this morning, Vonda came to get me.  She and Kitty were alone to take care of all The Good Witch's patients today, so a bit understaffed.  Of course they handled it with finesse and a fair amount of running.  I sure do love those gals.  It's weird, now that I am on this countdown of only 4 rounds left, I'm feeling a bit of melancholy about not showing up here every Friday morning.

What the hell you say?

There are the things I won't miss anymore, having Vonda shove a thermometer into my kisser to get me to shut up (not really, I like that).  I won't miss getting on the damned scale every morning, although finally the scale is budging in a good direction, down.

I won't miss Kitty's little cart of pain.  This morning she had to peel away the Tegaderm covering and redress the area.  You know about Tegaderm?  It's like a cellophane clear bandage that sticks on super tight, way better than cling wrap.  It covers the whole area where my PICC is.

my PICC 
It is specifically designed for IV sites and surgical wounds to keep out water, viruses and bacteria.  It's pretty cool but when you have to wear it weeks on end, and have super sensitive skin like I do, it starts to rub and get raw underneath.

They change the dressing weekly, but my skin is reacting.  Kitty says that is normal but uncomfortable.  A part of the PICC line that is slack buried itself into my tender skin and Kitty had to clean it all out today.  She rearranged the line and reapplied Tegaderm to give the irritated and raw parts of my skin a break.  Then she had to sterilize the whole thing with alcohol and the purple stuff that turns orange.  Ouch.  Ouch.  Alcohol burns like a mo fo, especially going into that little hole where the line goes in.

To make sense of the above photo, at the bottom where the smallest curve of the line is, is where the PICC goes into my bicep and into my vein that threads all the way up to my shoulder, crosses at the collar bone, and goes into the vena cava.  The slack comes out of the hole and is attached to a snap holder.  The line continues up to the valve where the IV is plugged in.  That's how it works.  The ache comes because every time you flex your bicep, it contracts the vein with the line in it.  Also, because the whole set up is on the underside of my arm, it is always resting against my body.  I have to say though, the discomfort is dramatically reduced.

When Kitty plugged in the IV to start my chemo, I knew right away somethin was up.  As soon as it started, I feel the coolness run down the line on my arm and into the hole, then a metallic, medicinal, putrid taste in my mouth was immediate and the strongest its ever been.  I got very groggy right away, and goofy.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to drive home.

I will miss the little conversations Kitty and I have, she is such a comfort to me.  So is Vonda, bounding up and down the hall like a retriever in a dog run.  Such a comfort to me during all this hard hard shit.

I was able to drive home, like a little old lady with my Handicap placard hanging off the rear view mirror.  I got home, and went upstairs to lay in my bed.

I spent the next several hours very sick, like when I was on AC.  Oh no, what the hell, I thought I was through with this?  Where are the usual Taxol symptoms, the redness and flashing, the itchiness, the feeling as if I am having a big allergic reaction?  Only the redness and the flashing came, along with nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea.  I hope you aren't eating your breakfast when you read this.  Sorry.

This was week 7 of the Taxol, and I have been on chemo for 4 solid months now.  I don't know, maybe my body is getting saturated with the stuff.  It was a very very long day, just laying in my bed.  I did take some Lorazepam (Ativan) and that helped a little as far as settling me down, but didn't do much for the dizziness and nausea.  Just as the nausea eased up later this evening, my Decadron high kicked in.  Crack for cancer patients, that's what they call it on the cancer message boards.

So here I am now as I write, a little queasy, very red, super hot and flashing, and wired like a yuppie after too many Starbucks.

As labgirl said to me last week, when I told her about the latest that happened with my PICC, she said "Well for as bad as you have it, you have it pretty good.  You look great.  Way better than most of the chemo patients I see who have been on it a lot less.  You are doing good."

Um, speaking of labs, I was naughty.  I didn't go get my labs done yesterday.  I swear, for the two days I worked, my brain was completely erased of my cancer routine and I completely forgot about it.  I woke at 3 am this morning, shot up in bed and thought "Shit, I didn't get my labs done."

Kitty scolded me with a look, still gave me chemo and told me to get them later.  I was so sick today I didn't go.  I will go on Monday.  It'll be fine.

(I just noticed there is a whole section of my blog missing here! What the hell.  I think I was talking about meeting the first recommended surgeon on Monday, meeting the micro surgeon on Wednesday, working Wednesday and Thursday night, heading into chemo on Friday.)

I meet with the second recommended surgeon the week after, and hopefully will be able to start making some decisions here.  Husband called the insurance company today to begin the discussion regarding the out of network micro surgeon, and how we are choosing everyone else who is in network, and have no choice regarding him.  The insurer told Husband the micro surgeon's office needs to file an authorization, which will happen when I meet with him, and that will start this process.  Insurer will review the situation and make a finding about how they will pay.  If we are not happy with the decision, we can appeal it.  I sure hope it happens, and all of it gets done before the end of October.

When I was at the Center, I spoke a bit to my friend who works at the radiation desk.  "Sally" who reminds me of the cute flying nun, suggested I could get in to see the radiation oncologist for a consultation now instead of waiting.  She thought it would be good to do this early, prior to making my decision about reconstruction at the time of surgery.  The radiation oncologist will give me the best insight on the pros and cons of radiating newly constructed breasts.  I will also be talking to The Good Witch about this.

So you got all that?  I have to write this stuff down and keep a binder of my care.  Sheesh.  I need a cancer secretary.

You know what amazes me?  While in the waiting room at the Cancer Center, I always chit chat with other patients, and many of them don't know the medicines they are on, and very little about their treatment.  I've been thinking again about being some kind of breast cancer advocate or spirit guide.  I think I'd be a good one.  I will talk to The Good Witch about this.  I think having a survivor as a resource right in the office would be really helpful.  I don't know exactly how it would work, but I know there are other Cancer Center's that have them.
I'm going to look into it and volunteer as the Hostess with the Mostest.

Kitty always reminds me God has a plan.  Yulie sent me a cool little email, one of those forwarded thoughts.  This one was about God's cake.  The moral of the story?  You may not like the taste of any of the individual ingredients as they go in to your cake, but the finished product would not be the same without all of these specific ingredients.

"Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! "

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

That's some cake God is making for me, from scratch.  I hope there are lots and lots and lots of candles on it...

1 comment:

kim said...

Did you know that the American Cancer Society is always looking for volunteers to talk to other cancer patients? You might think about giving them a call when you are ready.

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