The last several weeks have been a whirlwind of chemotherapy, dealing with the side effects, working and trying to continue somewhat of a normal life in between. I had such a nice week last week as my sister Della came to visit. She came to see me from Arizona on Sunday and stayed through Saturday. She wanted to experience my week with me from the good while my energy was up to the bad after chemo. We had such a great time going to the pier, the Shedd Aquarium, shopping at Macy’s downtown Chicago and fun stops at all kinds of restaurants to grab breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have the sweetest sister in the whole world and her sweetness truly shined while she was here. She made sure I wanted for nothing and kept me smiling the whole time. She took public transportation with me to work, just to see what my commute was like and kept herself busy during the day while I worked. We met up with my boss/friend Dr. Karam and had a late lunch the next day and everyone enjoyed her stories of adventure as a ranger in the Grand Canyon. It’s impossible to put into words how much her visit meant to me, suffice it to say she is a special person and deserves every good thing that could ever come her way. I love you Della!
Della and I showed up for my fourth chemotherapy, the last of the “Red Devil” on Thursday. My regular oncologist was on vacation so the other physicians were taking up the slack. So far my visits have always gone smoothly, since this one didn’t seem to be heading that direction I was even more grateful for my sisters positive attitude as she kept me smiling through the whole thing. Not only were they incredibly behind, the waiting room was under construction so they directed us to the hallway to wait. All the chairs were taken so we plopped ourselves on the floor. I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person there and I was feeling pretty good that day so we made a good time of it and chatted and giggled the whole time. When we finally got back to my chemo session things went pretty much as normal. Della is a Ranger as I said before so she deals with all kinds of crazy medical situations and was very interested in the whole procedure. I think my oncology nurse was even more interested in my sisters adventures. I had my usual hives, benedryl treatment and Della drove me home. I couldn’t have had a more perfect week. I was very sad to see her go home.
The next couple of days were a little harder than before, I was a little more tired and just felt pretty yucky. I’m off on Wednesdays so I ended up sleeping almost the whole day away. I got up on Thursday to walk our dog and had an especially hard time making it around the block. After coming up the stairs to our apartment I pretty much collapsed on the bed with my heart beating like crazy. After a bit it calmed down and I finished getting ready for work. The walk to the car was harder by the moment and I started panting like a dog. I slept most of the drive to work and once there my coworker suggested I call my oncologist. I talked to Barbara, my oncology nurse and she said it wasn’t normal for me to feel like this and to head over the the office. I worked until lunch and then Telle came to get me and drove me over the the office.
After getting into a room Barbara had me walk a few laps around the office to check my O2 sat, check my blood pressure and temperature. Dr Mauer came in and let me know again that it wasn’t normal for me to feel like this and I needed to have a CT to check for blood clots. To save me from having the test, then heading home, then calling me back for treatment they just sent me over the the ER to speed things up. I’m a medical assistant so this made perfect since to me. We walked over and got right in…I felt like things were going to be pretty smooth from there…ha.
We checked in at the ER, they took me right back to triage, plopped a mask on my face and put me in reverse isolation.Right away they came to give me a chest x-ray then a nurse come in to start an IV line. The nurse asked me if my port is deep or shallow. Now no one has ever asked me that before so I told her I had no idea. She was able to put the needle into my port but then started trying to draw blood from it with vaccutubes. Of course she couldn’t get any blood as there just isn’t enough vacuum in those tubes to draw from the port, but I figured she must know what she was doing. Then she wrote the wrong date on the the patch over my port so I started having doubts. I corrected her on the date and she drew blood from my arm instead. I’m a very easy blood draw so I was kind of surprised when she managed to hurt me with a butterfly needle. Again since I work in the field I try very hard to never complain and didn’t say anything. They moved me to a different, more isolated room as my neutrophils were extremely low (my infection fighting cells) and thus started my long night in the ER.
I didn’t know it was a full moon and I didn’t know July is the worst time to go to the ER in a teaching hospital as that is when all the new interns start their training. I was ignorant of why they just kind of left me in the room for hours on end. I finally had to push the “call nurse” button as I really needed to pee. They came in told me what to do and gave me a urine cup to additional tests. A young female doctor came in and I have to admit I thought she was a nurse because of her youth, but again I didn’t know about the July intern thing. She tells me I’m going to spend the night, have IV antibiotics and a CT. I asked about some Zofram for my nausea and they brought it and some potassium IV as that was very low as well. So two hours later after my potassium bags run out and I finished watching the “Bucket List” I send Telle home. No reason for us both to be uncomfortable.
Someone comes in to see if any guests want sandwiches, snacks or juice. I ask for water…they are going to ask my doctor. Another hour or so passes and a new nurse comes in. He checks my blood pressure and O2 sat and I ask for water. He will check to see and bring me ice chips, which didn’t happen. Another hour goes by and he comes back to ask for another urine sample. My pregnancy test came back inconclusive! LOL. I’m a 46 year old woman who had a partial hysterectomy at 21 (I have no uterus) I’ve been on chemotherapy for two months so my ovaries are pretty much dead and I’m a lesbian. Talk about immaculate conception. I tell him it will be hard to pee as I haven’t had any water for five hours and I didn’t even have and IV to keep me hydrated. He said he would check to see if I could have ice chips…grrr. An hour or so later Dr. Karam calls to ask what time visiting hours end and I let him know I’m still in the ER. He says he’ll be right over.
By now my throat is starting to hurt as I’m getting dehydrated, but again I figure they MUST know what they are doing. An orderly comes in and takes me down for my CT which takes all of ten minutes. Then back to my room to continue my thirst regiment. I’m starting to wonder if this is some new treatment…heh. Then Dr. Karam shows up with magazines, puzzles, pens and Werther’s candies…again I am very, very lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. After another hour or so they come around with sandwiches for the guests and again and I ask for water…you guessed it, they’ll ask my doctor. After a bit this 12 year old comes in…heh ok maybe he was 17 and tells me he’s my doctor. They are waiting for my CT results he says and I ask him for water. He asks me if I’m PO or NPO. Lucky for me I know what this means, whether I can have anything by mouth or not. I’m thinking maybe HE should know this, but I tell him I don’t know but I’m really thirsty. They finally bring me a cup of water. Pure ecstasy going down my throat…it wasn’t nearly enough.
My son and his girlfriend came by and everyone kept me entertained, especially since they all had to wear masks..again…I am a lucky girl. Then this man comes in…he says he’s a assistant nurse manager and I’m thinking I’m going to get some answers. He says my doctor has called for my results and I should be in a room soon. Then he starts going over what reverse isolation means. Now I’ve been in reverse isolation for about 8 hours and he keeps going on and on about how he can’t touch me as he walks all around the room touching everything. He must have said either everyone has to wear and mask or I have to wear a mask at least 10 times. I’m like I got it. Then I ask him when I might go to a room. He asks me what my name is….WHAT. He didn’t even know who I was and he’s telling me my doctor is asking for results? Then he checks the computer and says no room has been requested. What a waste of hospital resources to pay this person. He knew nothing, gave me no information and came in a contaminated my whole room while telling me over and over he couldn’t touch me. I was starting to get annoyed. We all tried to joke about what was going on but it was becoming more difficult. Just when I didn’t think I could take it another minute my 12 year old doctor comes into the room…JOY!
So, he tells me I don’t have a PE (pulmonary embolism/blood clot) then Dr. Karam lets him know he is my friend but he is also my primary care physician. I think a little color drained out of my 12 year old doctor’s face. He says he’s sorry for my long wait and Dr. Karam asks him about the CT results. The young doctor walks over to the computer and reads the radiology report word for word. The very good and exciting news is they didn’t see anything on my chest wall where before there were nodules before…no matter what else happened this night that really made my day. The chemo has been working, things are getting under control and although it’s early yet I really feel more hopeful. Then the young doctor says I can go home, there is no more medical treatment I need at the moment and I should see my oncologist in the morning. It is now 11:30pm, I’m dehydrated, hungry and my ride went home hours ago when they told me I was staying overnight. Again Dr. Karam comes to the rescue and says he’ll be right back with the car. I figure it’ll be an hour or three before they get me signed out, but checking out is obviously a different matter. It took all of two minutes for a new nurse to come in with papers for me to sign to go home. She says okay, you are all set. Then I ask her if someone was going to take out the IV line that’s attacked to my port? She says okay, we normally leave them in three days, but I can do it. I smile and say thank you…keeping the vision of no spots on my chest wall in my mind and dreaming of all the water I will drink when I get home.
They never did tell me if I was pregnant…so you never know!