Monday, April 23, 2012

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 12

Takes me a couple of days to recover from chemo treatment number one. After one sick day and one early out from work, I’m back to working 10 hours every day. Whatever my “normal” is these days, I’m there. Mr. S. said my hair would start to fall out three or four weeks after the first chemo treatment. I really should be buying something to cover my head but I’m procrastinating. I did finally buy some buffs and bandanas, and The Best Husband surprised me with some really nice head covers and fake bangs. Not sure I’ll ever wear the bangs, but it was a great thought! It’s around this time that I ditch the sports bra and go back to my iron maiden protective holder. I’m sick of the uniboob. I still have two boobs, and they should be displayed as individuals.

Two weeks to the day from the first chemo treatment, my hair starts falling out. I can’t even touch my hair without coming away with a handful. Two weeks. Not three or four weeks. I feel like a Golden Retriever….leaving a trail of hair everywhere I go. I don’t like it. This is the exact reason I don’t have a Golden Retriever. I make big piles of hair on the bathroom counter. Two days later, on a sunny Saturday morning in February 2012, I tell The Best Husband I’ve had enough. Get out the clippers. Something I never thought I’d be saying to The Best Husband. Standing in the bathtub, The Best Husband shaved my head, very gingerly because my scalp is extremely tender. I knew it would be a disturbing sight, but I don’t think I was really prepared for what I saw in the mirror. I burst into tears. The Best Husband and Best Daughter gave me a group hug. I cried for a few seconds, and then dried my tears. It is, after all, just hair. It will grow back. And I wasn’t completely bald. I had some gray and white clumps left. They didn’t last long though. My hair continued to fall out until all I had left was some peach fuzz. From the back I look like a little old man. Awesome.

Food is not my favorite thing. Nothing tastes good. Nothing sounds good. I’m completely off coffee. I eat whatever I feel like eating, whenever I feel like eating it. For about a week, I have huge sores on the side of my tongue, which hinders the eating process even more. The Best Husband mixes up some salt/baking soda water for swishing around in my mouth. It helps. I’m also using the prescription toothpaste I got from the dentist and flossing every day. Chemo is very bad for your teeth.

March 1st, it’s back to the cancer center for chemotherapy treatment number two. After today, I’ll be 50% done. Whoop! Same routine. Hook up the IV. Donate two vials of blood. Doctor listens to my heart and lungs and determines I’m good to go. Blood work must have been good, too. The nurse hangs the anti-nausea medication and the saline bags. We’re off and running. The Best Daughter comes to keep me company. I send to her to buy me a 7-11 slurpee. I’m not feeling well.

Eventually an elderly woman sits in the chair next to me. She seems “hard.” You know, like her life has not been easy. She has the look of a seasoned smoker. I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her Marge. The nurses hook Marge up to her first medicine bag. Within 10 minutes, she is having a full blown allergic reaction to the medication. Her face is as red as a lobster. She yells for the nurses. Saying she doesn’t feel good and is seeing black spots. The nurse turns off the IV. The chemo doctor rushes over. The nurses give her a shot of epinephrine and another of Benadryl. She keeps saying “oh shit” and “did you turn off that damn medicine” over and over and over. The chemo doctor, who by the way has the personality of a wet paper bag, is telling her to sit back and calm down. Like this is no big deal. It might not be a big deal to you lady doctor, but it’s a big deal to Marge. If she was my doctor, I’d probably be telling her to shut up and get the hell away from me. Anyway, Marge finally does calm down. Her color returns to normal. But now she’s shaking like a leaf in a strong breeze, all hopped up on epinephrine and Benadryl.  The nurses tell her she has to wait one hour before she can leave. She informs the doctor that she’s done with treatment. She tried it once, like she promised she would, but now she’s done. Marge proceeds to tell me she has stage four lung cancer. She’s just going to let nature take its course.  I’m sure my eyeballs were the size of flying saucers. I can’t imagine not trying everything possible to beat cancer, but that’s just me.  Marge makes a call on her cell phone. The call, which only lasts about 10 minutes, is laced with F-bombs. And Marge is a loud talker. Everybody in the room heard the entire thing. I tried not to stare or laugh out loud. I feel sorry for her. I can’t even imagine how “letting nature take its course” is going to work for her.

I realize, after all the commotion, I’m really, really not feeling well. The Best Husband shows up to spend the rest of the treatment time with me. The Best Daughter leaves. I’m glad she wasn’t there to witness the two huge syringes of red medicine. Just thinking about them even now makes me nauseous. Marge, I believe, had flown the coop by then. Sometime during my last medicine bag, the lower half of my face goes numb. Oh goodie. The chemo is kicking my butt, and it’s not even over. I realize there’s no way I can drive home. The Best Husband drives me home and later comes back for my car with The Best Daughter. I spend the rest of the day in bed, hoping that when I wake up on Friday I will feel a little better. Friday is shot day. I am dreading it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 11

So the day after the Christmas Boob Ornament removal, I’m back to work. It’s very odd to be here. I’ve never in my life missed so much work at one time. I feel like I need re-entry training. I go back to the boob doctor in two weeks. Hopefully I will get the go ahead to start chemo. Not that I’m all excited about it or anything. I just want to get it started so I can get it over with. I’m anxious because I don’t know what to expect. Nope, did not get the go ahead. Maybe in another two weeks.

Things return to some normalcy. Going to work every day. Boob doctor every two weeks to check the progress. The boob filled back up a little bit with serum, and the doctor drained it once but a very minimal amount. I think we’ve crossed a significant hurdle. While I’m waiting to start chemo, I go to the dentist and get my teeth deep cleaned. Even though I hate the dentist, all in all it wasn’t that bad of an experience. I say if you can find a good dental hygienist, you’ve got it made. The dentist could look and smell like the Elephant Man, and I wouldn’t care as long as the dental hygienist knows her stuff.

The Best Husband and I go back to see Mr. Saylor. I take all my supplements with me. I want him to physically look at them. I don’t want to be taking anything that will counteract the chemo. He looks at everything. Tells me I can only take the pre/pro-biotic. Everything else has to be shelved. There have never been any studies on the affect of antioxidants on chemotherapy treatments. And, he says, there never will be. Nobody wants to know either way what antioxidants do to chemo. No, the drug companies would rather keep pumping toxic waste into cancer patients because that’s where the money is. Sorry, climbed upon the soap box. Getting down now.

Mr. Saylor reiterates the side affects of chemo: hair loss, tiredness, general crappy feeling. I’m just so excited! NOT. I have no idea how I will feel. I hope there’s not a lot of throwing up. I get enough of that from my migraines. We talk again about what I can and cannot eat. No raw fresh vegetables. No fresh fruit that doesn’t have a protective skin. This still seems odd to me. You’d think that eating healthy during chemo would be the way to go. Nope, says Mr. Saylor. Raw fresh vegetables and fruit are dirty. Lettuce is one of the dirtiest foods. Especially lettuce at a restaurant salad bar or in those premade salads at the store..which I love. The Best Husband and I leave that appointment with the hope that we have the knowledge we need to get through this next hurdle.

Finally, FINALLY, I get the go ahead to start chemo. February 9th - red letter day on the calendar. Treatment number one. Let’s get this party started.  I go to work for a couple of hours. Getting more anxious as the minutes tick off the clock. My co-workers again arranged for everybody to wear pink. I head to the clinic, a short 20 minute drive away, and meet The Best Husband in the parking lot. We walk in, and I sign in. My heart is beating out of my chest. I get called to the back. The Best Husband has to wait in the lobby. I have to weigh. Why? Can’t we just write “too much” and be done with it? Blood pressure, surprisingly, is normal. I think I left my heart in the waiting room. The tech hands me two vials and sends me to the big room full of chairs that are full of people receiving some kind of chemotherapy. It’s scary that so many people have cancer. We’re killing ourselves with fast food, microwave food, preservatives, additives, pink slime, obesity. And we’re slowing introducing cancer into countries like China, which used to have the lowest cancer rate in the entire world. Sorry, another soap box moment. I can’t really bitch. I use the microwave every day. I don’t exercise enough. I weigh too much. Huge black marks. All things I plan to fix when this is over.  We have cut way back on the fast food that we eat, though. One small gold star.

So the nurse comes over and asks if I have a PICC line. No, I don’t. I’m only getting four treatments. No PICC line. She looks for a vein. I show her my one good vein, which probably won’t be any good when this is all over. She sets up the IV line, fills the vials with blood and tells me to just sit tight. Blood tests have to be done before they can start dripping the toxic waste into my body. Everything comes back okay, so the nurse hangs a bag of anti-nausea medicine and a bag of saline. It tastes weird. When the anti-nausea bag is empty,  she hangs a bag of steroids, which helps with nausea. It also makes my fingers all bloated. I take off my watch and wedding ring. In a few minutes, I see her approaching with two huge syringes of red liquid - it looks like koolaid - and a smaller syringe of clear liquid. These are two of my three chemo medicines. She brings a cup of ice and tells me while she’s pushing the red liquid into my arm, I have to chew ice. It helps ward off mouth sores. I notice she’s pushing the red liquid slowly, pulling blood back into the syringe before every push. She has to do that, she says, to make sure she doesn’t blow the vein. One drop of the red liquid outside the vein, and the skin would immediately start corroding. Yikes, I could have done without knowing that little bit of knowledge. I’m also thinking, hey, if it could corrode my skin, what’s it doing to my vein? She finishes pushing both medicines and hangs the third bag of chemo medicine. As soon as I’m done with that and the saline bag, I can go home. Sometime during all this I slept for a little bit. I also watched television and read a book on my Kindle. Next time I'm going to ask for the password to their WiFi. The Best Husband sat there right next to me through the whole ordeal - 5 hours. I told him he didn’t have to. But he wouldn’t leave. I’m sure he was bored out of his mind.

I’m starving by the time we get home. We eat a little something. Watch a little television. I go to bed thinking that I feel pretty good. Wake up Friday morning, I still don’t feel all that badly. Every Friday afternoon after chemo is shot day. The shot is to wake up my bone marrow, “stir it up” as Mr. Saylor said, to increase the production of white blood cells that will help fight off infection. Mr. Saylor said the shot would make me ache everywhere. Saturday would be a so-so day. Sunday would suck. The shot stung like crazy. And I had to weigh again. Like through some miracle I lost weight overnight. Nope. I go to bed Friday night thinking “piece of cake.” I wake up Saturday thinking “not a piece of cake.” Spent all day Saturday in bed. If Saturday was bad, Sunday was 1000 times worse. Wow. I felt like I’d been run over by a semi….several times. My bed was my best friend. Monday rolled around and while I was a little better, I was not good enough to go to work so I called in sick. Monday I graduated from my bed to the couch. Moving was torture, so I stayed as still as I possibly could. Finally, around 2:00pm, I felt like I had turned the corner. I was going to live! Hallelujah on the left side of my brain. On the right side - you know what I’m thinking - is this how it’s going to be every time? Ugh.

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 10

So once again, we’re back at the hospital at the butt crack of dawn (Dec 20th). You all already know how I feel about that. The hospital staff gathers up all the lucky surgery candidates and sends us through the maze of halls to the surgery lobby. I started Baaaa-ing like a sheep at The Best Husband as we walked. All we were missing was a cowboy on a cutting horse and a sheep dog.

This go round, I was not pre-registered with the surgery nurse. So I was one of the last one’s called. All the private rooms must have been full because this time I had a bed and a curtain. I wouldn’t even classify it as semi-private. It was more like a non-private cubicle. I did have that great thick paper gown with all the air hookups and of course the awesome purple socks. The non-private cubicle was okay, though. The head nurse was a hoot and kept me entertained. Dr. C. finally showed up. Then the anasteshiologist. You know, the guy that puts you to sleep. I asked that they not give me Morphine. The surgical nurse asked why? I said because it makes me feel horrible. I don’t like it. She got a really weird look on her face. I don’t care what you think, lady. Don’t give me Morphine. Again, how do people get addicted to pain killers? I have yet to try one that I like. Dr. C. told The Best Husband that he would not be able to speak to him after the surgery because he had to get back over to the office. The nurse would be giving us our discharge instructions.

Speaking of the nurse, she came over right before I was wheeled away and put those massage things on my legs. I’ve never used those before. When they hooked ‘em up in the operating room and turned ‘em on…that was a weird feeling for sure. Shortly after that, it was lights out. I woke up in a much better state than the first surgery. I could breathe, but I was in terrible pain. I remember moaning, loudly.  A male whisper in my ear, “I’ll get you something for the pain.” “Thank you,” I whispered back. I don’t know what he gave me, but it was some good sh*t. I should try to find out what it was.

After a short stay in the recovery room, I was wheeled back to my non-private cubicle. The nurse retrieved The Best Husband from the waiting room. I had this huge plastic bandage over the surgery site. It kinda reminded me of the plastic-wrapped paper you find under a piece of meat in the grocery store package. Yes, my mind works in mysterious ways. The nurse told me I was not to remove the bandage. So I could not shower. Again. Geez. This is getting old. She also unraveled this long plastic tube sticking out of a new hole in my boob and attached was a plastic bulb. A drain. Something I thought I would have had after the first surgery. She shows The Best Husband how it works, tells us to empty the bulb every 12 hours or so, and record the amount of serum that has collected in the bulb. Oh, goodie. The Best Husband immediately dubbed it the Christmas Boob Ornament. Of course he talked about keeping it as a souvenir. I told him I already had enough souvenirs from this experience.

Oh, did I tell you that The Best Daughter was scheduled to get her tonsils out over Christmas break? Just another thing that The Best Husband had to deal with. I think he spent more time in doctor’s offices, hospitals and surgery centers in 2011 than the entire 27 years of our marriage. You know how the marriage vows say “for better or worse, in sickness and in health?”  We had never witnessed so much “worse” or “sickness” before. But he handled it like a trooper. He took The Best Daughter for her tonsillectomy on Dec 22nd while I sat home on the couch. Then he cared for the both of us over the Christmas break. I was home from work the entire time.  Boring.

I was getting worried because I still had Christmas shopping to do. Finally, Christmas Eve I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. Right, silly. It’s Christmas Eve! I stuffed the girls and the Christmas Boob Ornament into one of the sports bras and drove to Wal-Mart. Probably not the best decision on Christmas Eve, but I was desperate. I did manage to order a present for The Best Husband over the internet, and luckily I was able to pick it up on Christmas Eve. Things were coming together. Thank goodness.

Christmas morning. Drain the Christmas Boob Ornament. Get some coffee. Settle in on the couch. Let the paper ripping begin! Oh, look, footy pajamas. Not just any footy pajamas. Pink camouflage. And comfy, warm slippers. We unwrapped for at least two hours. Even the dogs got in on the act.  This was the first year that my sister hadn’t come to spend the night on Christmas Eve. Felt really odd. But this had been an odd end to 2011, so it seemed to fit right in. Sister and her boyfriend were expected over mid-morning for more present opening and dinner. I don’t even recall what we had for dinner on Christmas. That’s pathetic.

Two days after Christmas, it’s back to the boob doctor. I expected him to look at the sheet where we had been diligently recording the boob drainage and promptly tell me that the Christmas Boob Ornament had to stay in for a little longer. Nope. He barely even glanced at it. We had drained over 1000 cc of serum in one week. Didn't seem to care. Said the drain had to come out sometime, and that sometime was now. First, though, the removal of the bandage that was starting to itch like crazy and the stitches. Ouch.  I asked if he was going to give a little numbing medicine before he removed the Christmas Boob Ornament. Every time I go to the boob doctor, they hurt me. I never know what level of pain I will have to endure during my visits. It’s getting old. No wonder my blood pressure is always out of control. Anyway, Dr. C. says no, it will only sting a little bit. Like he knows? When was the last time someone pulled a drain tube out of him? Probably never. So, yeah, it stung. More than a little bit. I was happy to get rid of the Christmas Boob Ornament, though, so I only whimpered a little bit. No tears. If there were tears, they were happy tears because now I could go home and take a shower! First though, I stopped in at my office to see how things were going and check my email. Only took me 2 hours to clean out my inbox. What a pain.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 9

I have to backtrack a little bit here. I forgot to impart an important piece of information. When I was first diagnosed, Dr. P. said lumpectomy, radiation but no chemotherapy. Along this wild e-ticket ride, that changed. Based on my tumor (stage 1, aggressive, invasive), I would be needing chemotherapy after all. Just another piece of news I had to digest and dissect.

Thanksgiving day. I feel like a new person. No more evil metal meat skewer. No more incredibly comfortable and hip mesh bra. No more pain. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. I feel the worst is behind me. Time to get back to living.  Lots of people over to the casa for Thanksgiving. Everybody contributed. It was odd watching others clean up my kitchen - something I do not normally allow. Just didn’t have it in me to protest. We played our usual board games (Scrabble and Clue). It's a tradition. Life felt normal for the first time in a couple of months. 

Monday after Thanksgiving (Nov 28th), I returned to work. I was exhausted. Just getting ready for work threw me for a loop. I had to sit down every couple of minutes to steady myself. I made the mistake of wearing an underwire bra. Uncomfortable doesn’t even adequately describe how I spent the next 11 hours. Stupidly, I did it again the next day. Finally, Wednesday, I got a clue. I donned a sports bra. Not a good choice for 12-pound bowling balls, but what’s a girl to do?  On Wednesday (Nov 30th), I had an appointment with the radiation oncologist. I pointed out to him that my boob seemed to be filling up with liquid. He talked about draining it, and how another patient went through that for 8 months. I was like, oh hell no. I’m not going through that for 8 months. I vowed to ignore it. Maybe it would just go away on its own.

Well, that didn’t work. The pain became too much. I called Dr. P’s office on Thursday. They told me to wait until my appointment on Friday (Dec 1st), even though I told them what was going on. When Dr. P. found out about that, he wasn’t too happy. Anyway, Friday rolls around, only been a day but it couldn't come soon enough for me. Driving to the appointment was so painful. Every bump, every pot hole was agony. I start crying when I see the receptionist. I can’t help it. I settle down a little bit while I’m in the waiting room (poor pitiful me moment is over). They call me to the back, where Dr. P. takes one look at my boob and says he needs the ultrasound machine. I’m lying on my back, marveling at the ocean of liquid showing up on the monitor. If the little mouse was still in there, he’d be doing the backstroke. Dr. P. says he has to drain it. Oh goodie. Any person in the right mind would think the doc was going to numb the area so that’s what I thought was going to happen. You’d want a numbing shot before someone drained liquid out of your boob…right?

I heard Dr. P. say “give me a # something syringe and needle.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see the nurse hand him a syringe the size of a turkey baster with a needle that resembled a samurai sword.  I don’t hear him ask for anything else so immediately my mind starts screaming… ”WAIT!”  But my mouth is frozen shut. I’m sure my eyes were the size of dinner plates. All of a sudden, Dr. P. plunges the needle into my boob. I’m totally expecting pain. But there’s nothing. My mind can’t grasp what just happened. Why didn’t that hurt? I know that area around the scar is numb, I just didn’t realize it was that numb. I feel instant relief as he extracts the liquid. It’s a light reddish color. The nurse again calls it serum - the same stuff that came out when she removed the evil metal meat skewer. I don’t care what it is. I just know it’s a painful hot mess. I don’t remember how much he extracted that day, maybe 60 cc’s.  All I know is that I felt so much better. Come back and see me in a week, Dr. P. says.

By the end of that day, I can tell my boob is filling back up with serum. I’m continuing to go to work, wearing the sports bra that barely contains the girls, but so much more comfortable than an underwire. I wonder if I could get away with never wearing an underwire again…hmmmmm…something to ponder. It's now Friday, December 9th. A week has gone by, and I’m back in the same state I was in the previous Friday. My boob is so swollen and full of serum. It’s very painful. Back to see Dr. P. who does another ultrasound. The ocean of liquid appears even bigger on the monitor than last time. I’m in no mood to look for a mouse doing the backstroke. This time I don’t panic when he asks for the gargantuan syringe and needle. He plunges it in and pulls out 90 cc’s of serum. The relief is immediate. Instead of dumping it down the sink like last time (which is actually a little disturbing if you think about where stuff dumped down the sink goes in Las Vegas), he’s sending some off to be tested for infection and puts me on antibiotics.  I don’t think it’s infected but better safe than sorry, I suppose.  Dr. P. says to come back in a week. I say a week is too long, I'll be back in five days.

The Best Husband has been doing some research on the internet and discovers that the issue with the liquid building up in my boob is actually quite common and it has a name. It's called a seroma. We had both been given the impression from all the doctors that this was not that normal. Research indicates that this is quite normal and almost expected after having brachytherapy (internal radiation with the evil metal meat skewer). That's somewhat of a relief because here I thought I was experiencing something odd, wondering if I somehow caused it. There is no recommended treatment for a Seroma. It just has to go away on its own. I just hope it doesn't last 8 months, like the lady's seroma that the radiation oncologist was telling me about. That would suck. 

In the mean time, I have an appointment with the chemotherapy oncologist. The Best Husband meets me there. I fill out the incredibly redundant paperwork. Shortly, we're taken to an exam room. Where we sit, and wait and wait, for the doctor. We're getting pretty agitated. Ready to just walk out. Finally, two and a half hours after our appointment time, he appears in the room. We're both thinking, "this better be good." And it was. Within minutes, we know the wait had been worth it. I've always called him Dr. S., but really, he's a physicians assistant and I guess technically he's Mr. S. But whatever. All I know is that he knows his stuff. He explains everything to us so clearly. He made a ton of notes on that thin paper that covers the exam table. I wish I had torn that off and taken it home with me. I tell him about the seroma. He decides that he wants to give my boob time to heal before he almost kills me with chemotherapy. So we decide to start treatments on December 29th. He tells us about the do's and don'ts. What foods I can and can't eat. If I buy fresh vegetables, I have to wash them in bleach water before I cook them. No raw fresh vegetables. No fruit that doesn't have a removeable cover, like bananas and oranges. No peaches, no pears. No strawberries...they're too fuzzy. Don't know what that has to do with it, but okay. I'm really glad it isn't summer, because I absolutely love summer fruit. He then says, "You're going to lose your hair." I had been wondering if my treatment would cause that. I say, "Okay." He says it again, "You're going to lose your hair." I look at The Best Husband. We both say, "Okay. We understand." He says, "All your hair." I'm still thinking about the top of my head, of course. I'm sure I have a perplexed look on my face, because he turns to the The Best Husband and says, "You're wife will look like she's 12." Oooooh.....I get it now. He's not just talking about the top of my head. I'm going to lose hair everywhere. This comes as a suprise to me. I mean, seriously, how many of you have ever looked at a cancer patient with no hair on their head and realized they have no hair anywhere on their body? I know it never occurred to me. I'm glad Mr. S. made that clear, because I would have been freaking out for sure when I started going bald in other places besides my head.

I'm back to Dr. P.'s office on Wednesday (Dec 14th). Same routine. Ultrasound. Ocean of liquid. The mouse is doing the breast stroke now. Dr. P. pulls out another 90 cc. The seroma isn't getting any better. He says the report from the previous week's withdrawal indicates there is no infection. But I am to continue taking the antibiotics just in case. Then Dr. P. tells me he’s leaving for the Caribbean on December 16th and won’t be back until after the new year, but Dr. C. will be taking care of me while he’s gone. That’s a little worrisome. I’ve never seen Dr. C. I hope he knows what he’s doing. I’ve seen him in the hallway….he looks too young to know what he’s doing. The nurse says to come back in a week, but I tell her, "Nope, seven days is too long. I’ll be back in five days."

Over the next couple of days, my boob once again inflates with serum. It’s a pain in the a…well, boob.  Sunday, I have this odd burning pain around my scar, and there is serum seeping out of my boob. I can barely sleep because every time something touches the area, it burns. I finally look in my makeup mirror (10x zoom!) and discover that the pressure from the serum buildup has caused my incision to pop open at one end. Wow. That’s incredible. In my experience, liquid will always find a way to escape. My incision, which probably isn’t 100% healed, was the path of least resistance. On Monday (Dec 19th), I had planned to go to work, go to my Dr. appointment, then return to work. Instead, I call in sick , and at the appointed time, I arrive at the doctor’s office. Dr. C. does an ultrasound and attempts to drain the serum. Now I’m no expert, but I can clearly see LIQUID in my boob on the monitor. It’s been seeping out all night. It’s definitely LIQUID.  I don’t know what Dr. C. was looking at, but he decides it’s a clot, one that he wants to break up so he can drain it. I hear him tell the nurse, “Give me a syringe with hydrogen peroxide.” I’m wondering WHY, but my mind doesn’t register a problem. How would I know what was about to happen? So, before I continue, let me give you a little advice. If you know you have a liquid buildup in your boob and someone wants to shoot hydrogen peroxide into it…..RUN! Run as fast as you can to the nearest exit. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. RUN!

Dr. C. shoots the hydrogen peroxide into the seroma and instantaneously, the PAIN is excruciating. I can’t even begin to put into words how much pain I was in. I lay on the table in the exam room for a good 45 minutes, crying and moaning. Dr. C. kept apologizing and rubbing my forehead. I’m sure I scared him. Probably scared away some of the other patients. Dr. C. decides he has to open up the surgical site and clean it out, wants to take me to the operating room right then. I must have been dilerious because I ask him to just cut me open right then and there. He appears to think about that for a second, but he must have realized that was a completely stupid idea. "Not going to happen," he says. Unfortunately, I had eaten a bowl of cereal a couple of hours ago, so he doesn’t feel comfortable putting me under anasteshia. Yes, it should still be spelled that way. So he decides he’s going to operate the next day (Dec 20th).  I manage to finally stop crying and sit up. The nurse mops my face with a tissue. I call The Best Husband and beg him to come get me. I don’t think I can drive while in this emotional state. I call my office and tell them I am having surgery the next day and won’t be coming in. Luckily, the hospital where I have to pre-register for surgery is a short walk from the doctor’s office. As I’m walking over, I must have been still moaning, and of course I look like hell because I’ve been crying for an hour, because a doctor walking in front of me turns and asks if I’m okay. That was nice of him. I say no, but I'll be fine thank you, and keep on walking. The Best Husband meets up with me as I get closer to the hospital entrance. A co-worker had dropped him off so we wouldn’t have more than one car. I sign in and the receptionist gives me a pager. We sit. We wait. And wait. And wait. They aren’t even that busy, what is taking so long? I’m rocking back and forth, moaning, trying to deal with the pain. It has subsided, but not completely. All of a sudden, I hear a loud pop. I look at The Best Husband. He looks at me. We both know immediately what it is. I pull out my collar so I can look down my shirt. Eeeeeck! Serum mixed with hydrogen peroxide is pouring out of my incision. Just to give you a visual, think about how the stream of water looks when it’s leaving the garden hose. Houston, we have a problem. I’ve sprung a leak. Eeeeck! We rush to the bathroom to get some paper towels. It’s going everywhere. All over my shirt, down into my pants, filling up my bra. I call the doctor’s office. They send the nurse over to help clean me up. We literally milk my boob while standing in the hospital lobby bathroom. The moment was so freaking crazy we both starting laughing.

The Best Husband had exited the bathroom when the nurse got there, and has been waiting for us in the lobby. He realizes a pre-register clerk is yelling our last name. Angrily. With attitude. The Best Husband has the pager. It hasn’t gone off. He tells the clerk that I am in the restroom, and I’ll be right out. This guy is a jerk. Of royal proportions. He proceeds to tell The Best Husband that he’s called our name "at least 10 times." Why haven’t we answered? The Best husband tells him we’ve had a small crisis. We weren’t listening for our name because we have a pager. Which didn’t go off, by the way. The clerk proceeds to tell him, with his snootiest attitude, that he doesn’t have to beep the pager. He has been calling us. Sheesh. What is our problem?

I emerge from the bathroom and proceed to the pre-register desk where I have to deal with the asshole clerk while I’m dealing with my irrigation leak. Luckily, the pain has completely disappeared. But one would think that the clerk, knowing that he’s pre-registering people for surgery, would have a better attitude. Everybody has been so wonderful from the beginning of this entire experience. I should have known there would be one jerk along the way. And he’s sitting not five feet from me. I really, REALLY, want to tell him off. But I restrain myself. When the nurse asks me how my visit was, I tell her all about him. She writes it all down, saying how sorry she is. Karma. I hope it came back and bit him in the ass.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 8

So the week rolls along. Not fast enough for me. I’m looking forward to Wednesday like a spoiled, rich kid looks forward to Christmas morning. We’ve arranged appointments to ensure I don’t have to endure the evil metal meat skewer for even one minute longer than necessary. I definitely didn’t want to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend, which included my daughter’s soccer tournament, in pain. And the flies buzzing around my head are getting annoying.  Plus, lots of people were coming over for Thanksgiving. I usually cook the entire meal, which I wasn’t going to do this year. Everybody was pitching in. The Best Husband thought it would be too much for me. But I needed it. I needed some kind of normalcy back in my life. So while I was very tired Thanksgiving evening, it was a really great day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Wednesday (Nov 23rd), The Best Husband drives me to the LAST radiation appointment. We brought along some snacks so I could take a pain pill before going to the surgeon for removal of the BD (evil metal meat skewer). I distinctly remembered what it felt like when it was inserted. The pain pills made me ill but since I have no idea what it’s going to feel like when it is removed, I wasn’t taking any chances. I refused to take another pain pill after that last one. I don’t see how people get addicted to them. They make me feel like crap.

I head to the back for the last CT scan. Thankfully the arm pit stench doesn’t knock me out. Then the short walk to the room where Carl hooks up my octopus arms. The last time the little mouse will leave his house on a cheese hunt. I’m a little sad. I’m happy to be done, but then the people here are so nice.  And it’s not like the radiation itself has been all that bad. By the 10th treatment, I can feel a little pinching and burning when the mouse is hunting for his cheese, but it’s not pain I can’t handle. Oh, hell. What am I thinking? I’m so happy to be done I could do the happy dance in the lobby, naked.  I’m also ecstatic that the evil metal meat skewer and the incredibly comfortable, hip mesh bra will soon be history.  If I could burn the bra, I would. Carl and I exchange our daily “I’m stepping out…I’ll wait here for you” routine. Ten minutes, I’m done. I take off my real cloth gown for the last time, he gives me the key to the evil metal meat skewer (so the device can be closed before removal), and I head out to the lobby where The Best Husband is waiting.

It’s a short drive to the surgeon’s office. Along the way, I take the hated pain pill.  We arrive with too much time to spare. So we sit in the car, waiting for the pain pill to kick in. With still too much time to spare, we walk into the building where we sit on a bench, waiting for the pain pill to kick in. Finally we decide to just go into the office. Who cares that we’re early. It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Maybe they’ll be happy we’re early. I’m still waiting for the pain pill to kick in. At least the pain pill isn't making me sick.

We’re taken to a room within minutes. As it turns out, they are happy we’re early. I put on the paper shirt made to fit Walmart boobs, lie down on the table, and wait. The head nurse (chick in charge) quickly comes in, also glad we’re early. She should be home cooking, she says, but she stayed late so she could remove the evil metal meat skewer. So nice of her. The Best Husband hands her the key.  “I’m so ready to get this thing out of me,” I say. I tell her to cut the mesh bra off. NOW. She’s like, I was going to market this thing as a wonderful new piece of lingerie. You don’t like it? Hell no. I hate it. Snip, snip. Thank GOD. I’m FREE from the incredibly comfortable and hip mesh bra. Not really. It’s scratchy and dirty. My nipples stick through the mesh holes. It doesn’t really provide much support for my twelve pound bowling balls.  I hate it. With a passion.

The CIC closes the evil metal meat skewer with the key. The Best Husband asks if he can have it. He wants to hang it on the Christmas tree. A new ornament for our collection. Yikes. The CIC looks at him like he’s insane. Personally, I don’t think it would look good hanging from the Christmas tree. And it’s probably radioactive anyway.  While I’m thinking about the Christmas ornament idea, it doesn’t even register that she just pulled the evil metal meat skewer out. Hey, that didn’t even really hurt. The CIC puts it into a biohazard bag. Guess it won’t be hanging on the Christmas tree this year after all. Suddenly, I feel warm liquid running down my neck, into my ear, down my side, etc.  I’m like….um, what is that? The CIC is grabbing towels and trying to mop up the liquid. It’s serum she says. Not uncommon for this to build up in the surgical site around the evil metal meat skewer. Not to worry, she says. Seconds later, she’s pushing on my boob….more like milking me. Trying to get all the serum out.  That was weird. I ask if someone is going to sew up the gaping hole in my boob where the evil metal meat skewer was sticking out. No, she says, it will fill in and close up on its own. Really? I’m thinking, have you seen the hole? It’s akin to the Grand Canyon. No way this thing is going to close up on its own. If it does, it isn’t going to be pretty. Well, if there’s any consolation, at least it will match the Bride of Frankenstein scars.  The CIC gets me all cleaned up, tapes a sterile bandage over the hole, and tells me I can get dressed. YES! A real bra! Well, not a real bra. It’s a no-wire sports bra. But anything is better than that &%#$&#?&  mesh bra. Did I tell you I hate it?

The Best Husband and I walk out to the car. I feel so much better.  It’s amazing how good I feel. No more pain when I move. I don’t even have to hold the pillow up against my chest during the drive home. It’s everything I thought it would be, and more. I can’t wait to get home. My first order of business? A shower! You don’t realize how much you miss doing something until you can’t do it anymore. These flies have got to go.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Trip Down The Cancer Wormhole - Part 7

Right after I put on my new, incredibly comfortable and hip mesh bra (eye rolling is automatic now…no need for the cue), The Best Husband and I drive over to the Compassionate Cancer Center for my first visit with the radiation doctor. Angie, the receptionist is incredibly happy. She’s also incredibly nice. And she’s like that every day. She must see so much pain and misery. How does she do it? I have an envelope of documents for her. I don’t remember if I had to fill out the hundreds of obligatory (and redundant) pages of personal and medical information.  Regardless, it’s not long before I’m placed in a room where the wonderful paper shirt is waiting. You know the drill. Undress from the waist up. Another half-naked visit with someone I don’t know. Yippee. 

Dr. D. comes in, introductions all around. We chat. He gropes…wink, wink. Well, not really, but at this point in my treatment I feel like its groping.  I know he’s really just examining the girls. He takes a good look at the brachytherapy device (BD….aka evil metal meat skewer) and the eight catheters (octopus arms) sticking out of my boob. I tell him that Dr. P.’s office said I could go home and take a shower. That doesn’t seem right to me. Dr. D. says oh no, there will be no showering while the evil metal meat skewer is in place. That makes more sense. Dr. D. fills us in on how this whole deal is going to work.

The next day (Nov 16th) will be the treatment “mapping” appointment, which basically consists of a CT scan. Using the information from the CT scan, the technician will create a treatment plan using the computer program that runs the machine that delivers the radiation.  The day after that (Thursday, Nov 17th), will be day one of treatment.  The internal radiation is delivered twice a day (morning and afternoon) for five days. My schedule is 7:30am and 12:30pm. Before each treatment, a CT scan is done to ensure the evil metal meat skewer hasn’t moved or broken (yikes!). For the CT scan, I have to lift my arms over my head. Not as easy as it would seem. But we “git ‘er did” every day. After the CT scan, it’s a short walk to the room where the octopus arms are hooked up to the radiation machine. I’m sure it has a name. I think of it as the mouse house.

Once the eight tubes are hooked up to the eight octopus arms of the evil metal meat skewer, the technician leaves the room to start the computer program. His name is Carl. It took me a couple of days to remember his name…duh, really? He always said, “Okay, I’m stepping out now.” I always said, “Okay, I’ll wait here for you.”  Made me chuckle every time. Like I was going anywhere?

The machine starts whirring. The computer tells the radiation mouse to leave his nice warm house, travel down the tube into the BD where he looks for cheese. Well, not really, but who wants to think about a radioactive device literally burning the tissue inside your boob? Not me. When he’s done with his first cheese search, he runs back into his house. There is a loud click. Probably a mouse trap, which he is smart enough to avoid. Then he runs down the second tube, looks for more cheese, and runs back into his house. Another loud click. This occurs eight times (one trip down and up each octopus arm). By the second treatment of the second day, I’m counting the clicks, knowing when I get to eight, I’m done. It only takes about 10 minutes. Carl comes back into the room and using a geiger counter, makes sure the mouse has gone back into his little house. He unhooks me from the machine. I dress and head to the lobby where The Best Husband is waiting to drive me home.  I never did name the mouse. Should have I guess. I was feeding him cheese twice a day.

The Best Husband chauffered me every day, twice a day, to my radiation treatments. The BD was so painful that I had to hold a pillow to my chest while he’s driving. You don’t really realize how terrible the roads are in Vegas until every bump causes pain. Thursday and Friday pass pretty quickly, with four car trips. The rest of each day is spent at home trying not to move.  I don’t know if the BD was pushing against a nerve or what, but I could not bend forward, sideways or backwards...let's just say that any movement was seriously discouraged as it brought pain. This meant I was unable to wash my hair in the kitchen sink or take a bath. I learned that sponge baths aren't the greatest. 

The weekend was the worst. The days stretched across minutes of nothingness. It was around this time that I withdrew from my college class. No way could I focus on schoolwork while I was in this much pain. I looked forward to Monday like crazy. The only bright spot was my sister-in-law coming to visit from Oklahoma (xoxo, Mrs. M.) Also, I am a stomach sleeper. The BD (aka the egg beater or kitchen whisk) forced me to sleep on my back. Sleeping on my side wasn’t an option. Sitting all day and sleeping in the recliner got old pretty quickly. I tried the couch a couple of times. It was like torture. On top of that, I felt so filthy. Any minute I expected to see flies buzzing around my head. I considered changing my name to Pig Pen from the comic strip Peanuts. And lifting my arms over my head in the CT scan every day, twice a day, I thought I was going to knock myself out from the arm pit smell. Not to mention the jungle growing under my arms and on my legs. Eeeck. I would not make a good homeless person.

On the third day (Monday), after the second treatment, I had a breakdown and became despondent. “I can’t take much more of this,” I told The Best Husband. I sniffled for a second or two, and the poor pitiful me moment was over. I think this was the day the pain medication made me sick, and I threw up twice at the cheese show. This was also the day I saw the lady with the tattooed makeup sitting in the lobby at the radiation center. She looked the exact same as the first time I saw her. Still scary.

Knowing the BD was going to be removed shortly after the last radiation treatment (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), the days can’t move fast enough for me. I’m looking forward to a shower and sleeping in my own bed. I’m pretty sure The Best Husband is getting tired of the whole ordeal, too. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without him though. He decides he’s going to ask for the evil metal meat skewer once it’s removed so we can hang it on the Christmas tree. Don’t think that’s gonna happen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Trip Down the Cancer Wormhole - Part 6

Once I get over the shock of seeing the staples and incisions, I try to convince myself that it isn’t as bad as it looks. The incisions are long. Much longer than I had even imagined. Mainly because one of my BFFs (I have several) had just gone through this same scenario (lumpectomy, removal of a lymph node, spacer…etc.). I’ve seen her scars. So I figured mine would look the same. Nope. Not even close. 

Since the surgery, I’m spending most of every day in bed. Sleeping. Watching the boob tube. The electric one, not the actual one. Doing nothing makes you tired. Which really doesn’t make sense. But I figure I’m also still recovering from anasteshia. Yes, I can spell pneumonia, but not anasteshia. I’m not even going to look up how to spell it. I like it. That’s how it should be spelled. I’m getting really tired of the staples under my arm. Every time I move they pull my skin. It’s painful and irritating.

As I said before, daytime television is boring. I can’t tell you how many episodes of House Hunters I watched. Do people really expect to purchase the perfect caviar house - one that has everything they want, including granite countertops - on a macaroni & cheese budget? Get real. There are also the endless marathons of American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Auction Hunters, and Storage Wars. I think I might have watched a couple of episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras. I was desperate. I’m also old school. I love watching Matlock, In the Heat of the Night, Walker Texas Ranger, LHOP, The Waltons, and Murder She Wrote. I’ve always been skeptical of J. B. Fletcher, though. Everywhere she goes, someone gets killed. Very suspicious. I was very pleased I got to watch some college soccer. I LOVE soccer.

While I’m lying around doing nothing, my/our amazing friends bring us food. Lots of food. It’s awesome. The husband is less than a month out from shoulder surgery, and he’s still in a sling. Between us we have two good left hands. With both of us being right-handed, though, that’s not much consolation. That fact he doesn’t have to cook makes his days taking care of me so much easier. Not that I have much of an appetite. The kids step up and help more around the house, too…laundry, dishes, waiting on me. Our friends ask, “What do you need? What can I do for you?” Heck, I have no idea. I’m pretty pleased how I’m getting through each day, getting better and better. It’s been a cake walk. Stop on the winning square, win a 3-layer chocolate cake. Whoop! Little did I know that Hell was waiting on the other side of my euphoria.

Surgery was November 10, 2011. The first post-op visit with the surgeon was November 15th. Thank goodness my BFF (the one who just went through this) told me to take a pain pill. She’s actually also the one that told me what would probably occur during this first doctor visit. Dr. P. sure didn’t tell me. I like Dr. P., but he’s like a car that’s been smashed in a wreck. You have to pry information out of him with the Jaws of Life. So the husband (you know, he’s actually The Best Husband) drives me to the appointment, and he comes in the room with me. Maybe not the best idea, but we didn’t know that. The chick in charge (is she a Nurse an Assistant or ???...I’m not sure) starts taking out the staples. OUCH. But I am so glad to get the staples out from under my arm. The CIC then hooks up a big ass syringe to the plastic tube sticking out of my boob and withdraws sixty (yes, 60) cc’s of saline from the balloon spacer that was inserted during the surgery. The pressure subsides, and I’m thinking, ‘hey, that feels a little better.’  Then all of a sudden, without warning, she pulls the balloon out of my boob. PAIN.  My mind is screaming OUCH - OUCH - OUCH.  I don’t remember if that’s when the water works started or if I was able to maintain some dignity. The CIC asks if I’m alright. Well, I’m as good as I think I can be, I guess. She says she’s going to insert the brachytherapy device (BD) and asks if I would like a numbing shot. A little late to be asking that, dontcha think? I told her no, let’s just get this over with.

Now, the BD kind of looks like an kitchen whisk. You can search the internet for a picture. Over the next week, The Best Husband and I will call it an assortment of different names, not all of them pretty. The CIC inserts the BD (more excruciating pain). Then she takes a key and OPENS it, while it’s inside my boob. I’m openly crying now. The Best Husband is holding my hand. I know he’s probably sorry he came in the room. It’s a very difficult thing to see your spouse in pain. I now have a different plastic device with eight separate catheters sticking out of me. The CIC sits me up.  She mops my face with some Kleenex. I’m thinking ‘how am I going to get a bra on with this octopus in the way?’ She must have read my mind because she says I won’t be wearing a bra. She cuts some surgical mesh (I guess that’s what I’d call it - at the moment) and proceeds to have me wiggle into it (over my head) and it becomes my bra. This is getting weird. And scratchy. And itchy. And uncomfortable.  And did I say weird? Does she really think this mesh bra is going to hold my twin 12-pound bowling balls? In your dreams.