Archive for November 14th, 2007


November 14, 2007

Welcome to the most recent installment of the popular soap opera, “All My Chillblains” (lived before a live audience).

In this episode, our heroine Julie finds herself playing out her recurring nightmare, in which she returns to the scene of her surgery, over and over, day after day. The curtain opens on Julie, standing in the lobby of St. Vincent Hospital East Pavilion, trying to remember where she has to go next.


I had to be at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning for a bone scan. After injecting me with yet one more radioactive contrasting agent (this one was called “Technetium”, really!), the tech told me to come back in 3 hours for the bone scan. The 10:00 a.m. bone scan was not too bad – it just involved laying on the table while it moved under the camera. The 2:00 p.m. blood draw was easy, once they found an unpoked place on one of my arms.

Monday early evening I received a call from my surgeon’s office rescheduling my next-day’s surgery from 10:15 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. My poor friend Cathy also had to suffer with the early morning since she was my ride to and from St. V’s. The actual surgery started around 9:30 (you have to arrive 2 hours early, of course…), lasted for one-and-a-half hours (they had a minor problem with a kink in the catheter tube that needed straightening), and we left for home at 2:30 p.m. after picking up some really nice pain pills from the hospital pharmacy. The worst part of the surgery was the pain in my back/shoulder/neck from the towel they rolled up and placed on the table between my spine and my right shoulder blade to position my chest and arm properly for the insertion. That alone required two pain pills, plus alternating heat and ice to make it bearable.

Wednesday I attended a “chemo class” in the morning – in addition to reviewing the actual process I’ll have to go through, we looked at the biology of blood, cancer cells, and anti-nausea drugs; covered the side effects of the drugs I’ll be taking; the importance of hydration and exercise to chemo patients; nutrition during chemo; how to deal with hair loss, both physically and emotionally; and the reasons I should immediately call the triage nurse (fever of 100.5 degrees or above is the most critical one). At one point, the nurse was describing how the goal of a particular chemo drug was to “kill, kill, kill,” and I nearly jumped to my feet and started jumping up and down yelling “Kill, kill, kill!”, but managed to keep my seat. It was a close thing.

Then, after I’d gotten home, my oncologist called – he had a lung specialist look at the refined thoracic CT scan; and then a whole group of lung specialists examined it this morning. Everyone agreed that not only did I have a pulmonary embolus (blood clot) in my left lung, it looks like there is one in my right lung, also. So I had to drive back to the hospital, get both an injectable blood thinner and a pill-form blood thinner from the pharmacy, and learn how to inject myself. The nurse drew about 7 or 8 vials of blood to do tests on my clotting factors to determine if I have a predisposition for clotting (in which case I’ll have to be on blood thinners for a very long time), or if it appears to be an isolated incident. Since the doppler ultrasound ruled out clots in my legs, nobody can figure out *how* I got clots in my lungs.

Tomorrow (Thursday), I have a fill/check-up with the plastic surgeon, and a support group meeting. This is the easiest thing I’ve got all week.

Friday is my first chemo – I have to put together a chemo kit, including a book, my iPod, my knitting, a pillow, some snacks, and maybe a blankie. For my second chemo, I’ll have to bring a warm hat. The chemo suite contains roughly 15 to 18 nice recliners, and they serve coffee and other drinks; and there’s a view, although it was too dark this evening when I was in there learning how to inject the blood thinner to see if it is at all worth gazing at for three or four hours at a time . . .

And I thought that was the worst of it – having to be at the hospital five days in a row (multiple times, some days). But I learned on Monday that I have to be back there on Saturday for my follow-on infusion of Neulasta, a drug that promotes white blood cell generation. That is a two-and-a-half hour appointment. Six days! I have to be at the hospital six days in a row!

At least I get a break on Sunday, before I have to go back in next Monday for more bloodwork to check the level of the blood thinner.

And I discovered today that I’m actually going to have 8 chemo sessions – both Brian and I thought that the reference to 8 included the Neulasta infusions; but it will be 4 sessions of Adriamycin, and then 4 sessions of Taxol. It really hasn’t been a great day, but oddly, all I can do is laugh. Brian suggested there might be a note of hysteria detectable, but all I can see at this point is the absurdity of it all.

Besides, the Games Party was great fun, even if I was totally wiped out the next couple of days; and today I had lunch with my friend Harriet – it was so good to see her! And the oncologist’s nurse practiitioner gave me a prescription for a wig. Life is good!

My plan is still to henna my head – Cathy is going to design a Chinese dragon for me, and do the henna painting, too. I’d been planning on shaving my head this weekend, and may still – but if I do, I’ll have a nice crop of stubble for roughly a fortnight. Choices, choices!


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November 2007
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