Friday, May 15, 2009

Situation Report

Howdy yall. It’s been a while. I’m trying to post at least once a week to my other site, as well as 5 times a week on this site. The last time I posted anything about myself was some months ago, and a lot has happened since then.

First, I successfully completed all four cycles of my chemotherapy. I had a CT Scan done a few weeks ago and my oncologist says the cancer is gone.

Before all you start cheering, both of you, I should say that the doctor expects the cancer will come back before the year is out. Apparently this type of carcinoma has a 70% relapse rate within the first few years. To that end I’m getting scans and blood work done every 10 weeks.

I had a bit of a scare a few weeks ago, just as I was recovering from my last cycle of chemo. I was very tired and couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds. Any more than that and I felt a strange heaviness in my chest. Not good. Like an idiot I tried to wait it out. I mentioned it to my folks and they shanghaied me into going to the emergency room.

Turns out it was a pulmonary embolism. You see, I developed blood clots in my arm from the induction port they stuck in me several weeks prior. My arm swelled up to twice its normal size and it felt like someone was ripping the veins out of my arm with red hot fishhooks; not pleasant. My oncologist gave me a few shots of a blood thinner, removed the port, and sent on my way. My arm shrank down to normal and stopped hurting. The down side to this was that without the induction port, I had to receive my last week of chemo intravenously. I have extremely deep veins which are so thick-walled that they tend to roll out of the way whenever a needle pokes them, consequently I get stuck 3 or 4 times before they successfully get an IV going. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have to do it everyday for a week. That’s a lot of needle marks people.

In any case, I thought the clots had been broken up. I was wrong. One of the blood clots migrated to my right lung, where it took up residence and threatened to break free, travel to my brain, and either kill me or leave me a drooling vegetable. Fun stuff.

I spent a week in the hospital, where they monitored me and put me on blood thinners. Again I had to have an IV going 24/7, though my veins were already trashed from the chemo the week before. Let’s not forget the blood they drew every 4 hours to make sure it was thin enough. I’ve got an idea for them, how about we check to see if the poor bastard’s bleeding like a faucet from his open wounds? (I was, lost half a pint on my first day before the nurse could waddle in with a compress. 20 Fricken minutes after I screamed for help, even though my room right against the hallway nurse’s station. I just ended up using my pillowcase) What a freaking concept, might even have saved them the time it took to do the blood tests.

What really gets me is that, on my second to last day in the hospital, they told me my blood levels were low. Of course they f---ing were! They were taking it all! Some blank eyed cow-like wage slave with a 12 gauge needle speared me in the arm every couple hours for a week and my bone marrow was shot from the chemo. What the hell did they expect! So I ended up staying an extra night while they gave me blood.

I don’t know which I liked more, the hallucinations from sleep deprivation, or the guy next door hacking up his lungs. Normally I’ve got a bit more compassion for the ill, though if you’ve been following these rants, you’ll know not by much. But this guy was unbelievable; it was the most fake cough I ever heard, a wall-piercing shout. After about the second day of this non-stop phlegm fest, I started paying attention to the pattern. This moldering old bastard only every made a peep when someone walked by his door! Damned faker was looking for attention.
When I was finally discharged I took the time to poke my head in his room and tell him to get better, die, or shut the f--- up, but quit making everyone else miserable. The look on his face made me feel better than anything I’ve known in years!

You may be wondering about the sleep deprivation thing. First off, I’ve never been able to sleep on my back… ever. With an IV in my arm constantly, I couldn’t really roll on my side. Also, remember I’m getting people coming in to take blood every 4 hours. On top of that, I’ve got a pressure cuff on my other arm taking my blood pressure every 15 minutes, and an LPN coming in every 15 minutes to chart it down. What’s more, and possibly most annoying, is that the night nurses gossiped like hens. They wouldn’t shut up for their entire 12 hour shifts. Keep in mind that the nurse station where they hang out is right next to my door, to the degree that, whenever they rolled their chairs back to stand up, the chairs would hit the wall, creating a noise identical to a gunshot. Every…Damn…Time.

I’m still keyed up from having lived in Orlando, meaning I still reached for weapons every time I heard these noises. It was probably best my folks dis-armed me before having me admitted; else I might’ve taken a slice at a couple of the less pleasant people I was subjected to.

I think things came to a head when the night LPN, a pale little blond girl that looked younger than me, came into my room around 7 AM to ask me how I’d slept, as she was about to go off shift and had to hand the charts over to the day nurse.

Hollow eyed, tired, and infinitely frustrated, I smiled, showing teeth grinding against one another so hard they squeaked. “I would’ve slept better if I didn’t have to listen to your conversations all night.”

She smiled and laughed, waving her hand in airy dismissal, as if I were joking. “You couldn’t have heard us. The wall’s too thick.”

“Oh, no?” I said. “Well then, I suppose I’d sound crazy if I said that I hope that infection clears up for you.”

The look on her face was magic. Her jaw dropped, mouth forming a dumbfounded “O”. A moment later she colored a bright shade of red and covered her mouth with her hands as the horror of her embarrassment sank in. She turned and ran out of the room, and I never saw her again.

Had I not been so tired I would’ve laughed. It was her fault for talking so loudly about such private things in a public place. Did she honestly think no one would overhear?

Why didn’t I just sleep during the day, you ask? Because I received roughly 5 visits an hour from: candy stripers, nurses, LPNs, medical technicians, doctors, phlebotomists, bureaucrats, well-wishers, cleaning staff, cooking staff, people wanting to change my linens and ordering me out of bed, the senile, the mentally ill, patient’s so zonked on pain meds they had no idea where they were, and random passersby looking for other patient’s rooms who somehow thought I was some sort of freaking directory. I was a bald, half-naked, pale, bloodless, and supremely pissed of twenty-something with more drugs pumped into him than Keith Richards; how the hell should I know where their great aunt Flo was?

With that being said, this happened almost a month ago, and my arms are still nothing but black and purple blotches from all the blown veins. Apparently I’ve developed so much scar tissue that some of them can never be used again, I don’t know whether to be annoyed or relieved by that.
I’m still on blood thinners, which is incredibly frustrating as there are certain things I can’t do, drinking being the foremost among them. Normally I try not to drink frequently or heavily, because it can become too much of a habit very easily, but I felt that I was allowed a small reward given that I’d gotten through this medical hell. A glass of bourbon or two didn’t seem like such a terrible thing. Unfortunately I’m still waiting for that glass, and I’ll have to wait another few months.

On a side-note, while my eyes are by no means cured, my new ophthalmologist has given me a prescription for a new type of eye drop which seems to be helping the pain and dryness. Too bad they cost more than the national deficit. Oh, did I mention that they’ve also been linked with glaucoma? Yeah. But that’ll come in a couple decades. Surely by then I won’t have need of my eyes, right? Cure is worse than the damned cure, every time.

But hey, at least I’m cancer free for the moment. Well, not quite. Turns out that my CT Scan which my oncologist said was clean wasn’t clean. That really increases my confidence in her, I can tell you. The bargain basement physician at the free clinic who is my referring doctor noticed it. Apparently I’ve got a mass in my gall bladder, the technical term for which is a “Soft Tissue Opacity”. The report said that it did not match the profile of gallstones. So I’m scheduled for an ultrasound this upcoming Thursday to see if this is what I think it is.

I researched what can cause this “Soft Tissue Opacity”, and have found little in the way of conclusive information. Apparently most hystemic cancers are characterized by hard tissue opacities, the soft tissue opacity being a minor secondary characteristic for such cancers in their latest stages. But the CT Scan didn’t show any hard tissue opacities, which would’ve showed up much more clearly than anything else. So the question remains, what the hell is it? I’ll find out Thursday.

Your normal story posts will resume Monday.

1 comment:

Joilene said...

Nice comeback on the little blonde gal.

I've been wondering if you ever say anything mean to anyone's I know. I hope I never have cause to hear such a rebuttal from you. ;-)