Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Day After

In all fairness, they did try to warn me. The nurses, I mean. Oh, sure, these women were offering up all their advice and knowledge to me about chemo, but how much did they really know? They've worked in the chemo ward for 15 - 20 years. Yeah, so? Have they ever had the poison pumped into THEIR bodies? Heck, no.

Why the bitterness, you might ask? I'll tell you why! Because I was told this isn't like the olden age of chemo! You don't receive your treatment then spend the next few months sick as a dog. There are far too many types of anti-nausea medications out there. If the four we give you this week don't help, by golly, we have a bazillion others to choose from. We'll tweak until we get it right. That's all well and good, ladies, my dear nurse friends who have never gone through this, but - What. About. Me. Right. Now?

It's Saturday! I'm suffering! All day long. Ok, I can't get comfortable. My whole body feels like it's been chewed up by a wood chipper, spit out, glued back together, run over by a steam roller, then bounced on like a trampoline - which is all perfectly normal. They're sorry I'm aching and tired, but we'll control your urge to hurl. Well, guess what? YOU DIDN'T. It was 4 or 5am that I woke up sicker than I've felt in possibly my whole life.

It was before Christmas I was told it was nothing to worry about. Now three months later I'm sitting on the potty with a trash can between my legs - thinking about all the doctors and nurses who down played this all the way. Would I have really wanted to know in December - almost exactly three months ago - I would be sitting sitting like this? Would I have wanted to know that I would end up typing on a public blog about a most humiliating position?

It takes a very close friend to discuss your diarrhea with, but I sit here tonight telling the world that I not only had diarrhea happening to me, but I was projectile shooting out the other end at the same time. All this with four different types of anti-nausea medicines engulfing my body. My brain is unable to wrap itself around how bad off I'd be if I had not been on any medication at all.

Knowing I had cancer in December? Not knowing how I would have felt to find out that early? Which meds might have worked? Right this minute? I don't know the answers - and it doesn't matter anyway. The best advice I've been given so far is 2 things: first is to start a countdown to my last chemo treatment (it's somewhere down on the bottom of the page here) and the second is along the same line - don't look at it as day by day, but as 5 minute by 5 minute.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Yeah, Chemotherapy stinks. I've posted pictures of me starting out all happy in the chemo room and ending my day stuck in my bathroom.

This has been one of the longest days of my life. So many things happened and I will tell you about them - but not tonight. I'm going to spend the rest of the night with my head in the toilet.

Before I go, I will say, once again, that all the emails I got today were mind blowing. No, I've not responded back, but I've read them all. If y'all were trying to make me feel like I'm the most blessed and loved person on the planet - job well done. I've tried to respond back to all my facebook comments. Email responses will happen, but not as quickly as I would like.

Tomorrow my beautiful sister-in-law and my equally beautiful and very wonderful nieces will be here from Texas. I will be rejoicing in my time with them, but fear not, I've not forgotten the rest of y'all. I do not take for granted one single email, card, phone call or prayer. God has given me the best family and friends. I keep y'all in my thoughts and in my prayers always. I love you!

Sending love from my chemo nightmare,

Note: the photos got mixed up, obviously, and I'm too sick and tired to figure out how to fix the problem. It's possible I do not know what I'm doing here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tests and More Tests Part 2

After my chat with Dr Young, I got to get a tour of the chemotherapy room. The picture I've put here is what a really nice chemo room looks like. The one I toured wasn't quite so nice, but the idea is the same. A group of recliners all lined up in a row with little curtains to separate you from your cancer neighbor. Everyone gets their own pole to hang their chemo drip on and also everyone gets ... uh ... well, that's about it. A chair, a pole and a curtain. What more could you need?

After my tour a nurse went through all my medications and wrote down when I needed to take what pill and how much. 5 scripts later and a post-it note of very confusing instructions, I'm pushed out the door and down the hall to the heart center. Almost home free.

Almost no waiting in there either. I'm called back by the super model of EKG givers. "Hey, Sheri, I'm Jeremy" (Funny I can't remember the names of anyone else that day, but I remember his. Not sure what that's all about.) "I'm going to give you your EKG today." We go into our little patient room and I hop up on the table. Jeremy asks that I get down because he's forgotten to put the paper protector down first. Then he hands me my little hospital gown and tells me I only need to undress from the waist up. He leaves the room.

I change and Super Model Jeremy comes back in and tells me to hop up on the table. Is this a test? I look at him. "Oh, I forgot to put paper on the table. I'll be right back. Ok?" I think I mumbled something about him being dreamy and he papers my table...just for me...only dropping the paper once.

On the table and Jeremy is trying to keep my little gown closed where my breasts used to be while he puts my little EKG probes all over me. I finally tell him I have no modesty problems since there is nothing there. Ok, to let the gown be open. It was at this time that Jeremy felt obligated to comment on my chest. "Yeah, uh, looks like your scars have really healed up nicely." Oh, Jeremy, you charmer.

Test took all of about 5 minutes and I'm dressed and out the door. Jeremy says they are done with me and wished me good luck and stuff. Yayyyy! Testing is DONE! I was hungry and ready to get home. My cousin Rachel was at the house to greet the children when they got off the bus, so the kiddos were fine, but I was ready to get home. (Thank you, Rachel!)

At some point after getting home, my cell phone rang but I didn't hear it. I pick up my message and it's the heart center - they had left me an urgent message saying they need me to call them back NOW! Oh crap. Now what? I call and am sent around the center twice before I finally get back on the phone with my ol pal Jeremy. He remembered me. I can't say I'm surprised - we really bonded with that scar conversation. I explained to him that I had been left a message by some woman and there was a problem. Did he know what was going on? No, no he did not, but he'd check. Time. Stood. Still.

Jeremy returns to the phone with my chart in hand and says that everything looks dandy to him. He has no idea why they called. I patiently ask him to please find out what is going on. OHHH! Now he sees it. He forgot to give me my heart echo test. Oopsy. He said they were closing, but maybe I could get in to the other St Luke's heart center. Give em a call, k? Cause you can't get chemo til you get that test. Ok, and good luck and stuff.

The other heart center was able to squeeze (hee!) me in the next day at 5:00 that evening.
Thank, God.
My chemotherapy begins tomorrow promptly at 9:30am. You do not want to be in this house with me tonight. The word "stress" doesn't begin to describe what I'm feeling tonight. No one is safe. Every so often a slice of cheesecake is passed my way and I hear someone running quickly away. I've taken two of my "happy" pills and am thinking that wasn't enough. Maybe I'll sew the head back on Tigger, rename him Jeremy and release some stress that way.
Peace out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tests and More Tests

Yesterday I had my oncologist appointment plus a series of tests, that as far as tests go - seemed pretty punk. Here's the whole day in a nutshell:

1pm: chest x-ray

1:30: internal organ ultrasound (probably not the correct name for this)

2pm: appointment with Dr Young

2:30: grand tour of chemotherapy room

3:00: EKG

3:30: chest echo thingy (probably not the correct name for this)

Everything happened right on time! Seriously. I wasn't only NOT late for each appointment, but I was early. What a great hospital.

Or so I thought. (You'll find out what I mean with tomorrow's story.)

And, of course, those days of hearing "Everything on your tests look great, Sheri." are soo over! I miss those days.

No problems with the x-ray. Whew!

Then that stupid sonogram organ test thing happened. It's just like a normal sonogram, except they inspect each and every organ to see if there are any pesky tumors growing on them. For whatever reason, they do not allow you to eat or drink anything 8 hours prior to this test. My test was scheduled for 1:30pm. Do the math. I tried to sleep as late as I could so I wouldn't have to think about coffee or breakfast. Then I had to not knock the coffee out of Tom's hand while we drove to the hospital that morning. (At some point Tom did have the sense to ask me if his drinking coffee right there in front of me was bothering me...perceptive guy, he is.)

Anyway, the sonogram test was going along smoothly until he got to a specific spot and said "hmmm." Noooooooo! No, "hmmm"! I'm sick of the "hmmms!" I asked slick haired sonogram dude what was up and he told me to hang on. He said he wanted to try something and it might be uncomfortable, but he needed to see if he could get it to move. (I had an instant flashback to my mammogram when they were trying to make my original tumor disappear.) Sonogram dude starts poking me in the belly with his little sonogram stick rapidly. He stops. Looks back up at the screen and announces that I have gallstones.

Are you freakin' kidding me?

If you could just kindly go out back, build a barn, take me behind it and just shoot me now... that would be great! He said it was probably something I didn't want to worry about right now. YA THINK? (The picture above is of gallstones that have been removed from people. Neat, huh?)

Time to get dressed and shuffled out the door to Dr Young's office. I like Dr Young. She was so nice. We talked again about my options and she was very cool when I made my decision. I'm still not sure what's up with her shoes though. 5 inch black patent leather pointy toe shoes? Really? Maybe I've been a stay-at-home mom too long, but I just didn't see the point (no pun intended) She went over all my questions about diet and what to expect. She said my hair is going to be gone in about 2 weeks. I'll be on 4 different types of anti-nausea medications. And I start steroids Thursday. I might get moody.

The biggest thing we talked about though was sickness. Not how the chemo meds were going to make me sick, but how important it is that I don't get sick. I can't be around anyone with the sniffles or a cough. At all. I can't be near anyone who even says what they have is just allergies, cause sometimes those people are wrong. My children must wash their hands often and stay away from me if they do become ill. I shouldn't eat off salad bars. Sooo, if you think you are sick and you want to come see me. Don't. Thanks.

Part 2 tomorrow...


As of Friday I will start chemotherapy. I will be in the drug trial. Along with that I am going to take the three powerful chemo meds all at once. (TAC for my breast cancer friends and anyone else who knows anything about chemo drugs.) I'm doing what is going to be brutal on my body, but what I believe is best for me. I don't want this. I still want to wake up from this nightmare! But since I can't, I know this is a nightmare I only want to live through once. A lot of people do not support the decision I've made and I am sorry. I wish we could have all been on the same page, but in the end it is me that has to freak out with every new pain that might suddenly appear. It's me that has to live my life knowing that if this does come back, which given the type of cancer I have is extremely possible, I did everything in my power to kill it the first time. I don't want to look back for one second and wonder if I made the right choice. I'll punish my body now for peace of mind later.

I do this because I love you all.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Hold the Ribs

It was a dark and stormy night as Tom looked over at me and said those magical words: "Crap, I'll go get the kids up - you get dressed, we're going to the emergency room."

This was Saturday, and no matter how much I didn't do, the pain in the side of my ribs was not improving -if anything, it was getting worse. But that is all it was was pain. Saturday was one of the few days that I was truly unable to do anything. I slept off and on as much as I could all day. Moving hurt and not moving hurt, there was no comfortable position. Finally late in the evening I had Tom take a look at it, but didn't tell him where the pain was...all I asked him was if he could see anything unusual. He noticed swelling right away. Drat.

We decided that since my doing nothing all day wasn't helping - the only smart thing to do would be more of doing nothing and see what happened. Turns out, it didn't help. The swelling got worse and now it was after midnight. I had to get on the phone with the hospital to find out what I should do. They told me to come in and get it checked. They didn't even care that it was nasty weather outside or that my children were already asleep.

I was already stressed about the pain. As I've pointed out in recent posts, the slightest thing will cause a cancer patient to freak out needlessly. Now I've got an insanely painful spot right below where I just had 2 cancerous tumors removed. Of course, I'm thinking cancer. I love my doctors though! They were kind enough to know that cancer people stress out and gave us handy little pills to help us relax. I took two of those neat pills just before I found out I had to go to the hospital.

With Allison, Jacob and I whining all the way, Tom drove us to the hospital. It's dark; it's raining; children are whining; and with every bump in the road I yell out in pain - Tom sure was sighing loudly. I really got the feeling he didn't want to be there. But we finally made it. And the parking lot was full. I think it was something like 1:30 in the morning. Tom mentioned how many cars there were and I tried to make a joke by saying all the cars belonged to the people who worked there. The joint was going to be empty. And you know what? It WAS!

Since it was the hospital where I just had my surgery, they had all my information and I was able to go right back into a little patient room. The nurse (whose name I wish I could remember, but can't) was wonderful. I loved her. I lifted my shirt to show her my poor little hurt ribs and she said: "Oh my God." You know that soft, quiet voice that people use when they don't realize they are actually talking out loud. That's how she said it. She said there was only one other patient besides me and the doctor was with her, but he would see me very soon.

I was feeling a tad loopy when she asked me if I wanted my family to come join me. It was a small room, people! So, I said no. Plus, I knew they had the waiting room to themselves. The nurse left for a few minutes, but returned with another nurse and informed me they needed a blood sample. My favorite nurse had a look of sheer horror on her face, while the other nurse look at the first nurse mockingly. "Problems, ladies?"

Nurse A: "You're having chemo, right, so you probably have a port?"
Me: "Tis correct, m'lady"
(Look of horror on her face grows while Nurse B starts to giggle)
Nurse A: "I can use your cath to draw blood"
Me: "Dandy by me"
Nurse B: "Nurse A is too scared to take blood through a port a cath"
Me: "Then take thee blood the old fashion way"
Nurse A: "The last time I tried to take blood through one of those, I thought I was in, but wasn't and ended up poking the poor woman several times. I felt so bad"
Me: "For the love of everything that is good in this world - use a vein in my arm to draw blood."
Nurse A: "Thank you"
Nurse B: (opens curtain to my little room and starts walking back and forth in front of my room as if she were a chicken WHILE making the "bawk bawk" sound)

This is how slow the hospital was on a Saturday night.

Anyway! Nice (and easy on the eyes) doctor strolls in to tell me he wants some chest x-rays. I leave instantly to have my x-rays. In and out of x-ray and back in my room. I asked Nurse A to get my family just before the doctor comes in, but until then I was going to text people. I wasn't sure why she looked at me like I was kidding, which I wasn't. I now know that when you text people at 2:30 in the morning - no one will respond back.

Tom and the kids come in about the same time as the doctor. He said my x-rays were clear, but if he had to guess, he would say it sounded like I had a virus in my ribs. He then wanted to know if the morphine was helping. Uh, no, not really at all. No one gave me morphine. Nurse A comes running in and shoots my butt full of morphine (please take this time to remember that before I got to the hospital I had taken two pills to relax myself.) I was feeling fine.

ER doctor called my surgeon who told him to send me home. So they sent me home. I could not walk a straight line. 3am or so, I'm not really sure, stoned as could be, so I needed a McDonald's ice coffee, hazelnut (yum!). Tom actually stopped and got me one.

It took all day Sunday to sleep off all those drugs. By the time the morphine was out of my system, I was popping percocet. My surgeon's office did call to check on me today to make sure I was starting to improve. She agreed that what I probably have is a virus in my ribs. I'll be fine to start chemo on Friday. Is this good news? I'm not sure.

A Little Too Loopy

Most know that I had to go to the hospital last night. I've tried several times today and again tonight to write about it, but I'm either in too much pain or on too much pain killer to write. I shall report tomorrow!