Friday, October 10, 2008

My Full-Time Job

I remember telling a friend of mine when he was diagnosed with cancer, "Congratulations on your retirement from coaching; congratulations on your retirement from the school board; congratulations on retirement from your job." He laughed. But I wasn't kidding.

Fighting cancer IS a full-time job
. And not just because of always having to be diligent, trying to help the body with nutrition and supplements and exercise while avoiding anything suspect or unhealthy, and researching and studying as much as you can to learn how to combat this vicious foe---simply the logistics of medically fighting cancer are a full-time job.

I bet most noncancer patients aren't even aware that "chemotherapy" means sitting in a chair for 4-6 hours getting infused with drugs at the cancer treatment center. I certainly wasn't. I'd never even heard of a portacath[eter] before I was told about it a week before I was scheduled to start chemotherapy.

Here's a day in the life of this full-time job I never applied for: yesterday, I left home at 9:30. Along the way driving into the city, I drank the first bottle of lovely barium sulfate suspension for upcoming tests. ["Lovely" is my idea of facetiousness. Is that supposed to be orange flavored? And that texture...ick.]

First stop was the voodoo doctor, with all my supplements in hand. He used an actuator on the misaligned places of my spine/neck, which I seriously needed; and tested to see which supplements my body needs and how much. I finished with enough time to jump on the TurboSonic and at least try to help my bones as much as possible. I kept it to the lower modes, though, as I don't dare jar my bones too much right now.

Second stop was the infusion center to get infused with the monoclonal antibody for the type of cancer I'm fighting. The oncology nurse got the IV plugged into my portacath and I got to read a little of my newspaper as I drank my second bottle of the barium sulfate suspension. Then I grabbed the IV pole/machine and rolled it out the door, telling the nurse I'd be back and leaving most of my stuff there; and headed for the hospital Outpatient Imaging Center (OIC), the infusion still dripping into the portacath that leads to the vena cava coming off my heart.

I checked in at the OIC, but I had forgotten my paperwork at the Infusion Center. More traveling with "Waltzing Matilda," the IV pole with the meds dripping in me. They were a little surprised to see me wandering about when I arrived back at the infusion center, but buzzed me back in so I could get my papers. More traveling...gotta love the stares, right? Especially when the wheels get stuck in the elevator door cracks and the whole IV pole thing pitches forward like a weapon at the trapped people already in the moving box. Sorry...

I got back to the OIC and they called me back soon after I took a seat in the waiting room. But they were confused--they took me to the lab to get an IV line in my arm for the CT scans. "No, I'm supposed to be getting injected by nuclear medicine for the bone scan. The CTs aren't for another hour and a half." Oops.

Back to the waiting room.
The nuclear medicine department was having a tough day, booked solid and people's veins not cooperating. I got back there half an hour after I was supposed to...I bet the infusion center was wondering where I'd disappeared to, especially since I'm always teasing them that it would be more practical if I could run errands while getting infused!

We've got one, count it, ONE, vein that we can still use. One. And it is covered in scar tissue and likes to roll. How fun for techs do you think that is? Luckily, the nuclear medicine tech is a total pro at this and is really good about getting the IV line into my vein. Thank you, Dan! Still, it took awhile. He got it in right the very first time, and we were able to get the radioactive stuff into my vein instead of my arm tissue. Hallelujah! He even left the IV line in so the CT techs could use it. I was happy about that, as the tech that did the lines for the CT lab last May could NOT deal with my veins. Glad I could skip that this time.

I headed back upstairs, as Waltzing Matilda had been shrieking ever since I was returned to the OIC waiting room (I would punch the button marked Silence to delay it for a few more minutes each time it shrieked at me--I felt like I was hitting a "snooze" alarm!). The infusion center was packed as usual, and my oncology nurse was juggling numerous patients. Another oncology nurse saw I just needed to be "unplugged" and took care of it. A bandage over the portacath and I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the OIC.

"I'm checking in for the CT scans now," I told the assistant behind the desk, who was quite confused. I explained last hour had been the injection for the bone scan, now I was here for a CT scan of the abdomen and a CT scan of the chest. "I've already turned in all the paperwork." I took a seat in the waiting room yet again, but it wasn't long before I was called back to the CT lab. Hooray, they were actually running ahead of schedule! Since I'd had to fast all day so far, maybe their running ahead and Nuclear Med running behind meant there would be time for me to get some food between the appointments! I was certainly hungry. Water and barium sulfate suspension are just not nourishment.

As a "frequent flyer" at OIC, I know the drill--no metal, even on my clothes, and no jewelry. I dress accordingly, comfortably and warm, as the rooms these machines are kept in have to be cooled considerably. So at least I can skip changing out of my clothes and putting on the horrible gowns and stuffing my things into a locker.

Okay, with all the driving and running around to appointments, lying in the machines at least affords me the opportunity to relax and get something resembling rest while I'm there. I take a deep breath and hold it upon command, several times, as the table slides through the machine. I do it automatically; my mind is always elsewhere as I use this time to do visualization. I picture my body healthy from head to toe. I picture cancer cells unable to hide from our probing tests so I can better target them and eliminate them.

I'm done with time enough to spare; I can run and get some lunch. They take out the IV line from my arm, and I finally have nothing hanging from a needle in my body. Thank you! That will save the stares.
I drive to a sandwich shop around the corner and indulge in my favorite hot sandwich while glancing through more of my paper. I still have at least an hour and fifteen minutes before my scheduled appointment for the bone scan, and I know they were running behind. That saves me a little time to stop in at my friend's office and hang out during her lunch break, so I drive a couple of miles across the city and do just that.

A little less than an hour later, she gets back to work and I head out to get gas on the way back to the OIC. The gas lines were so long, there's no way I could get through in time. I pass by the line and drive to the OIC. "I'm back, for the bone scan this time," I tell the woman behind the desk. This time, she nods; she's got it all straight now. Paperwork's done already, just have a seat.

Nuclear medicine had caught up fairly well, and I only had to wait fifteen minutes past my appointment to get called back. Again I tried to "rest" while the machines whirled around. But by now, the barium was dumping from my stomach into my intestines like bricks, and everything was gurgling, churning, and cramping. I just wanted to curl into a ball, but I had to remain motionless for an hour.

After the whole body scan, we did detailed studies of three areas...the spine, the ribs, and the skull.
Finally I was all done and could climb off the table and head home. Hallelujah! I was exhausted. I arrived home at 5:30, 8 hours after I had left to start my day of medical appointments. I was tired, sore, and had a killer headache from all the junk we'd had to put in my body in order to "see" inside it.

And today I was right back at it again, taking supplements and drinking green tea and heading off to the city to the voodoo doctor to strengthen with TurboSonic and do an EB Cellular Cleanse to get all that junk out of me as fast as possible.

Like I said, fighting cancer is a full-time job.

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