Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Gonna Crawl

Over Broken Glass

It has been quite the fight since I last posted on the 14th. First off, I've been unable to get/keep/digest any nourishment to speak of in me since March 10th. Second, I can't stop vomiting; and third, I can't stop losing a bucket's worth of water with each and every bout of horrible diarrhea. Sorry for that graphic, but this is the nitty gritty part of what it means to fight and survive cancer.

The whole alimentary canal is insulted from the relentless radiation to the point of where I can't even swallow water! I normally drink 2 L of water each day IN ADDITION to other fluids. Now, I reserve swallowing for sips of Zipfizz or Odwalla's Vanilla Almondo, trying desperately to get as much bang (nutrition) for the buck (pain) as I can. We also try to get bites of yellowfin tuna in me. I can only get a few bites in me; my fluid intake is scarily low (24 oz yesterday).

So to avoid hospitalization, I have/had to go EVERY SINGLE DAY for these past two weeks into the city to the Infusion Center to get IV bags of fluids/potassium. The hour ride there is hellish for me; my entire digestive tract behaves as if it's been destroyed by radiation poisoning. I can hardly swallow or breathe for the swelling in my throat and esophagus; it feels like I have suffered "clothesline trauma" (just ask anybody who has ever run full-speed into a clothesline what that's like). And I have terrible pains and cramping from literally STARVING because I'm unable to properly nourish myself---the cramping folds me over and my stomach feels like it is WASTING. On the other hand, it also screams pain at me for 20 min if I get even one bite into it.

AND then there's the very real, dangerous issue of the fact that my input is greatly lagging behind the outflow.
This is so NOT GOOD.

Last Saturday, I got my first visit from my home health nurse. He told me I was dehydrated AGAIN and would need to go in for fluids. I thought the nurse could do that and save me the trip to town. Nope, have to have a hospice nurse for that! But he did tell me one thing I didn't know -- I could go on hospice temporarily and then go off it. Something for me to consider!

Since pinching my skin isn't really working as a test for me, I asked him what other symptoms I might have.

"Headache, nausea, the weakness in your arms and legs..."
Well, I passed that point weeks ago, and those are symptoms I'm typically dealing with throughout each day and night. "Confusion, lightheadedness, fainting, more severe muscle pain and cramping..."

Ok, been there, done that, too. But that gave me a good measure to go by, and by 8:30 Saturday night, I could tell I was getting worse and worse and that we needed to go to the ER.
We had me ready and in the car by 8:50 and took a leisurely "dry run" to our newest hospital. Good thing, as it was raining AND we hit a few detours for road construction! We arrived by 9:30. I waited in the car while they retrieved a wheelchair and mask (low white blood cells, currently) for me, then I sat all covered up in the foyer of the waiting room so I wouldn't be in the general populace.

Unfortunately, hanging in the ER to be seen as the small-potatoes case meant seeing a lot of stress, heartbreak, and trauma in the people constantly entering and exiting the ER. I'm not sure what time they called me back, but it wasn't an excessive wait like the other ER. And we hadn't found any Urgent Care places open this late on a Saturday night.

Once I was called back, life got A LOT better. The nurses and doctor were great; the (private) ER room was state-of-the-art and beautiful; and they even cleaned it extra-special for me because of my low white blood count.

I informed them I am on the way to the cure, but that I require just a little bit of help from them along the way: hydration. They inform me yes, I do indeed need to be there for hydration, and draw blood. Boy, were they surprised and happy to see ALL I needed was hydration; I am holding my own on electrolytes and protein! The doctor told me she was impressed at how well we are taking care of me despite the obvious dehydration.

Getting the first bag of IV fluids helped ease the nausea and horrible abdominal cramping, and I felt HUNGRY! But that's been the frustration of this --- I'm SO HUNGRY that I'm starving and yet I physically have not been able to eat or digest food. Well, I was sure gonna give this opportunity (feeling better from hydration) my best try!

"Will you go get me a double-double with just meat and cheese, pickles, and grilled onion? And have them cut it in quarters?"

My caretaker thought I was crazy. "Can you even have food in here?"

I thought my caretaker was crazy. :Like we can't nourish me?"

We worked it out, and I got the burger about half an hour later, just as I was dozing off. AND I even managed to get 1/2 of it into me!!! Yay! The nurse and doctor came to check me out, decided another bag of IV fluids was necessitated, and got it started. I closed my eyes and managed to doze some more, grateful for the warm food in me.

The ER finished up with me at 3 a.m. and we headed home. Now that we knew about the detours, the leisurely drive home in the rainstorm took us only 30 minutes. Not bad! And I really liked the care at the new hospital, in addition to its gorgeous appearance and new new new things. No more having to see that ER doctor at the other hospital who almost killed me in May 2009, THANK GOD.

After we got home, I made it under my own power (with my cane) from the car into the house to sleep on the sofa (I am still too weak to make it to my bedroom and my caretakers still have to keep an eye on me at all times).

And I am still hanging in here. One more week, I kept telling myself that early Sunday morning after we came home from the ER. But, oh, what that week has been like for me! And honestly, I'm still not ready to talk about it; so I think I will stop here and tell you more about this past (last!) week when I'm a little more stronger.

Thanks for staying with me.

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