Port Authority

August 16, 2006

The joke is courtesy of Steve, O Best Beloveds. So we had a long day yesterday, starting at dawn to head to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, which I highly recommend; it doesn’t look like much outside, but inside was a well kept facility, with a nice playroom for kids, nifty devices like pagers to alert patients and loved ones that they are needed, and perhaps the nicest, most caring bunch of pre and post op people I’ve ever dealt with. They even humored me when I brought a large stuffed elephant (yes, Paula, the one liberated from your garage) along–he attended my lumpectomy and proved a nice resting place for my arm and so has become a fixture of my surgeries. Don’t laugh; sometimes a girl needs her elephant. Plus, Steve doesn’t get to be there for much of this, so I need something to grab on to. Anyway, to ensure the elephant’s presence when I woke up, they gave it its own hospital ID band and it went all the way through surgery and beyond.

Meanwhile, delicious irony appeared because, remember that IV needle I was carrying around, so that I would not have to be stuck again? Well, it bugged me enough during the night, stinging just hard enough, that I really wanted to take it out myself (easy enough to do, I’ve seen it done enough) but I decided I was a big weeny, the line was good, the nurse had told me, and if I took it out, it would mean starting a new one in the AM. The hospital nurses started my IV, to get me hydrated, and the stinging returned, and stung some more, and then it hurt, and I said “HEY!” and they looked and the area around the needle site was all swollen, to half a golf ball size. Intubating, I think they call it, when the fluid isn’t going into the vein. Needle removed and we got to go on vein hunt again! Goody! It only took three more jabs and a call to the top Vein Finder in the place. Look, I was HERE to get a port, I didn’t need any more convincing!

As this was going on, to keep me distracted from the fiasco clustered around my arm, the intake nurse kept asking detailed questions. At one point, I thought I would distract her–everyone was upset over the vein problem–so I told her the snakes on a plane line. “Snakes on a Plane,” she said. “That’s a movie, I hear?” Yes. ‘What’s it about?” After ascertaining that she wasn’t making a joke, I spent several long long moments trying to come up with an answer that wouldn’t be condescending. I settled on “Well, I can guess at some of it, but I bet the reviews will explain it better.”

Along about here the anesthesiologist shows up. Now, Dr. C. my port doctor is a very very pretty woman, but this new doctor looked like my port doctor crossed with Angelina Jolie. I mean, I couldn’t help blurting out “I see I’ve been assigned only the gorgeous doctors today. How thoughtful!” But I loved her less for her distracting beauty than for her understanding about my failure to remove my contacts and letting me keep them in, and for dosing me so I wouldn’t (for once) throw up in the operating room. She gave me a little relaxant to start “Because everyone is nervous just going down into the operating room,” and then told of plans to give me a twilight sleep while I was in there, that I wouldn’t remember anything but I would be awake during the procedure “and so, though I’m speaking to your subconscious here, please stay still during the surgery.” I told her I was a lightweight who wouldn’t need much to conk out entirely, and I guess that’s true; I remember moving from my gurney to the operating table, and nothing after that. I wonder if they even needed to give me the twilight or if I was gone already. Or if she was kidding about that “pre” shot and that WAS the shot.

Anyway, all I know is that I woke up, complete with elephant, an hour later, feeling great. No quease, big bandage on chest, Dr. C. there to say I had “tried to help” during surgery (I guess I lifted my arm to gesture to the site where they were working…they must have put it gently back in place) and that was that. I was getting blood through the hard won IV in my hand, which was stinging AGAIN, and I asked the nurse to switch it to my NEW PORT, since I had one, and all. This worked great, but that needle in hand kept stinging and I begged them to take it out, I am officially OVER IV’s. They wouldn’t for the longest time, and it kept bugging me and I seriously thought about yanking it out with my teeth. God, it was a relief to have it gone, and never think about that crap again.

The blood transfusion took just short of forever, and eventually, Steve was allowed in while I had a little snack and then it was off to chemo, because this was just a mad gay whirl of a day. Chemo Nurse Lisa used MY NEW PORT and it works like a treat, and yes, I wonder why I didn’t get the damn thing ages ago. Once the swelling goes down, it should barely show. I was told by everyone that I had more color in my cheeks, but I can’t say I see a difference with the transfusion yet, but that’s probably because of all the drugs I’m on.

Today is going well, thanks to watered down chemo. My left chest feels like someone punched it, but it’s not bad and is healing lickety split. More fluids through MY NEW PORT and lord, am I gong to witness about this thing, I can see that coming. We met with Dr. W for the first time since the 51 news and he’s pretty happy. But he’s conflicted; his motto is “two rounds past normal,” so that would be the next two I have scheduled. However, he thinks we’ve reached the end of how much of this chemo I can take–he’s less worried about the red blood cells (bursting with height thanks to transfusion mania) than the platelets, which are also really really low and only going to get lower with more treatment. To my disappointment, that just means that he’s going to give me watered down chemo the rest of the time, rather than let me entirely off the chemo hook. But as always, he’s going for the home run, and he wants to beat those suckers into oblivion, and that means more chemo. It’s hard to argue with.

So here’s the plan: I get the next three plus weeks off. On Sept 11 I get scans, and bloodwork. There is every likelihood those will show total remission at that time. Eagle-eyed Maladies readers will recall that Cancer Two: The Return’s remission was confirmed through scans on Sept. 11, 2001. No, really. It was the strangest day, going to the hospital and saying “does this matter any more? The world is coming to an end, does my stuff matter?” and Steve watching the TV in the waiting room looking at the fate of the world while I sat in a humming machine learning our personal fate. So there is a nice symmetry here, and let’s hope the world is calm this time, and my personal fate equally as positive as before.

If all that indicates normal, no evidence of active disease, then I get three weeks of watered down chemo (I do prefer it), or maybe including one week of full strength which is okay, two weeks off, three more weeks of watered down, and I am DONE. Pencil in Nov. 2 as liberation day, only 11 months since this whole crap began. Along the way, he’s going to start me on the aromatase inhibitor, to start getting it up to full speed by the time I’m totally off chemo. I start the tumor vaccine–it’s a trial Dr. W. is doing and he is the only one who has it–in Dec, thirty days after the end of chemo.

End of chemo. That has a nice ring to it, huh? Maybe this time it will be true.