When I was a teen, there were teen “diary” sites like Xanga where you could have a little emoticon that showed your feeling each time you wrote. Well, if I had that ability on WordPress, today I’d have that and it would say “overwhelmed”.
Yesterday, I had what they call a port placed in my chest to make it easier and safer for me to receive my chemo infusions. Basically a small pad goes under my skin and it hooks into one of my major veins, meaning the nurses can easily just stick a needle in this pad and administer the drugs straight to this vein, rather than having to prick my hand or arm every time and risking damage to the small veins there from the toxic chemo drugs.
The placement procedure was fine – I was prepped like I was for all other surgeries (get nekkid, take off all jewelry, get an IV placed, wait around for a while in the pre-surgery room, etc.) but for this one I was fully cognizant as they took me back to the room, and prepped me. They need to use an ultrasound to place the port, so I was lying on my back and they draped my body so that just a square of my chest was exposed, and there was a big X-ray machine hanging above me and a lot of techs scrambling around. I knew I wasn’t getting general anesthesia, but I was getting happy meds so I kept waiting for them to start pumping that wonderful stuff into me. Finally, before the surgeon came into the room, they did, and I felt the normal lightheaded, heart-slowing-down feeling that I enjoyed for all my other surgeries. I honestly don’t remember much after that – I think I napped. I felt nothing, and then there was a nurse peeking into my sterile “tent” telling me I was done. An hour later I got to go home, and the rest of the day I slept.
That night, the port hurt a bit – nothing unbearable but a sore in my lower neck like I had whiplash and a slight searing pain where I imagine they cut me open to put the port in (I can’t see because it’s all covered in gauze).
My skin was also a bit red, and I started freaking out that I had an infection. That’s what started today’s overwhelmed feeling. The next thing that exacerbated it was that I spoke on the phone to a young woman who had her chemo at GWU. I got her name from the local YSC affiliate, while I was doing research, because I wanted to just see what other people’s experiences were like. Well it was all going fine and good and we were talking about wigs, what to do during infusions, etc., but I started asking her more about her experience and found out that she had been diagnosed at 28 and they originally told her she was Stage 2 – larger tumor but no positive nodes. Great! Not so great. After her surgery she got a PET scan and it revealed she was really stage 4, with mets to her lungs.
Womp, womp, indeed. Just when you think you are out of the woods with a great prognosis, you hear a story like this and all the fears of terrible metastatic disease and dying come flooding back. I know it is rare for this situation to occur, and it’s possible there were more differences in our experiences than I talked to her about, but still. No positive nodes and Stage 4. That’s truly being dealt the short straw.
Then today I went to a clinic at the hospital at the urging of my surgeon. It consisted of short visits with a physical therapist, massage therapist, Reiki specialist, and a naturopathic physician. While these women were very kind and I appreciated their input (I especially liked the Reiki, though I went in thinking it wouldn’t do much), it also put so many things in my head that I have to remember before starting chemo… which is… oh, right, tomorrow.
Prevent lymphedema. Massage scar tissue daily. Use Vitamin E. Remember to breathe. Rub your arm this way to encourage fluid to flow through lymph nodes. Eat this vitamin. Don’t take that vitamin. Eat lots of green vegetables. Eat protein. Limit carbs. Make this smoothie if you don’t feel like eating. Freeze meals at the beginning of the week.
And of course on top of all that I get home and had my own laundry list from the oncologist of drugs I have to take and when and items I should buy to be prepared for side effects (Colace, soft toothbrush, biotene, etc.).
MY WORD. So you can see how I’d be overwhelmed. I’m a little scared that I can’t do this all. Sure, my parents will be here for most infusions, but they can’t live here for the next 3 months and there will be times when I’m on my own and the boyfriend is at work. How the heck do I remember all of this and not make some fatal mistake?