Sunday, May 9, 2010

Intravenous Domestos - part 1

I had made it through the operation and the egg harvesting, so I could now tick those off my list. For someone who hates needles, I didn't make a fuss about my regular visits to the surgeon for him to drain my wound with an enormous needle! Luckily he knew which nerves he had cut in the initial surgery, so he went through numb spots. However, faced with six months of chemo, I was starting to feel nervous. Heading into an operating theatre for the third time in four weeks, I was used to the process. I did make a special request that they slow down the saline IV, so there was no repeat of the highly mortifying bed wetting incident. The operation involved the implanting of a portacath, which has a tube that is fed through a blood vessel which wraps around my heart. They are recommended for people who are having a lot of chemo, as they don't have to stress out your veins by plunging large needles into them each chemo treatment. The operation was incident free and I woke up with tubes coming out of my chest. I found myself being wheeled into a room with another patient. Now, I am a very generous person, but I am not a fan of sharing certain things and hospital rooms tops the list. The lady I was sharing with was a fan of crappy tv shows and required a lot of medical attention through the night. Unfortunately, for me, the curtain the separated our beds was not made of iron and when closed didn't create a cone of silence. As a result I heard all about her intimate medical issues and didn't sleep at all. The next day I was visted by my friend and we decided to take a walk to escape my room mate and her terrible taste in television. I was dressed in normal clothes, but had two hospital tags on my wrist, two hospital tags on my ankle and a dressing on my chest with tubes coming out of it. As we wandered down the street and into a cafe, I enjoyed being outside, but did detect a few curious looks from people. I remember walking into the golf shop (sign of how desperate we were to escape the hospital), and the salesman asked if he could help with anything. I said we were just looking and he looked at me strangely and asked if I was supposed to be out of bed. The answer was probably not, but I was living on the edge! I realised that perhaps I had been gone for too long, when the nurse looking after me called my mobile and told me I had to return to the hospital.

I remember having a sense of dread that day - just waiting to be taken down to the chemo clinic. I was not looking forward to how I was going to feel that night or the next day. My mother joined me for the wait until it was time to be taken down to the chemo clinic. I remember walking in and thinking that I didn't belong there. The receptionist walked with us to show us where to sit, as they said to me, 'Karen this is your chair', I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. This was getting serious, this wasn't my life, these things happen to other people. It was at that point that my mother started to cry and the kind nurse took her for a short walk, while another nurse settled me into my recliner chair. People had advised my mother that she had to be strong for me and not cry. Although, I am not a big crier myself, I believe in crying. I felt that this was not only happening to me, but it was also happening to my friends and family. It was a horrid situation and tears were appropriate! Crying doesn't mean that you are not strong, crying means that you care what is happening to someone you love.

The nurse came and introduced herself and explained the process. I had read a booked called 'understanding chemotherapy', so I felt across what was going to happen. The nurse offered for me to watch the dvd, but since I had read the book, I didn't think it was necessary to sit through the movie - as they are never as good as the book. My sister joined my mother and I for the first chemo session. Before they start with the drugs, you have to give blood to make sure you are healthy enough for you to stand the chemo. Then you are given your first anti-nausea drug an hour before chemo starts. You also have to answer about 894898943 questions about how you are feeling in almost every part of your body, as if there are any changes you have to alert them straight away. The most disturbing thing about chemo is that you do not know you are allergic to the drugs until they are in your system. As they are going through the portacath and directly to my heart, I would know if anything was wrong within about ten seconds. Just as the nurse was about to start injecting me, an alarm went off, she excused herself and all the nurses ran into a room. When the nurse returned I asked what had happened, and she said that someone who was having their first treatment had an allergic reaction. I have to say, this didn't install me with a great amount of confidence. However, I figured if anything bad happened, I was already at the hospital, so didn't have far to go for help. The first drug I had looked like raspberry cordial, and as it slowly made its was through the tube into my chest, I was holding hands with my mother and sister. One cool thing about this drug, apart from the fact that I wasn't allergic and didn't have to be revived after receiving it, was that it made your tears and urine bright red. I tried to cry and get a photo of red tears, but I didn't managed to squeeze out a tear - not even a fake one!

The next drug was clear, so didn't have any cool side effects. The whole process took about four hours. It is amazing how exhausting it is sitting in a recliner chair with your worried looking family next to you. By the time I was wheeled back to my room, I was feeling ok, but just exhausted. The tubes had been removed from my chest, which was a relief. The horrible metallic taste I had been told about had arrived, and the congealed hospital dinner left in my room wasn't looking to appetising. Luckily my excellent friend bought me some super tasty spicy Thai soup, which cut through the metallic taste. I was feeling surprising ok, just really tired. I had also managed to get a single room for that night, so the combination of exhaustion, drugs and quiet allowed me to have a much better sleep than the night before. I did wake up during the night as I was worried about how I would feel the next day. The next day came and I didn't feel as horrid as I had expected. I did feel nauseous on the drive home, but luckily one of the four anti-nausea drugs kicked in and I felt better. I even managed to head into town that afternoon with my mother. Looking back now, it was a silly thing to do, but you live and learn. A few days after chemo I was packed up in the car and taken down the coast for a week with my parents. The side effects of the chemo had kicked in, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. The list of side effects was long and unpleasant, but the exhaustion is what really hit me the most. I would wake up and have a shower, then have to have a rest from the exertion. I have a huge admiration for women who go through this with kids to look after. I barely had the energy to shower and dress myself. My oncologist had told me that it was important to keep moving. No matter how sick or tired I was feeling, I had to get up and keep going as it would make me feel better than lying around all day in my pajamas. It is now five months into chemo and not once have I spent the day in my pajamas. No matter how rubbish I am feeling - I always get up, get showered and get dressed and it makes me feel better. During that week at the coast, we had discussions about getting a dog. Mum thought that since I would be spending a lot of time at home, it would be good to have some furry canine company. So, the day we returned from the coast - Barney came into our lives and he instantly made me feel better.

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