Week Two ended with the news that my hemoglobin count was low. A woman my size should have a count somewhere around 17 or 18. Mine was 8.9. While the phrase “blood transfusion” had been gracefully thrown onto the table, I was relieved to learn that my inability to peel myself out of bed or do anything while I was laying in the bed for that matter was not so much a product of laziness or even depression, but rather my dwindling red blood cell count. Who knows where they go when they go, but gone they had and left me glued horizontally to anything that would hold me. Needless to say, I was nervous at the prospect of having someone else’s blood parts dancing in my body. My doctor said that there was nothing I could do to help raise my count on my own, and the one drug that might be able to help happened to fuel cancer cells… so that option was out. The hurry up and wait game… my favorite.
On Monday, my friend Michelle went to chemo with me. As promised, I took a picture of the “hat” I get to pee into every time I pee while I’m there.It fits right in the front of the toilet under the seat. They use it to measure my urine output. If my output is too low after my first bag of saline, they won’t give me chemotherapy- they’ll give me more saline and ask me to drink more. If my output is too low after chemotherapy and after my normal second bag of saline, they won’t let me go home until my output is satisfactory. After I pee, I take my full “hat” out of the toilet and place it back on the cart in the bathroom with the other “hats”. It is glorious.
I had a huge breakdown at chemo this week. They couldn’t find a vein… again… and when they did find one, it wouldn’t sit still long enough for the nurse to get the needle in it. I hate this so much that I’m not even comfortable typing about it. So I’m going to be quick here. They tried once and failed. I started to pass out in the chair. They had me lean over, and I put my head in my hands down by my knees- the perfect position for crying hysterically as it turns out. Three weeks in and I was done. Done. My veins had started silently screaming “F You, needle!” every time one came near them. I certainly didn’t need this added stress. Through my sobs, I managed to communicate that I didn’t want to get stuck ever again (let alone 3 times a week for the next 4 weeks) and that I wanted the nurses to call whomever needed to be called to get me on the schedule to get a Hohn (pronounced “hone”). A Hohn is a catheter that goes into my chest and has two tubes that hang out. With a Hohn, the nurses just plug the IV into one of the tubes. They can also take blood this way. They got me an appointment for Wednesday. Hallelujah.
The procedure took about an hour, and I was given a mild sedative. They also numbed me up locally. I didn’t feel a thing. Here is the final product.
The black part is a scab and a stitch. It will be cleaned off when the nurses change the dressing on Monday. I can’t get this thing wet, so showering is quite the adventure. I use Press n Seal, per the nurses’ advice, and tape it down around the edges. In the first shower, it held up fairly well until the very end. The part by my armpit came untaped, so my right arm was deemed useless. There’s not a whole lot I can do about that since the terrain up there is less than flat and smooth. I’ll have to shower more quickly.
The Blood Transfusion
Again, not something I feel super comfortable talking about, so I’ll be quick. On Thursday, I had internal radiation and had my labs drawn. My hemoglobin count dropped to 8.4 in less than a week. My transfusion was scheduled for the next day. I went in, they gave me saline, and then two bags of red blood cells. I was there for about 5 hours. I made it very clear that I did not want to see the blood bag and that we needed to do our best to cover the line that went from the bag down into my body.
That, my friends, is an IV pole with a towel over the bag and over the tubes that are resting on top of the box. Below that, out of the shot, I have the tube hidden behind the chair I’m sitting in, and a blanket covers that part that runs up under my shirt into the Hohn. I’m freaky about blood, and I’m not ashamed of it. Moving on…
Mid-treatment Meeting With Dr. Mutch
Friday, after the blood transfusion, I met with Dr. Mutch. He did an exam and said the tumor is dying! He estimated the tumor to be 3cm in size- down from 4.6cm. He also said that much of what he could see appeared to be dead… it was purplish black in color. He commented that while I’m down 7lbs since January 3, I look really good. I met with a dietician on Tuesday, and we made a plan, so my weight should level out. Anyway, he said he thought I looked good… and he said the cancer was dying!!! Great Great Great!
I feel like a whole new person since the transfusion. It’s remarkable how much energy I’d forgotten a normal person has. My appetite has also picked up, and I’ve managed to eat several full, healthy person sized meals. I still don’t feel 100%, but I’ll gladly take the improvement. I went to dinner with Nicole last night, and I have Super Bowl plans today. I almost feel normal. It’s nice.