Archive | February, 2011

I am a cancer bitch . . . used the “F” word in the ER

17 Feb

A few days ago I had a trip to the ER. It was just a little reminder of what things were like last year. All is well. But, having now had a taste of what it is like to enjoy some post cancer treatment life, I clearly have less patience with medical stuff these days. This was sorely evidenced by the fact that I completely lost my cool with the nurse who guaranteed me that she could get an IV in my arm in one try . . . I lost it on her third attempt.

Why is it so hard for some in the medical profession to actually believe you when you tell them something?  I am what they call a hard stick. My veins apparently do not cooperate. They run and hide. My veins are pretty taxed from chemo. I know it is me. And who knows, maybe this is what my veins were like before cancer. It isn’t like I was ever sick a day in my life to test out my veins prior to cancer.

I didn't feel so fierce in the ER . . . I clearly am out of practice in my cancer warrior-ing skills.

But, here is what I don’t get: why is it that some doctors, nurses, and other medical care providers presume that they know the patient’s body better than the patient?

I know that I am a hard stick. I know that certain veins in my arm will likely produce nothing. I know that applying heat will sometimes help. I know that nurses, phlebotomists, anesthesiologists, etc.  all seem to have the best luck with me when they use my hand or just above my hand to either get blood or to place an IV.

When the nurse came into place an IV I simply asked her to use heat. I explained to her that the veins in that area of my arm often blow out (their terms, not mine) when an IV is placed. I further explained that the last time an IV was place it was by an anesthesiologist and that it took him three attempts and then he brought in a “specialist” (even though he truly is a specialist).

It was as if telling her this was some kind of challenge. She told me that she saw a good vein. I told her that I really wanted it to happen in one attempt, that I have been through a lot and that it is tough on me to take multiple needle stabbings for the sake of an IV. I don’t know how much of the extreme discomfort this causes me is actually from the pain or the memories that this pain brings to the surface (the year plus of treatment, the near death experience during one chemo round when I went into anaphylactic shock . . . that time a needle truly saved my life). I don’t know why it is so. so difficult for me to “take” getting an IV placed. But, it just is.

So, I simply asked her to please not try it without the heat. She assured me that she was confident she could do it.

I let her try three times (for which I feel incredibly stupid) During her third attempt, I asked her to stop. She continued to try to force a needle into a vein in my arm. At one point she was actually forcing my arm still with the weight of her arm and upper body while she used her hands to try to continue to force the needle in my hand. Finally, I told her that I had “fucking had enough”. She stopped, took the needle out and left the room.

First time I’ve ever used the F word in the ER or any treatment context. I guess I am a cancer bitch now.

P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I DO have medical providers who listen and who provide me with excellent care . . . but, they know me, I have chosen them to be my care providers. All it takes is one trip to the ER to be reminded of how helpless all of this can make you feel. Ultimately, the ER doctor that night was excellent and I have already been seen by my cardiologist (who is also excellent) to rule out anything serious. Chemo and perhaps Herceptin can leave you susceptible to certain heart issues. So, because of some weird symptoms, I am getting checked out, will wear a heart monitor for a couple of weeks and will likely hear that everything is fine . . . that is what my cardiologist thinks. I just didn’t need to be reminded of how helpless being in an ER can make you feel. Or, maybe I did. Maybe I needed the reminder so that if there is a next time, I can put my cancer warrior suit back on and kick some ass . . . without having to use the F word.

Cancer doesn’t care . . .

7 Feb

Every day presents some new challenge or struggle . . . that is life isn’t it?  This post cancer landscape is truly unpredictable. It is that unpredictability that I find the most difficult. I am a planner, a list maker,  and, I suppose, a bit of a control freak.  But, cancer isn’t something you can just cross off your list.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I went to cheer Dan on at the Surf City Marathon yesterday. And, I went to scope it out in the hopes of running it next year. I met a few cheese heads along the way.

But, as I have taken on more work, resumed family gatherings (I hosted Christmas dinner for the first time in two years) and more and more of the daily tasks that once were too much, I definitely see real progress. I have to measure it that way – in what I am able to do now compared to just three months ago or one year ago.  When I look at it that way, it is a real accomplishment. But, if I compare now to what I used to be able to do, pre-cancer, well, then it is kind of depressing.

A year ago I was recovering from radiation, still in treatment, struggling to keep my white count up and just fighting to get through each day.  So, as tempting as it is to dwell a bit on what I wish I could do, I have to focus on what I am able to do now . . . especially in light of what I have been through. Thankfully, so far, I have been able to survive cancer. And, I have been able to resume many things that I was not sure I would ever be able to do again. I am very grateful for that.

And as life always seems to do . . . every once in a while you get that jolt that shakes you up and makes you see things more clearly; with a better perspective.

I recently learned of a former high school classmate’s struggle with cancer. She was diagnosed with colon cancer just 10 months ago and after a hard battle she passed away last week. She left behind family and friends, including an eleven year old daughter and a nine year old son. So very, very sad.

I got out my year book this morning and looked up her picture. Her obituary photo looks so much like she did when she was a teenager. I never knew her well. But, I know a little bit of what she has been through.  I know of the battle and not knowing how it will end and the fear of dying, the fear of leaving those who need you behind and the fear of what life will be like if you are lucky enough to survive. I am so sad for her and for her family . . . so sad that her last days were so hard and so sad that she did not survive the cancer.

I am grateful that my parents have not had to suffer the loss of a child. That was, and is, one of my primary goals to make sure that they do not have to experience that kind of grief. It has been quite enough for them to see me through chemo and radiation and surgeries. And it is still taxing for them to see me in this post cancer state; struggling to do what once came easily. I know it is hard for them.

I am told that my chances of having a recurrence are 50%. There are things that I can do to reduce my risk of recurrence (diet, exercise, tamoxifen, life style changes, vigilante follow up, etc.). I am doing everything I can . . . it is a more quiet battle that I fight now. But, it is a war I try to wage daily in the choices I make in food and rest and work and how I spend my time. Still, the cards will fall however they do regardless.  I just need to know that whatever happens I did my best to prevent my parents from the worst kind of suffering.

I am, and will be, forever grateful for this time right now and for the past several months post treatment. That I even got to the point of post treatment is such an incredible gift. My former classmate did not. So many do not and there is no rhyme or reason to any of it.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are, what your dreams are or who loves you or needs you.

I am so grateful to everyone who has been here for me. I know I would not be here if it were not for all of you.

Much love and peace,


P.S. Here are a few more pictures from yesterday . . .