Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Round Two

It was quite disappointing this time around, and I feel it’s almost not worth writing about. I had such a heavy dread about going back in for the second bout. I knew what to expect this time, and I didn’t want to go through it again. But we must do things for our own good, no matter how hard it is to face.
I took a lighter load to the hospital this time knowing I wouldn’t be up to much, aside from sleeping.  I could almost fit everything in to my ‘Trader Joe’s’ grocery bag luggage, but a second bag was still needed for my cottage cheese and flax seed oil. Dan and I showed up at the clinic and got the OK to be admitted for a 5 day stay in the hospital, even though my blood pressure was running a bit low.
We went through the proper routing this time by actually showing up at the admittance desk, as opposed to traipsing into the room and setting up camp like country folk. It was a good thing too, because they didn’t even have a room ready. We had to wait. Hmm, where’s the most logical place to wait in a hospital? Where you can get food of course! Around the corner from the admittance desk,  ‘closed!’  - was the main food court! ‘What, now!’ we thought. We saw at the end of another hall there was a Starbucks  doing booming business, brand new and with a line that equaled infinity; we decided to bypass the line, seeing that we could still get into the dining area of the cafeteria. We sat down at a table, resigned to a long wait.

We were summoned an hour and a half later back to the admissions desk, where an escort was called to take us to my room. You could tell that the man, tall, lanky and 60, racing towards us was the escort, mainly by the ugly extra wide wheelchair he pushed in front of him.  Once I was saddled in like an invalid, he expertly wheeled me and my two bags to my room with Dan in tow.  I think Lanky’s top speed got up to 30 mph -  my hair flowing back behind me. He didn’t bang into one thing as we sped through the halls, and when it came to the elevators, it was if I was a puck floating on the cool breeze of an air hockey table; I didn’t feel one bump!

In the room things happened fast, Dan had put away my bags, and I was immediately told to get ready for my PICC Line. The horror! It never hurt - just the idea of the long thing wobbling around in one of my main arteries is hard to take. (Sorry to have brought it up.)

At 6:00 PM I got the first dose of the second round, and typically I got the rigors two hours later.  It felt like no amount of toasted blankets, hot packs or morphine would slow down the shaking.  Eventually I sank into an upped dosage of morphine, and into a deep sleep.  At 2 AM vital signs were taken and it was determined that my blood pressure was too low to be given the second dose.  I took my second dose at 10 AM the next morning, and turned on my heating pad in anticipation of the upcoming rigors. It went like this for the next two doses: Skip a dose, take a dose, skip a dose, take a dose.

The next three days were a blur of nurse’s faces, vital sign checks, and Dan’s comforting visits. The one thing I do remember vividly, is the time they decided to try to raise my blood pressure by putting me on a combination of blood pressure medication and dopamine. My reaction was immediate;the blood raced through my body, the flood gates were opened, all my veins pulsated and shook as my heart rate skyrocketed. The two nurses worked quickly to adjust the medications. They became buzzing apparitions as I became dizzy and overheated. I remember hands coming towards me placing ice packs on my forehead and neck. I don’t know the actual length of time it took to regulate my body into a normal state, but I was scared they wouldn’t be able to do it in time. After that episode it was clear I wouldn’t be taking any more IL-2 doses. It was a huge disappointment even in my glazed over state.

I was sent home a day early. It took time to ween me off the drugs, otherwise I would have been sent home even earlier.  The oncologist on duty gave the instructions on what drugs I was to take at home and when to take them. I was oblivious as usual on the day of release, and Dan was the one to take note of all the information. I just signed on the blanks that were put in front of my face.

We had a different escort going down to the lobby that ended in me being pressed up against a window “So you see the taxi.”  It felt incredibly uncomfortable, as I had been stuck in a slot along two other women who were also pressed to the glass. Dan spotted it - the taxi was already out there. Thank God!

I was pretty weak and out of it, but I remember being shocked at the Jamaican taxi drivers aggressive and reckless driving moves. Already in action he asked Dan where we were going, then continued talking openly and obliviously on his bluetooth. I thought his driving skill’s must have been developed in Kingston, or possibly New York City, because he narrowly avoided at least three near accidents - (that he also, almost caused.) I was a bit scared, so I blanked out the ride by thinking back to Lanky’s wheelchair drive to the 9th floor -  I felt a bit safer. Dan’s plan was to have the taxi driver wait with me in the car while he went in to have the 6 prescriptions filled at the pharmacy. Dan was in and out of the store within a matter of seconds - empty handed! Dilemma! - the pharmacy was closed for lunch and would be open again in thirty minutes. We let the taxi go and Dan sat me down on a bench outside the store's door with my bags at my feet. We waited, and it was nice to be outside. When it was time, Dan went back inside to get the drugs leaving me propped up next to the gumball machines. He didn't take long.

I'm surprised at how much more energy I have being home this time as opposed to last time. I sit up in bed and check my email and am able to write a few too. My side effects are pretty drastic this time. I have been turned into the cartoon figure ‘Droopy Dog’, my face has sagged and wrinkled. I also think  I look a bit like Benico Del Toro in his most haggard stage! My palms have been peeling, I have leper like rashes on my ankles and elbows, I've gained about 14 pounds in water and my right leg has swelled up like the Zeppelin. For the most part these side effects are diminishing and I’m practically back to my normal self, though my skin is so dry and peeling I’m reminded of Peanut’s 'Pig Pen’, with a little cloud of dead skin hovering around me! My new routine is to drink tons and tons of water, and slather myself in Manuka Honey moisturizer. On the 29th of this month I’ll have another PET scan, and then on May 2nd I’ll see my oncologist to determine if the drug is shrinking my tumors or not. I feel really good, and I believe the IL-2 is working. I see a difference in the way the tumor on my leg looks - there’s no way it can’t be working!

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