This week threw me for a couple of curves – both medically and interpersonally. I’m just going to totally avoid dealing with the interpersonal stuff for a little while longer and instead just report on the medical matters.
- Over the weekend, I noticed some discoloration (again) on my right breast. At first, it didn’t look that serious.
- Within a day, though, the redness was accompanied by a small, dark, circular splotch. That spot then turned into two spots, and by Sunday night, i observed a third splotch that had popped up on the other breast. The area around my port implant wasn’t looking so great, either.
- I know i *should have* made it a top priority to call Dr. Walsh on Monday morning. The problem is, their office opens at 9:30, and there is no way for me to leave a message outside of their office hours. Also, i needed to email the pictures to them, and it’s kind of a hassle to do this. Option 1 involves emailing pictures of my boobs to my work email address (which could end up causing some very misinformed drama with the IT department and HR). Option 2 involves walking across the facility, turning in my keys, getting scanned out, sitting in my car while i turn on the phone and email the pictures, remembering to ask the doctor’s assistant to send her replies to my work email address instead of my Gmail account, going back through the metal detector afterwards to get scanned back in, checking my keys back out, returning to my desk, waiting for an email reply to come from the doctor’s assistant, and then hunting down my supervisor so that i can call my doctor’s office to discuss Dr. Walsh’s recommendations. Let me tell you: i do not have the energy for all this. I’m still getting out of the shower in the morning and lying down in bed to rest because doing just that much is, on some days, already TOO much.
- On Monday, i missed my doctor’s office hours, but i did email the pictures on Tuesday as soon as i left work. Angie, Dr. Walsh’s assistant, called me back within minutes. Dr. Walsh had seen the pictures. Dr. Walsh wanted me to come in first thing the next morning. Apparently, my skin was tearing from the inside. No, this isn’t normal … it does happen, but not usually. Usually, the body repairs itself enough to prevent the tearing from occurring … but the body is kind of busy dealing with all the chemotherapy drugs and aftermath, so it’s not up to the task of getting distracted by other issues going on in the body. SO – appointment tomorrow. Dr. Walsh will drain some of the fluid and make a further assessment once she can get a closer look at the site. In the meantime, go home and cover the areas with Xeroform dressings and the binder (two things i had to use after my mastectomy). Also, don’t shower.
- Initially, i had planned to drive myself. I’m grateful that i didn’t. My roommate offered (and kind of insisted) to chauffeur me – first to get my blood drawn and then to see Dr. Walsh. On our drive over to Scottsdale, i popped a Valium and tried not to freak out. Once there, Dr. Walsh drained 60cc’s of fluid from each breast and then put stitches in two of the three torn areas. This was the first time in my life i have had to get stitches. I’ve had those stitches that automatically dissolve, but this was different: I was awake, and a doctor was using black thread to sew into my skin, and i’ll have to go back to get the stitches removed. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but the whole process scared me. It’s an indicator that my body is just not prepared to deal with little obstacles popping up. It’s a sign that my body can’t fight all these battles, the way i am expecting it to. When Dr. Walsh told me that i might not be able to have chemo tomorrow because my body needs a few days to heal from this tearing and stitching, i cried. I’m so focused on the concept of *no interruptions in treatment.* “No interruptions” = 47% chance of success. “Interruptions” mean something less than that. Dr. Walsh called Dr. Curley. Dr. Curley wanted to try to keep the chemo schedule unchanged, so Dr. Walsh acquiesced and scheduled me to see her again first thing Monday morning. On Monday, she said, there will be three possible treatment decisions: (1) remove the stitches, if all looks well; (2) drain more fluid and replace the stitches; or (3) go to outpatient and have the expanders surgically removed until after chemo (and probably radiation).
- Thursday rolls around. I don’t feel well. I take 40 minutes just to push myself to get out of bed, and i’m almost late. Once there, we review the standard information. Weight – back up to 133, thanks in large part to currently not giving a *fuck* about what i’ve been eating. Blood pressure – normal. Heart rate – normal. Neutrophils – … – not so great. In fact, they’re terrible: 0.8. Three weeks ago, i was at 3.3 – my highest level this whole time! But a lot has happened in three weeks … and by “a lot,” i mean that fucking facility made me go back to work in a germ-infested environment, and sub in all these different classes and buildings, and be around kids who are sick, and be around coworkers who are sick, and go through the motions of an 8-hour day without lying down to rest every couple of hours … and now, after just TWO WEEKS of that, i am at a 0.8 and not allowed to have chemo. Remember, the rule is that my neutrophils have to be at a 1.0 or higher. If they are any lower, then i risk having NO neutrophils to fight infections that i might incur right after chemo. Again with the tears. Dr. Curley did his best to console and encourage me; he clearly had a tougher time watching me cry than Dr. Walsh did. He told me they would draw my blood and check the results later in the afternoon; if they went up, i could have chemo on Friday and then go home wearing a patch that gives me my 2nd-day chemo treatment. I kept crying. All i could focus on was “interruption in treatment.” It was like one of those gaudy light-up beer signs, going off in my head: “INTERRUPTION IN TREATMENT!!! SUCCESS RATE REDUCED!”
- Nikita and i drove back home in mostly silence for the hour-long commute. I was still crying. I was angry with Dona and Adam, whom i largely blame for my WBC count. I was blaming myself, too, although i couldn’t pinpoint why. I spent Thursday morning sulking and eating donuts with a haphazardly apathetic attitude. Early that afternoon, Lisa called me to report that my neutrophils had gone up to 1.3. Chemo was back on. I calmed down enough to take a nap. My body felt drained and heavy, and i haven’t even started the 5th session yet.
- This morning, i sat down for chemo knowing that this is probably going to be my worst session. I’m not prepared for this upcoming battle. I’m still coughing (going on 9 weeks?). I am on my 12th day of antibiotics, from multiple infections. I’m extra tired and weak. I’m drinking coffee just to have the strength to pick my legs up and walk all throughout the workday (and I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee). My blood count is dangerously low. To be clear, I’m not complaining. I’m just acknowledging that there will be definite backlash from this 5th chemo session.
- Jen sped up the chemo drug infusion today. I’m pretty sure that they made an exception for me; their office normally closes at noon on Fridays, but even with a faster infusion tempo, i was there until after 1:00pm. After the infusion, Jen put this high-tech patch gadget on my right arm. A needle, or hook or something, latched into my skin, but there were so many lymph nodes removed in that area that i didn’t even feel it. Jen informed me that, in 27 hours, a beep and a green blinking light will warn me that the patch is about to start releasing the medication into my pores. After 33 hours, the patch will beep again, and a solid green light will inform me that the process is complete, and i can remove the patch. Pretty impressive, all this technology. I guess that’s something positive to focus on.