See, here’s the thing: When you have cancer, feeling shitty becomes your new normal. Each day comes equipped with an assortment of ailments and symptoms – some carried on from the day before and some showing up with the latest sunrise. And I have to balance what to take seriously and what to take with a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, I have never been particularly adept when it comes to balancing anything.
On Thursday, I was admitted into the hospital for an infection. I first started showing signs of this infection on Monday … but I didn’t want to take an entire day off of work for one appointment, so I tried to tough it out and address it myself. By Wednesday, I had a temperature of 102.9 and an oozing open sore on a very red, very inflamed, very tight-feeling expander. Before I went to bed, I emailed Dr. Walsh a picture of my right breast and the accumulating list of symptoms, which included rising fevers, shooting pains, and tingling in my right shoulder/arm.
Dr. Walsh’s office opens at 9. By 10:05, I already had Angie, her assistant, emailing me at work to tell me that I needed to go in TODAY. Dr. Walsh was out of town, but she had seen my email and made arrangements to have her colleague, Dr. Sabeeh, see me at 3:30. I slipped out of work early and headed over.
By 4:28, Dr. Sabeeh had drained fluid from my expander, stitched up the open wound (4 stitches), and convinced a very reluctant patient to agree to be admitted into the hospital. While he called and made the necessary arrangements, I ran home to feed seven pets, eat my leftover Chinese food, and pack a bag that included my own hospital gown, Wizard-of-Oz-like red sequined slippers, and four books. Priorities, right?
I spent the first night at the hospital realizing how spoiled I have become in regards to hospital stays (okay, in regards to EVERYTHING, but right now we’re just focusing on hospital stays!). I was put in a SHARED room, on a floor where no one asked if I needed anything (you know, like a toothbrush…or a meal) and where my medical equipment could be beeping for 15-20 minutes, and they STILL wouldn’t come by to address it. (I just ended up pushing a bunch of buttons until I figured out how to (1) adjust the volume and (2) temporarily silence the warnings myself.) I got to listen to my hospital roommate have a conversation with a friend on speaker phone about how her boyfriend was getting his dick sucked by someone else; the friends decided that the best way to handle this betrayal was to kidnap the side piece and rough her up a little. I literally had to bite my tongue to refrain from telling them how ridiculous their reaction and plan were. In the morning, when I asked how to go about ordering a meal, I was told that I missed the time frame for doing that, so I would be getting a standard tray, which ended up being rubbery french toast, unflavored oatmeal, coffee, milk in a paper carton, and orange juice made from concentrate. I drank the juice, ate four bites of the food, and then decided I would just take my hanger out on the doctor trying to tell me I might not get some of the treatments that Dr. Sabeeh initially recommended.
Luckily, Dr. Sabeeh and Dr. Walsh work in Scottsdale, and they are probably quite used to high maintenance patients. As soon as Dr. Sabeeh learned that I was on the 12th floor, he made arrangements to have me moved to the floor that had a Womyn’s Specialty Unit. Own room, with a view. Nurses and techs who stopped what they were doing to welcome me when I was wheeled in. A toiletries/socks/underwear gift pack provided within minutes. (For some reason, I *love* hospital underwear.) Hotter nurses. MUCH BETTER.
So… I have been here for over two days now, and here is what I know:
* I have cellulitis, a serious bacterial skin infection that is being treated with two different types of IV antibiotics.
* One of those antibiotics, Vancomycin, causes me to have a reaction called Red Man’s Syndrome, so they have to pre-dose me with Benadryl and run the IV at a slower rate.
* My chest x-ray came back normal, so they have no idea why I have been coughing since January. I saw a pulmonologist yesterday, and he put me on some new medication to see if my problem stems from acid reflux.
* My ultrasound came back normal, which means I probably won’t need to have a surgery where Dr. Walsh removes/replaces my right expander. Dr. Sabeeh had mentioned this possibility on Thursday, and I have been stressing about it ever since. I have no FMLA time and only two days of accumulated sick leave.
* For as long as I am here, I have daily 2-hour sessions of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy. Basically, they put me in this clear, pressurized chamber, and my body goes through this experience similar to deep-sea diving. When I “go under,” my body gets three times the amount of oxygen that I would normally get at sea level. The purpose of oxygenating someone’s whole body is to treat (1) serious skin infections and (2) wounds that won’t heal because they got damaged by radiation therapy – both of which are true in my case.
* I’m also getting daily breathing treatments, which i’m sure do absolutely nothing.
* Despite two days’ worth of antibiotics and HBO therapy, I continue to spike fevers multiple times per day. As a result, I am scheduled to meet with someone from the Infectious Diseases Department to see if there might be something else going on with my body … you know, in case all the current stuff just isn’t enough.
* Oh yeah, and I am meeting with a nutritionist tomorrow because blood work confirms that my anemia, which I haven’t seen since high school, has returned. I already knew I was not getting enough protein; this hospital doesn’t have a lot of healthy, vegetarian, protein options.
I’ll keep everyone posted as I learn more. I am HOPING to be out of here by Monday, but I haven’t made enough progress to know for sure whether this is a realistic goal.