Back to the Hospital We Go aka Pre-Chemo Adventures

We have spent the past week reading and preparing for chemo. Part of that was mental preparation and part of it was working with physical realities, such as getting my tattoo before killing off my immune system and getting my port installed. A port is installed in your chest in order to allow techs to simply plug you in, instead of having the start a new i.v. with every visit. This preserves your veins when you are facing a long series of treatments, like I am. It also is easier for all involved.

At first I was not thrilled at the idea of having something implanted in me. It reminded me too much of my father’s pacemaker, something that had always creeped me out. Once the doctor’s assistant explained how it worked and how easy it would make things for me, I got on board with it. Yesterday I arrived at the hospital at 5:30am in order to have the procedure done. As always, my doctor was awesome and reassured me that it was a very minor surgery in comparison with my hysterectomy. It was going to be a 45 minute procedure and everything was going to over in a jiff.

Checking in at the hospital.

More paperwork.

Before his arrival, I had been prepped and left waiting a little bit too long. I’m still not sure why it took longer than it was supposed to, but it gave me just enough time to let a few negative thoughts creep in. I was lying in the bed, feeling the itch and burn from the anti-bacterial wipes you have to use on your entire body before you put on your gown and they do all of your vitals. I kept feeling the i.v. placed in the top of my hand. It is one of my least favorite sensations, even though I know it is there for my own good and is temporary. I started to think about everything that lies ahead and yes, it started to mess with me.

Getting another i.v.

The previous day I had been through acupuncture, hypnosis (aka guided meditation and positive reinforcement), and had a relaxing massage. I had been feeling relaxed and at peace with everything and all it took was an extra hour or so of waiting in that bed, burning and uncomfortable, to lead me down the path of feeling a little bit melancholy. Fortunately, it didn’t hang around long. Sam and I just used the time to talk about how everything was going to be okay and how fortunate we are to be going into this with what we have. The point is, yes, I can write all of the funny and inspirational things I want to, but negative thoughts and feelings will sneak in. I’m not impervious to feeling down or upset. The difference is in being able to redirect yourself. In my mind, it’s the only way to make it through obstacles in life without getting caught in a vicious cycle of pity parties and depressing thoughts.

Waiting.

Once they finally came to get me, I was sedated with a drug that they were able to wake me easily from. As with my last surgery, I only remember being rolled down the hallway into the surgical suite and then being told I was being given something to help me relax as they helped me scoot onto the operating table. Boom, I was out. Last time I could see the robotics and was on a molded table, this time it was a simple gurney-like table. I woke up, realizing that it was over, and was wheeled back to my prep room to wake up, instead of spending an hour or so in recovery like last time. It was an odd sensation.

Sam was there and I could really feel the pain. My neck felt as if someone was stabbing my in my jugular. I instantly wanted pain meds. It’s funny when you consider last time I’d had a major surgery and only wanted a minor amount of pain meds when things got painful. This was a different kind of pain. I also think it is because the other pain was a lot like typical cramping, which I’d had a lifetime of experience dealing with, while this was a more intense pain that I was not accustomed to feeling. I should also say that I don’t do neck pain or headaches well. I admit it.

Sam and I.

The nurse gave me oxycodone and I waited for it to kick in. I lay there hurting and Sam held my hand. At least I knew it was over and things would only get better after that. I was sent home after an hour or so and other than the tape holding everything in place and the pain, I managed to move decently well. I found out that they have to make an incision in your neck in order to feed the line through, and that was what was hurting so badly. I looked in the mirror and sighed. I could see what they’d done and my job was to figure out ways to stay as comfortable as possible.

Can’t wait to go home and not be looking at this anymore.

I spent the rest of the day lying in bed, watching Bob’s Burgers and dreaming about the pizza we were going to have as a reward for dinner. I had finally gotten over my nausea and food was tasting good again. I wanted to take advantage of it while I could. Everything I’ve heard/read about chemo tells tales of people losing their sense of taste or having a metallic aftertaste that won’t go away. Add to that the very real probability of some serious nausea and stomach upset and you’ll understand why I was excited to eat pizza while it would still be delicious and satisfying. And it was.

We had to complete an on-line chemo class and then it was time to get some rest before our 8:30am check in for chemo in the morning. At least the oxycodone, pizza, and knowledge that the surgery was over and I just had to go and sit while they pumped me full of drugs helped me to relax and fall asleep. Two sleep deprived nights in a row would have only led to more negative thoughts and crabbiness. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Sleep was my friend and once again, I found myself being thankful for the little things. I also found myself finding solace in the words of Maya Angelou, a woman I have long admired and who had passed away that same day.

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

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