Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Unexpected Vacation...Sort Of

The last few days are a complete blur.

I really want to write a detailed account of everything that went on, but I'm not sure if my memory has retained it all. Here's my best crack at it!

Jimmi and I returned home from Sloan-Kettering's Urgent Care department at about 2:00 am on Wednesday, June 29th. All of my tests seemed to be normal, and there was no reason to keep me, even though I was still having severe lower back pain. 

After a few hours of terrible sleep, I got out of bed and started my day with a killer headache. The kids were coming back in a few hours and I needed to make sure I was feeling well enough to pretend I wasn't in pain. 

Dylan and Justin were dropped off at about 1:00 pm. I did my best to stand up straight, walk normally and smile. It wasn't easy. Luckily, my mom came in a few minutes later and took over my motherly duties, and I flopped onto the couch. My stomach started bothering me and I couldn't figure out why.

As my mom got the boys ready to go to their music lessons, I was quickly becoming more and more nauseous. Honestly, there's nothing I hate more than throwing up, and it was starting to get to that point. "Mommy!" I whimpered without fully opening my mouth. It's a habit I started when I was pregnant and sick all the time. Whenever I'd get that feeling of total nausea, I'd close my eyes and lie perfectly still. I'd try not to open my mouth too wide, for fear of vomit escaping. Usually it didn't work, but I'd try any trick I could to not throw up. My mom rushed over to the couch so she could hear me. "I'm so nauseous, Mommy. Please call Lisa at Dr. Leitao's office and see if I can take one of the anti-nausea medicines Dr. Gorsky prescribed for the chemo."

My mom looked at the clock. It was 4:55. The chances of Lisa still being in the office and available to answer questions were slim, but she handed me the phone so I could dial the number. "Hi, is Lisa still in?" I heard my mom say, then she walked into the laundry room and her voice became muffled. A few minutes later, she strolled back into the kitchen, still speaking on the phone. "Hi Lisa..." Oh, thank God, she's there! I thought to myself. I heard my mom tell her I was feeling sick, then I heard her start to list the anti-nausea medications I had, then she thanked Lisa and hung up.

"She said you can take this one," my mom said while handing me an oval-shaped, white pill. I immediately put it in my mouth, chugged some Gatorade, and closed my eyes again. "She said the UTI can cause nausea, and the antibiotic for the UTI can cause nausea and Vicodin can cause nausea." Awesome. It's a tummy trifecta! 

My mom told me to call her if I needed her, then got the kids into the car and left for music lessons. Not even five minutes later, my jaw loosened its grip and I was able to open my mouth again. I sat up and opened my eyes. It was gone! The nausea was gone! If that pill works as well when I'm on chemo, I'll be one happy girl! I called my mom to let her know I was ok. "Hooray!" I heard the boys screaming from the back seat. In fact, it worked so well, that on their way back from their post-music McDonald's trip, I asked them to bring me a chocolate milkshake and large fries. And I finished everything!

I woke up Thursday morning with the same lower back pain I'd had all week. I managed to make the kids breakfast, but ended up back on the couch shortly thereafter. The boys were worried, and I tried to play it off like I was just a little tired. Jimmi could see what I was really feeling and decided it was best to get the boys out of the house. "Hey guys, do you want to go to the driving range?" he asked with childlike excitement. "Yeah!" they both shouted and ran to get their shoes on. I looked at Jimmi with thankful eyes and he leaned over to give me a kiss. "I'll go tire them out. It'll be fun!" he said. And they were out the door. An hour later, Jimmi called. He had taken the boys to the driving range, then the bagel shop. Now they were on their way to the park to play basketball. Wow. Just when I think I can't love him any more than I already do, he proves me wrong.

I popped a Vicodin and stayed on the couch. What is wrong with me? Can't I have one day without any kind of pain?

Later that night, after the kids were in bed, I was sitting at my desk trying to write. My eyes were burning and my head was heavy. My lower back was still torturing me and my legs were achy. I noticed the thermometer sitting in front of me and picked it up. I pushed the button, held it on my forehead and waited for the beep. It spoke to me, "Your body temperature is 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit," said a female voice with a British accent. "What?!" I shouted. I took it again. Same result.


I called my mom. "I have a fever. They're gonna make me go back to the hospital. I don't wanna go!" I cried. "Just relax. Wait a few minutes and take it again. Call me back."

Over the next half hour, I took my temperature every five minutes. When it got to 101.6, I knew I couldn't wait any longer. I called the answering service at Sloan-Kettering and waited for a call back from the doctor. I let Jimmi know we'd probably need to go, and I called my mom back with the same information. 

The kids are here. What will I do with the kids?

Just then, the boys' first babysitter, Jacqueline, who's been living with us for a few months, came downstairs. I explained the situation, and she said very calmly, "I'm off tomorrow. I'll obviously be here tonight, but I can stay with them until their dad picks them up tomorrow. Just do what you need to do." I thanked her and breathed a little sigh of relief. The last thing I wanted to do was rip them out of their beds in the middle of the night and drive them to their dad's house.

The phone rang. "Hi, it's Dr. Kam, one of Dr. Leitao's fellows. I hear you have a fever?" I explained my symptoms to her and she paused for a minute before she said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but I think we need to see you back here tonight." I glanced at the clock. It was 11:30 PM. "Ok, I'll be there as soon as I can," I forced out. I hung up the phone and slumped down in my chair. "What did she say?" Jimmi asked. "We need to go to the hospital again," I whispered. 

I called my mom to let her know. "We'll meet you there," she said without thinking twice. "No, it's ok. We can handle it," I assured her. "If they tell you anything or if something happens, I want to be there. We'll see you in a little while." And that was it.

I went upstairs and packed a small bag. I had a feeling they were going to want to keep me for a night. I quietly tiptoed into Dylan's room to make sure he was tucked in and to give him a kiss."Mom?" He startled me. "Dylan, why are you awake?" "I couldn't sleep. What are you doing?" Crap. Should I tell him the truth? What if he wakes up in the morning and walks into my room and I'm not there? He'll be scared. But if I tell him what's going on, he'll be scared too. Think! "Remember how I wasn't feeling well before you went to bed?" He nodded. "Well, I have a little fever, and the doctor thinks it'll be best if I go to the hospital and get some medicine. Jacqueline will be here with you and Justin, though, so you don't need to worry." His hazel eyes welled up with tears and his lip started to quiver. "But I don't want you to go to the hospital! Are you ok?" I stayed calm. "Yes, baby, I'm ok. The doctor just needs to have me come in for a different medicine. This isn't the medicine that will make my hair fall out. It's just regular stuff." Dylan reached up and wrapped his arms around my neck. "I love you so much, Mom. I want you to be ok." Maybe I shouldn't have told him. I feel terrible! "I love you too, Bud. I'm gonna be fine. I really need to go now, though. Don't worry. Try to get some sleep and you can call me as soon as you wake up in the morning, ok?" He sniffed a few times and nodded. I blew him another kiss and walked out of his room. Wow, that sucked. I really hope Justin's asleep. I slowly crept into his room and saw that his eyes were closed. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the bed to pull up his covers. His eyes popped open, "Hi Mommy." I'm not doing this again. "Hi, Baby. I'm just tucking you in. Get some sleep. I love you." He closed his eyes and said sleepily, "I love you too. Good night." I kissed his cheek and left the room.

By the time we got out the door, it was 11:50 PM. I was exhausted and felt achy and just plain crappy, in general. Jimmi was driving, and I tried to close my eyes for a bit but the pain in my back wouldn't allow me to relax. Luckily, there wasn't any traffic, and we made it to the hospital in about an hour. 

It was like deja vu. We repeated the same steps we had exercised on Tuesday night until we got through the Urgent Care doors. Since it was after midnight, the crew in the main waiting area had left for the night. We were instructed to go straight back to the nurses' station to check in. One of the nurses we had seen on Tuesday night waved as she saw us walk in. Dr. Kam let them know I was coming, so they were expecting me. I was told to go to curtained-off cubicle number 10 and wait for a nurse. 

We were only in there a few minutes when a young, tall and amazingly handsome male nurse walked into my room. Wow! I looked at Jimmi and smiled. He just shook his head at me and laughed. He knew exactly what I was thinking. The nurse opened his mouth, and a deep, rich tone came out, "Hi, I'm Kerry (Carey?) and I'll be your nurse tonight." He wrapped a blood pressure cuff around my arm and stuck a thermometer in my mouth. Ok, sexy boy. You can be ANYTHING you want. Maybe we can even play doctor later?? "Hi, I'm Dr. Kam," said a voice that broke me out of my daydream. Kerry/Carey looked up at the doctor, "100.6," he said, then turned to me, "I'll finish up when the doctor is done with you." No, don't go! Don't you want to hold my hand? I'm really scared! Maybe you can even give me a hug and let me squeeze those biceps, and..."So, you still have a fever," Dr. Kam crashed my train of thought again! "I think we should keep you tonight so we can see what's going on. We got your urine culture back from the other day and it was negative." What? How is that possible? "I think we need to repeat the CT scan of the urinary tract to make sure the small pocket of fluid hasn't gotten any larger or become infected. I think we'll also start you on IV antibiotics and maybe even some fluids because you look a little dehydrated. Any questions?" Nope. I think she covered it all. I shook my head and she was gone.

Ok, Kerry/Carey! You can come back now!

But my parents came in instead. I pouted at my mom and she sat on my bed and started to scratch my back. I told them what the doctor had said, and since we knew we'd be waiting a little while for the CT scan, my dad decided to go to the lounge and read while Jimmi, my mom and I stayed in my cubicle.

All of a sudden, a sound broke through the silence and turned me white as a ghost. A man two cubicles from me was vomiting. But he sounded like he was going to die. The coughing and moaning and heaves went right through me. I started to physically shake. I curled up into fetal position and threw my hands over my ears. I could still hear him. I pushed down harder, but it didn't help. He's not stopping. Oh, my God! Will that be me when I'm on chemo? Is that what I have to look forward to? He kept going. I clenched my teeth and squeezed my eyes tightly together until the tears fell out onto my pillow. "Make him stop!" I cried quietly to my mom, "Please make him stop!"

It was literally a ten-minute long session of torture before he finally stopped. I was sweating and shaking and scared to death. I had to go to the bathroom, but was scared to leave my room because I didn't want to see him. I couldn't see him. I can't go through that. I don't want to go through that. My mom rubbed my back and Jimmi rubbed my leg until Erin, the familiar nurse from Tuesday night, entered my cubicle with blood collection supplies and an IV. "Sorry it took me so long," she apologized. "What happened to that guy?" Jimmi questioned. Erin made a face, but before she could answer I said, "No. I don't want to know."

As she looked for a vein in my arm, I told Erin that I only had one good one. "Are you kidding me?" she said. "You have great veins! Look at all of them! Have you started chemo yet?" I shook my head, "July 18th," I said. "Well, that's when you'll see how many you really have. Chemo isn't good for your veins. It really kills them. Have you thought about getting a mediport?" she asked. I knew she was talking about a little device that stays on your chest while you're going through chemo. It stays in place so the nurses don't have to stick you every time you go in for a treatment. The problem is, it doesn't come out on non-chemo weeks. It's there from the very first treatment, until the last cycle is over. For me, that will be four months. "No," I said sharply. "I don't think it'll go with my wedding dress." She looked at me with surprise. "I thought you two were already married! When's the wedding?" "September 3rd," I sighed. "No," she agreed. "it definitely won't go with your dress. You're right." Erin smiled and said, "Ok, I'm gonna start your IV." I saw that she was going for my forearm and I turned away, "It's gonna hurt!" I cowered. "Nah, I'm good! You won't even feel it." She was right! Then she put some tape over it and said, "The worst part is when they rip the tape off to get it out. Sometimes it actually hurts more coming out than going in." And without missing a beat, my 68 year-old mother shouted out, "That's what she said!"

Erin took a few vials of blood, then told me we just had to wait for a room and I'd be going upstairs. "What about the CT scan?" I asked. "I think they're gonna do it tomorrow since you're staying." "Oh!" Suddenly, I remembered the weird feelings I had after they injected me with contrast dye the other night. "Last time they gave me the dye, I felt like my throat was closing up, I got a red blotch on my chest and a terrible headache afterwards. Is that bad?" Erin looked concerned, "Yeah, you should probably mention that to them. They might need to skip the dye next time."

When Erin left, Kerry/Carey finally came back in. As he walked by my mom, I purposely looked at her face. Her eyes opened wide and she looked at me, motioned to him and mouthed, "Wow!" I giggled and mouthed back, "See? I told you!" Jimmi looked at both of us and shook his head. "You two are so bad!" Nurse Hottie did whatever it was he had to do with me - unfortunately, it wasn't what I wanted him to do - and left. Then Erin showed up with a wheelchair and we all headed up to my room on the 19th floor.

It was 3:00 am when I got to my room. I changed into my hospital gown, got into the horribly uncomfortable bed, and prepared myself for a sleepless night. The aide pulled out the chair-bed for Jimmi, and my parents went to sleep in the lounge. My nurse took my vitals and told me she'd let me sleep until 5:00 before she started my fluid drip. I closed my eyes and drifted off.

Before I even had time to dream, the nurse came back and hooked me up to an IV bag. That was the end of my sleep. At 5:15 an aide came to take my vitals again. At 6:00, I got up to pee. At 6:30, they brought me some medicine. At 7:00 Dr. Kam came in to check me out. Then I was up for good. She looked at my incisions, listened to my lungs and told me the plan for the day. I honestly have no idea what she said because I was still basically asleep. But then my hospital room phone rang. "Do you want me to hand that to you?" Dr. Kam asked. I nodded, confused about who even knew I was there and why they wouldn't just call my cell? "Hello?" "Hi Suzanne, it's Dr. Leitao." Oh, crap! I had my follow-up appointment with him that day and now I was going to miss it! Funny that the one day he has office hours in New Jersey, I'm in the hospital in New York. "I just want to let you know that I know you're there, so you obviously won't make it in to see me today. I think I want you to stay there for at least another night or two so we can get the fever under control and get all the blood cultures back. I'm thinking you probably won't go home until Sunday, though, because we like you to be fever-free for 24-48 hours."

What?! I figured I'd be there for a night. Not THREE nights!

"Ok," I said. What else could I say? "I know we were supposed to meet today so I could go over the pathology with you," Dr. Leitao continued. "I also know Dr. Gorsky told you what we found. Do you have any questions?" My brain wasn't working. "Yes, I have a million questions, but I can't think of them right now." Think, damnit! Think! "Do you think you got it all?" I asked. "Yes, we do. It was pretty contained to the area of radiation, but it was in that one lymph node, so I advise you not to wait too long to start treatments." Yeah, I've heard that before. "I'm starting on the 18th," I told him. "What stage am I in?" Before the surgery, all the doctors were going between 1a or 1b or some subcategory of one or the other. "Well, finding it in the nodes doesn't have any affect of the staging, but the fact that it was starting to grow in the parametria (tissues next to the cervix) means you're in stage 2a." I didn't say too much. Why wouldn't I expect more bad news? It's been a running theme with me for the last few months. I thanked him and told him I'd reschedule for next week so we could speak in more detail. He told me he'd be off for the weekend, but his partners and fellows would keep him updated on my condition at all times.

I glanced over at Jimmi, who was still sleeping in the chair bed. I swear, that boy can sleep through anything. Then I texted my mom in the lounge, "Are you awake?" She answered quickly, "Yup. Be right in." I could see that the bags under her eyes were a matching set to mine as she strolled into my room with a big smile on her face. "Good morning, Princess. How do you feel?" How can it be that I'm 36 years old, but still feel like a little girl when I'm sick and my mommy is around? "I'm ok, I guess. Dr. Leitao called. I might be here until Sunday." She thought for a minute, "Ok, then maybe we should send Daddy and Jimmi home for a bit to get cleaned up, and that way, Jimmi can bring you anything you need from home. I'll stay here with you so you won't be alone." Sounded like a good plan to me. 

Soon, my day nurse came in to introduce herself and start my IV antibiotic. "You'll get this every six hours at 9 and 3." She asked if I had ordered breakfast yet, then told me not to eat it until she checks with the doctor because I might need to fast for the CT scan. I then explained my reaction to the contrast dye, and she assured me that she'd let the doctor know that as well. 

My breakfast was delivered to my room about 9:30, and I called the nurse. "Do you know if I'm allowed to eat?" I asked. "Yes, the scan has been canceled. Go ahead." They canceled it? Awesome! But I didn't eat. I was so tired, I just drifted off to sleep.

"I'm here to take you for your ultrasound," said a voice that shocked me into consciousness at 11:00 am. "What? They said it was canceled." The medical transporter looked confused. "Hold on," she said as she walked out of my room. Both she and the nurse came back a minute later. The nurse explained, "The CT scan was canceled, but the doctor wants an ultrasound of your legs to check for blood clots. Sometimes they can cause fevers." Oh, ok. I've had ultrasounds before. Piece of cake.

She wheeled me down to the ultrasound room, making sure my bed bumped into every corner we turned. When we got there, a technician took over my care and started the test. She put the familiar blue gel on the ultrasound wand and lowered it down to my upper thigh. I cringed, waiting for the cold gel to touch me, and when it did, I was surprised, "It's warm!" I said a little too loudly. The tech laughed, "Yes, we use gel warmers." She continued to move the wand up and down my right leg, then up and down my left leg. When she was done, she wiped off the gel and said, "Everything looks fine. I don't see any clots." Yes! Good news!

Jimmi and my mom were waiting in my room when I got back. My dad had already left. "Ok, I'm gonna go now, Pumpkin. I'll be back later. Text me when you know what you want me to bring back for you." Jimmi leaned over and kissed me goodbye, then he headed home for a little while. My mom looked at me, "We need to get you up and walking. It's not good for you to be in this bed all the time." She's like a drill sergeant. No mercy!! I did as I was told and forced myself to get up and walk a few laps around the 19th floor. As we were passing by the elevators, I saw a sign with a picture of dogs in costumes. It said "Therapy Dogs". I remembered that the last time I was in the hospital for my surgery, I had asked about the dogs. The nurse had told me they come on Fridays. Today was Friday! "I want a therapy dog!" I exclaimed. My mom laughed and headed over to the nurses' station. When she met up with me around the next lap, she said, "Ok, I signed you up! They come between 1 and 3." I smiled and we kept walking. 

At 1:00, my mom and I went back to my room to wait. We watched TV and talked, and waited some more. The nurse came to check my temperature, which had been hanging in the 99 and change range all day. We asked about the dogs again. "Oh, they'll be here soon," the nurse said. At about 2:30, my friend Jacquie came to visit. She brought me hugs and tabloids; exactly what I needed! But still no dogs. "It's a holiday weekend," my mom said. "Maybe they're not coming." I pouted, "But they said they were!" I insisted. 3:00 came and went with no dogs. We asked a few more times, and all the nurses swore they'd be there. Finally, at 5:00, we gave up. I have no idea why I was so bummed over a visit from some dogs, but I really was. 

After Jacquie left, my mom mentioned that she had heard there was a terrace on the 15th floor where I could go outside and get some air. "Do you want to check it out?" she asked. "Sure. Air would be nice." We told my nurse that I wasn't plotting an escape, and we were just heading to the 15th floor. She nodded and off we went.

When the elevator opened four flights down, I saw glass doors marked "Patient Recreation". My mom and I walked through them, and down a green, carpeted ramp. There were other patients there doing crafts and playing games. There was another sign pointing to the patient's library, and another one leading us to the terrace. We walked out the automatic doors and the warm air hit my face. I walked to the railing, looked up at the blue sky and down at the busy street. There were a few people on the terrace, but they mostly looked like visitors. We sat down on some chairs and breathed in the smells of New York City. Luckily, we weren't at street level, so the stench of garbage and urine couldn't reach our noses. We stayed there for a little while, but being that I was wearing a hospital gown and robe to hide my exposed bottom, I got hot very quickly. When I started to sweat, we went back inside so my body temperature didn't get too high.

We got back to the 19th floor and ate dinner in the lounge. When we were done, my nurse took my temperature. "100.1," she said. "No! It's going back up!" She looked at me and said, "It's still not really what we consider a fever yet, but if you want it to go down, you need to walk!" 

Soon, my friend, Andi, and her fiance, Eli, walked into my room. "We were just about to go for a walk," my drill sergeant/mom said. "We like walks!" Andi grinned. As the four of us made our laps around the floor, my mom talked about our day. "We found out there was a terrorist downstairs," she said nonchalantly. What?? I didn't know that! How did I miss that? Andi and Eli looked terrified and they stopped walking, "What? Really?" Andi asked. My mom didn't seem phased by it. "Yeah, so we went down to see the terrorist..." I stopped her, "What?" She looked at me and seemed very confused. She tried again, "We went outside on the terrace. Remember?" Oh, my God. I started to laugh, "I thought you said terrorist!" Andi sighed with relief, "I heard her say terrorist too!" My poor mom just stood there with a funny look on her face, "TERRACE! TERRACE! I said TERRACE!" Andi and I were hysterical. "It still sounds like terrorist!" My mom gave a fake pout and said, "Verandah!"

We headed back to my room, and Jimmi arrived a few minutes later. My friends left and my mom headed to the lounge to rest. It had been a very long day. I got into bed and my night nurse came in to introduce herself, then said, "You have such beautiful hair. I noticed it as you were walking. It's so beautiful!" Ok, she's complimenting you, I said to myself. Don't be a bitch because she should know it's gonna fall out soon and telling me how nice it is just makes it worse. I controlled myself. "Thank you. Too bad it's gonna fall out soon." She looked a little thrown by my comment. "You know they can make a wig with your hair, right?" Hmmm, not really helping. "Yes, they've already cut some." I pulled back my hair to reveal a patch of short pieces underneath the long. "They cut it in four places like this." She looked surprised, "You mean your hair was even thicker than it is now? Wow! You have REALLY nice hair!" What the Hell is wrong with this woman?! All I could do was say, "Thank you."

I slept as much as I could between the nurses coming in and out of my room. Early Saturday morning, my mom went home to take a shower and get some things done. A little while later, the doctor came to see me and confirmed that I'd need to stay until Sunday because they'd be switching me to oral antibiotics today and needed to make sure my fever stayed down for 24 hours after the switch. I woke Jimmi and gave him the news, then I called my mom to tell her. "Ok, then I'll do what I need to do and we'll be back there in the afternoon." I hung up and thought for the millionth time how amazing my parents are and how lucky I am to have them. I got out of bed, saw that Jimmi had fallen back to sleep, and decided to go for a walk by myself.

I noticed that the pain in my back had just about disappeared, and I was feeling much better all around. When I looked down at my stomach, I could see that all of the puffiness that had been there only a day ago was almost completely gone. It actually looked like I had lost weight overnight. Maybe I really did have a weird infection. Maybe the pain and bloating weren't from the surgery at all. Maybe the IV antibiotics were exactly what I needed to make everything go away. Whatever it was, it seemed to be gone and that made me happy. It was the first time in almost three weeks that I was almost completely pain-free.

When I got back, I woke Jimmi again and showed him my stomach. "Whoa! It's all gone!" he said. "That's crazy!" Then I decided that I wanted to him to see the terrace - not the terrorist. We went downstairs to the 15th floor, but what I saw that day scared me. The recreation area was a bit more crowded than it was the day before. There were patients in every stage of treatments; most were hooked up to very large IV machines with multiple bags hanging from every hook. I tried not to stare, but I couldn't help it. These people were receiving chemo treatments. That would be me soon.

We walked out to the terrace, and almost every chair was full. To the left of us was an older man in a wheelchair. He was the only on besides me who didn't have an IV. In front of us, there was a man in his early 50s hooked up to a chemo IV. He was very thin and pale and alone. He seemed so sad. To his left, was a woman in her 50s with a catheter bag - also with a chemo IV. Her hair was short, but seemed to be thinning. She was talking to a friend or relative, and seemed to be feeling ok at the moment. 

But it was the table to the right of us that really got to me.

Two women, who appeared to be about my age, walked out to join their family members at the table. They were both connected to chemo IVs, and they were both wearing blue, medical masks over their mouths and noses. When they got outside, they were able to take the masks off. "How's the pneumonia?" I head someone ask one of the women. She just shrugged and tried to smile. She was very pale, and obviously wearing a wig. She had a mediport sticking out of her chest and her eyes were unhappy. The other woman seemed a bit better. She was very chatty, and I didn't see a mediport, just an IV. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and I could see that she wore it that way to cover the bald spots. I turned to Jimmi, "I need to go now. I can't be here anymore." He looked confused, but helped me up without any questions, and we headed back upstairs.

When I got to my room, I had to go to the bathroom. As I was sitting there, doing what you do in the bathroom, I looked into the toilet and saw bright red blood. Oh no. What's happening now? I had been spotting on and off from the surgery. Then there was the weird discharge from the UTI that apparently I didn't actually have. Now this. I left the mess in the toilet and called the nurse. I explained what had happened and we both went into the bathroom to have a look. She said, "Hmmm...Is it close to your time of the month?" My jaw dropped. Is she kidding? "Well," I said calmly, "since I don't have a uterus anymore, no, probably not." She looked at me and shook her head. "Oh! That's right. I forgot. Ok, let me go page the doctor." Are you kidding me, lady? Read my fucking chart before you talk to me so you don't make a stupid comment like that! UGH!!!

The doctor came in a few minutes later and checked the toilet. "It's normal," she said. "You're going to have spotting and bleeding for 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery. It will be more or less depending on your activity level, but as long as it's not an actual flow, you don't need to worry." 

Relieved, Jimmi and I sat down to watch "Borat", which we had rented from the hospital. Halfway through, our friend, Mike, who we hadn't seen in a year, came to visit. My parents followed shortly, and we all moved to the lounge. Everyone was talking and laughing and having fun, when all of a sudden, I started to sweat. My stomach started to gurgle and the pain began. Oh no! The stool softener and laxative regimen they put me on is working...right now! Oh, how embarrassing. Maybe I can just hold off for a few more minutes until Mike leaves for work. Ok, maybe not. "I hate to be rude, but the medicines they're giving me to make me go are working. I need to go." Mike hugged me goodbye and off I went in a cloud of humiliation...or maybe that was gas.

When I had finished, Mike was gone and Jimmi came in to check on me. The nurse also came to check my vitals. My temperature was still ok, which was good. Then she asked me if I had had any more bleeding. I told her I had, and asked her if it was normal if there was a small clot in it. "Yes, a small one is ok. If there's a large clot, that's not good." Then she went on for a bit about bleeding and clots, then turned to Jimmi and said, "I'm sorry to talk about this in front of you. These are problems women have. Men have some problems and women have others. But it's the only way women can make babies." 

Holy shit. Are you kidding me? She did NOT just say that!

This was the same nurse that asked me if I was close to getting my period. Now she's talking about making babies? Yeah, lady, I can't do that anymore either. What is WRONG with this woman? I couldn't wait until 7:00 when the nurses changed shifts. Stupid bitch.

My parents, Jimmi and I decided to order dinner from outside the hospital that night. We ate in the lounge and talked like we were dining at a restaurant. When we had finished, my friend, Ben, showed up to visit. After about an hour, I felt the same sweating and gurgling I'd felt when Mike was there earlier. Not again! Why does this only happen when I have company? I tried to wait, but once again, to no avail. I excused myself the same way I had earlier and left the room.

As I came out of the bathroom, the night nurse, Shelley was coming into my room. "There you are!" She said. "I was looking for you. I need to take your vitals." Shelley was a very pretty, young nurse with adorable pink eye shadow. She smiled when she spoke and she was upbeat and cheery. Such an improvement from the day nurse with diarrhea of the mouth. "Your vitals are perfect! If you need anything, let me know." I went back out to the lounge to finish my visit with Ben. 

At about 9:00, he and my parents all left for the night and Jimmi and I went back to my room. We got comfortable and watched "The Rocker" until about 11:00 pm. Shelley came in to check my vitals again and then said, "See you at 2!" I smiled, "I'll probably still be awake. I'm gonna try to write tonight." She looked interested, "Are you a writer?" she asked. "Well, I..." Jimmi interrupted me, "Yes, she is!" he said. I explained, "I'm writing a blog about my situation. It's a bit more complicated than just cancer. We're also getting married in two months." Shelley's eyes lit up. "Really? I love weddings!" 'Yeah," I said. "I hope I can even get married while I'm going through chemo." Her face fell. "Everyone is different with how they handle it, but attitude helps. Think positive." "I'm trying," I told her. "Hey, at least I won't need the wedding dress diet!" Jimmi made a disapproving face at my bad joke, but Shelley laughed. "You need to keep your sense of humor," she said. We spoke for a few more minutes and then I gave her my blog address. "I'm gonna go read it now. There are only three patients on the floor tonight, so we're not very busy."

It was nice of her to say, but I didn't really think Shelley would bother to read my blog. She doesn't know me. Why would she care? I finished a short update, and closed the computer. It was 1:40, so I figured I'd just watch TV and wait up for my next vitals check. At exactly 2:00, Shelley came into the room. "I was reading your blog out there. You're a great writer!" she said. "Oh, thanks. You like it?" "I really do! The other nurse keeps asking me what I'm reading because one minute I'm laughing and the next minute I'm crying. It's crazy! My favorite entry is the one about Jimmi. That made me laugh so hard!" She turned to Jimmi, who was turning red because now the nurse knew about his sperm bank experience, and said "I didn't know you were a drummer. That's really cool!" Then she looked at me and said with sincerity, "It's really great that you're doing this. It's also good for me to read, because sometimes we forget that patients have lives outside of the hospital. It makes me remember that people have a lot of other things going on other than just this." 

When Shelley left the room, I felt amazing. Not just physically, but mentally, too. It's one thing to be complimented by family and friends, but when it comes from a complete stranger, who is under no obligation to even read my blog, let alone compliment me, it takes on an entirely different meaning. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

At 6:00 am, Shelley was back for another round of vitals. She said, "So, I've been reading all night. I can't believe you have six boys and six girls frozen! That's so awesome! I'm gonna keep following you, so keep writing." And that was the last I saw of her during my stay.

When 7:00 rolled around, the day nurse came in to introduce herself. "Hi, I'm Caroline (Carolyn?), and I'll be your nurse. Shelley told me you're getting married. That's great!" Wow, I really like Shelley. She made up for that other nurse 50 times over. But Caroline/Carolyn seemed very sweet, too. "Let me know if you need anything!"

I was startled awake by the doctor at 10:10 am. Wow, I can't believe I fell back to sleep for three hours. "Well, Suzanne, everything looks ok. We're going to send you home. Call us if the fever comes back or if you have any other problems. And make sure you follow up with doctor Leitao on Friday." 

Yes! I'm going home!

Jimmi and I packed up our stuff and waited for my prescription to be filled, then we wished everyone a happy 4th of July and got the Hell out of the hospital. For the first time in weeks, I sat in the car comfortably, without pain. There was a bit of traffic, but we made it home in a little over an hour. I walked in the door, hugged my dog and my cats, and immediately hit the shower. As I was drying my hair, Jimmi came up to check on me. "I made the reservation for 6:45," he said. "Is that ok?" "Perfect." I confirmed. I put on make-up and got dressed in normal clothes that were actually feeling a bit loose. After a stop at me ex-husband's house to visit my kids and reassure them that Mommy was ok...

Jimmi and I finally had our date night.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you have been through so much already, my friend. Maybe this is just the universe's way of getting all the crap out of the way early, so you can have an easier time than expected with the chemo & radiation? I will hope for that to be true! xo