Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm Back!

I know, I know! It's been over a week since I've written. I'm sorry some of you were worried about me, and I appreciate the e-mails and phone calls.

Let's just say, it's been a very hard week.

Where should I begin?

Ok, obviously, I'm sure everyone assumed that my blood counts were high enough to start my second chemo cycle last Wednesday, since that's pretty much when I disappeared. Yes, my white cell count needed to be at 1 and, after waiting in Dr. Gorsky's office for the result, we were told I was at 1.3.

Just made it.

I was actually relieved that I'd be able to start this chemo cycle because I really didn't want to push it off and risk feeling crappier on my wedding day. But Dr. Gorsky made sure to warn me that my blood counts were still very low, and I'm at a high risk for infections and fevers that could put me in the hospital at any time.

Ok, great. Never even thought about that possibility.

"Is it better if I wait to start the treatment until next week, then?" I asked cautiously. "It doesn't matter, at this point. As long as your counts are in the range, we should start."

So we did.

Since it had taken a while to get my results and meet with the doctor, I was a bit behind schedule for my treatment. The nurse stuck me quickly, and got the IV fluids rolling. After that, Wednesday was pretty uneventful. Five hours went by slowly, then I slept a lot when I got home. But, all in all, I felt much better than I did on the first day of cycle one.

But then came Thursday.

I woke up feeling ok. Tired, but not too bad. I popped a few anti-nausea pills and headed over to Sloan-Kettering for radiation and chemo.

Radiation is like the movie "Groundhog Day". It's the same routine every time, with very little excitement. I checked in at the desk, handed my bag to my mom, and headed for the changing area. I opened the cabinets, grabbed two plastic-wrapped hospital gowns, took them to the first room, pulled the curtain and started to undress.

"What the HELL is that?!"

I looked at the red dots all over my abdomen. "Oh my God. What IS that?" I said out loud. I immediately took my pants down to check my legs. There were red dots, or splotches, everywhere. My heart sank. Is is a reaction to the chemo? Have my white cell counts dropped too low? Will I need to go to the hospital? Will this delay treatment?

Ok, chill. Wait until after radiation and ask to see Dr. Gorsky.

I walked into the seating area and waited for my name to be called. Janis came to get me and I showed her the rash on my legs. "Oh, I wonder what that is. Just show them in chemo, I'm sure it's fine."

I wasn't so sure.

After my ten buzzes of the radiation machine, I headed back out to change and meet up with my mom. "I have a rash all over my body," I said when I saw her. My mom tried not to look scared, "Let me see." I lifted my shirt to let her inspect the redness. My mom, who has her own experience with blood problems, said confidently, "That doesn't look like a platelet problem. Let's go upstairs and see what they say."

I checked in on the third floor. "Hi, I'm here for treatment, but I have a rash that should probably be checked first." The receptionist nodded and said she'd make a note of it. A few minutes later, one of my favorite nurses, Karen, called my name. "What's this note all about?" she asked with concern. I waited until we got into the exam room and showed Karen what she wanted to see. "Hmmmm. Does it itch?" she asked. I shook my head. "Hurt?" she asked. Another shake. "Does it bother you at all?" I shook my head once again. "I wouldn't have even known it was there if I hadn't gotten undressed for radiation. I didn't even see it in the shower this morning." Karen took another look and said, "Let me get Dr. Gorsky  and we'll go from there."

Dr. Gorsky walked in with half a smile and said in her thick, Russian accent, "What, you miss me already?" I giggled and explained today's problem to the doctor. She asked the same questions about the rash itching or hurting, and I gave the same answers. "I don't think this is a problem, but I want you to go to Dermatology before your chemo to make sure."

Dr. Gorsky set up an appointment for 2:30 with a dermatologist on-site. Since it was only 1:30, at that point, and time was ticking away, I was sent to the chemo suite to at least start the first part of my two-hour IV hydration. An hour later, I was unhooked and in the elevator on my way to the second floor. Of course, I had to fill out the mandatory paperwork and wait 45 minutes to see the doctor, but, finally, it was my turn.

Another faceless nurse set me up in an exam room and told me the doctor would be right in. We didn't wait long for the pretty, sticky-sweet dermatologist who looked to be younger than I am. "What's going on?" she asked. For the thousandth time that day, I explained my symptoms and lifted my shirt and pant legs. The rash actually seemed to be fading by then, but the doctor still wanted to check it out. She asked another series of questions and one of them was  "Any shortness of breath?" I remembered the night before, and realized that I had used my inhaler. "Well, yes. I have mild asthma and I needed to use my inhaler last night." She thought for a minute and asked some more breathing questions until she came out with, "Without a history of asthma, I'd be concerned. A rash and shortness of breath with certain chemo can be life-threatening."


"Should I worry?" I asked. "No, it might be viral." She took my temperature, which read 99.4. "You might have picked something up somewhere. The low-grade fever and rash suggest it could be viral, but I don't think you need to delay treatment. If it gets worse, I'm always here."

And that was that. Back upstairs for my chemo treatment.

It was almost 4:00, by then, and I was exhausted. I still had over an hour left of hydration and chemo to go, and I just wanted to sleep. Finally, I gave in and passed out on the chair as the poison started its war in my body.

As far as excitement this week, that's it. Since Thursday, it's been a lot of fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, IV fluids, no appetite, no energy, crying and weight-loss. Each day I wake up and hope I'll feel better. Each day gets closer and closer to my wedding day. Each day I worry about whether or not I'll even make it down the aisle.

But I have to be positive! Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!

And prayers.

I need prayers more than ever.

My beautiful, perfect wedding is 17 days away.

Please pray I'll have the strength.

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