The hospital was crazy busy on Monday. I walked in to get my labs drawn at 8:20 and there was already a full house. Of course, I was the youngest person there by about 30 years. That is, until my buddy Ryan came in. Ryan and I have become friends because we are on the same journey, have pretty much the same diagnosis, have had pretty much the same treatment plan, and are pretty much the same age. It’s always nice to see a familiar face. He was back for his first round of chemo after his surgery, which he handled extremely well too.
Anyway, after about a twenty minute wait in the lobby I went back to get my blood drawn. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the needle go into the port at all this time. It must be back in the swing of things after last week, because last week it was definitely a little tender from lack of use.
The nurses were happy to see me and asked me how I had been and laughed about my spirit and how I spend most of my time in chemo walking around chatting up as many folks as possible. I’ll take that as a compliment. I’ve been getting my labs, seeing the doc, and getting chemo on the same day for this treatment and the last one. It makes the days a lot longer (6 hours on Monday) but at least I get it all done at once. I got out of the lab at about 8:45 and knew there was no way that my labs would be ready for my 9:20 appointment with the doctor. They had me see a Nurse Practitioner this time instead of my regular doc because he was really busy and I’m a pretty stress-free patient. I made that last part up. But, I like to think it’s true.
Well, between labs and the clinic (seeing the NP) I went and got some coffee, said hi to a friend, and went to talk to my mom for a few minutes. It’s pretty nice having her office be about a three minute walk from Ellis Fischel.
By the time I got back to the waiting room to be seen in clinic it was a little after 9:20. Seeing as this is finals week for me…I was supposed to take a final at 12:30. By this point I knew full and well that I would not be done with my chemo by 12:30, much less be able to get over to my final on time. I emailed my teacher while I was waiting and, luckily, he worked with me and allowed me to take it in the Finance office at the Business School once I was done (Thanks!).
After a modest wait, I was called back to clinic. Once I was back in the room I didn’t have to wait long, which was great. I hate sitting in those confined doctor’s office rooms and waiting a long time for the doctor to come in. Let’s be honest, nobody likes that. She came in and asked how I was doing and I went through the typical “I feel great” response. Because, well, I do feel great. However, I had to mention to her, and now to you guys, that I spent about eight hours in the Emergency Room last Tuesday night.
As it turns out, it was nothing to worry about. The reason I decided to go was because I started experiencing excruciating pains pretty much out of nowhere and they persisted for about an hour before I was talked into going to the ER. I have heard lots of horror stories about cancer patients having a lot of trouble with bowel obstructions so I wanted to be sure that wasn’t the case for me.
Timing is a wondrous thing in all endeavors. So, I got to the ER and was still in terrible pain. I had to wait for about 15 minutes to get into Triage before they would take me back. And, of course, as soon as I got into Triage the pain pretty much went away. I felt like an idiot and just wanted to go home, but they wanted me to see the doc…so I obliged. Coincidentally, the pain started creeping back after about 20 minutes of waiting in the hospital bed. Then, after about an hour it was full-blown terrible again. I mean, it was worse than surgery. And, it was constant. Twelve out of ten. It wouldn’t go away no matter how I twisted or contorted to try and ease the pain. They (finally) gave me some pain medicine. After a couple doses of fentanyl, which had no effect, they finally brought out the big guns and gave me Dilaudid and about ten minutes after that I could finally sit still and the pain started to subside.
After I had stopped writhing in pain, they took me back to have a CT. It took about an hour to get the results and by this time it was already midnight and I had a lot of studying and assignments that I needed to be doing. Well folks, it turns out I was just full of shit. After five or so weeks of incessantly going to the bathroom, I somehow managed to get backed up. Sorry for the visual. But, at least it was nothing to worry about. I managed to get everything taken care of and the pain never really came back. They released me from the hospital at about 3 am. So much for getting schoolwork done.
Ok, back to seeing the doc in clinic. She went over my lab results and, once again, marveled at how well my numbers were doing. Freakin’ champion over here! But, seriously, it’s a huge relief every time that they tell me my counts are doing well and I can go ahead and get the treatment that day. I don’t want any setbacks in this process. That was pretty much the extent of the visit though. Short and sweet and then off to chemo.
After clinic, I quickly made the short walk down to AIU (Ambulatory Infusion Unit) to get chemo started because I was really worried about how late I was going to be for my final (hadn’t noticed the email back from my professor yet). I went back and got into a bed and got all setup so that I could start studying for my test while I was undergoing everything. Annoyingly, the pharmacy still hadn’t received my chemo orders. So, more delay. Fun stuff. I didn’t get started on the pre-meds until about an hour after I had gotten into the room. I knew I was looking at probably a 1:30 finishing time, which was really frustrating to me considering I had finished at 11:45 during round 6. However, it also gave me more time to study.
Oddly enough, chemo seems to make me pretty hungry. I think I’ve mentioned that before? Hmm…chemo brain. Well, I ate a lot during this stay and I’m not even mad about it. I had lost a pound between this round and the last, which didn’t excite me in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I get that it’s a good thing I didn’t lose more weight. But, I need to gain weight back. Lately though, it seems as if my efforts are futile. The last thing you want to do when you’ve had a major digestive system reconstruction is shovel massive quantities of food in your face. Trust me. I’ve been in the bathroom 10-15 times a day for the last five weeks. My efforts to gain weight have seemed futile over the past two weeks. That’s ok though I guess. I did gain about 15 pounds back after surgery. Also, I got a little color back in my skin and I don’t feel near as Prisoner-of-War-like as I did for a while there.
Moving on, chemo was pretty boring. Not a whole lot to report when you’re just sitting there by yourself, studying a little bit, and counting down the minutes. I like that chemo goes smoothly though. It would be bad if there was much more to tell.
Anyway, I got out of chemo around 2 and then went over to the business school to give my notes a glance one last time and took my final. I finished it up and headed home. By the time I got home I was a little tired. Chemo days seem to take a little bit out of me, but nothing I can’t manage. Additionally, my legs always feel like I’ve been through a really tough squat workout the night of chemo. I’m not sure why that is.
The next day, I had to go get a skin cancer screening. There were a few spots that had been pointed out to me that I should have looked at. With my luck and my family history, I was a bit nervous. Like just barely. So I went in and the nurse was a super awesome and bubbly lady and made me feel really comfortable. She pulled out her handy dandy magnified glass flashlight thing-a-ma-jig and examined every inch of me. She ultimately decided that I didn’t have anything serious to worry about, but I should probably see a dermatologist and have a few spots removed just for precautionary reasons. Yay, more scars. Maybe I should write a pop song about them. Or just name them. Or play connect the dots. Sheesh.
After I was done at the hospital I went and picked my girlfriend (yes, you read that correctly) up from the gym and we went back to my place and had some breakfast and finished watching a movie we were too tired to finish the night before. Then, she had to move out of her apartment so I went to help her do that. Chemo pump attached and all. It went rather smoothly, but ended up getting pretty hot out. We went to Addison’s for some food after we finished and then came home and started studying for finals again. She’s in the MBA program too. Unfortunately for her though, she still has two finals left. I win!
Well, it’s Wednesday morning and I am about to go get my chemo pump unhooked so that I can take MY LAST FINAL OF MY LIFE and finish up my M.B.A. and never have to go to school again. I’m pretty pumped. I feel pretty great. I’m having a celebratory dinner with my sister and a friend tonight and then on Friday I am going up to Chicago for ten days with my pretty little lady. I’ve never been. It should be fun. I’ll still always hate the Cubs though.
That’s enough for now…sorry for the long post.