My maiden name is Miller. In the Miller family, we have stories that are told over and over for years. Some are stories of older relatives who have gone to heaven, some are stories told at another’s expense. We never mean any harm, it’s just too funny to bury under the rug. Then there are those that fall under the category “You Just Can’t Make this Stuff Up” (non-explicit version of description).
My friends, this is one of those tales! Put your seat belt on, we are going for a ride!!
On or about Saturday morning, I began to feel all of those symptoms one envisions when hearing the word chemo, I had developed the throat pain, extreme weakness, nausea, etc. Mom and I basically binged watched movies and TV series while I moaned and occasionally whined, ok, it was a little more than occasional.
After unsuccessfully attempting to sleep sitting up most of Saturday night, I dragged myself to the pull-out couch for another day of misery. At this point, my Mom did what any Mother would do. She went into the kitchen to make chicken & rice soup for her first born child. She also made chicken salad and God knows what else. By mid-afternoon, she was feeling pretty accomplished as she brought me a bowl and some saltine crackers. I had not been able to eat much but that sounded good to me. I was cautious, timid even, as I slowly ate small bite after bite stopping after eating less the half the bowl.
It only took a few minutes to place this decision to eat Mom’s soup on my Top 10 list of dumbest moves ever!!
Suddenly, the soup transformed into a locomotion that had turned and was heading back to the station, full steam ahead. The boilerman was stoking the fire as it rounded the bend. I thought no, I can’t throw up! I took my medicine! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Just about the time this internal drama began to become an external dilemma my Mother turned to say something to me. Upon seeing the horror in my eyes her telepathic powers went into turbo mode and she immediately knew what was about to happen. Leaping from the sofa bed like a true superhero she flew to the other room and was back in a flash, diving for the bed as if sliding into home, positioning the trash can apparatus under my jaw at the precise moment my fear became reality.
At this point, I will not scar you with the horrid details. Let’s just say the night went downhill from there.
I was scheduled for bloodwork at 8:00 AM the following morning. Like a trooper, I pulled it together just enough to get there and even managed to make a good call afterwards by having my Mother roll me down to the Sarcoma Clinic. You notice, I said roll. By this point neither of us had slept much and the burdens of her new job were more than weighing on her. She gave her job as wheelchair driver the old college try but after several wrong turns, an altercation with a wall and a premature launch from the elevator, we were both a lil frustrated.
We finally made it to the Sarcoma clinic and met with the triage nurses. I explained the weekend’s events and almost sounded somewhat coherent in doing so. I have discovered that a side effect of the chemo makes it extremely difficult to, as Miranda Lambert would say ‘ Hide Your Crazy”. So, in true fashion, I proceeded to burst into tears. In situations like this, Carrie Underwood would say “You Can’t Cry Pretty, Baby!’ It got their attention, of course and bought me a one way ticket to the MD Anderson ER. I was, however one of the lucky ones that day. I was moved to a small although private ER “Room” and the race was on before 10:00 AM.
I was immediately given IV fluids and an assortment of oral meds both pill and liquid form. Basically, they threw the family medicine cabinet at me along with x-ray, blood work etc . over the course of the day. There was some improvement but not enough to get that golden discharge ticket. The ER also began a run that mirrored a Grey’s Anatomy award winning season.
By late afternoon,the ER waiting room looked like an ant hill (based on Mom’s reports) and beds with sick people lined the walls of every hallway. Again, after much frustration, I was fortunate enough to get a room “Upstairs” by around midnight. The next day was a struggle but I had finally improved enough to receive my discharge papers and we were back in our cozy apartment around 7:30 PM. As Mom and I finished the past season of our “Pretty Little Lies” series, I began to feel a little flush. I had noticed it a couple of times during the day but my temperature had never reflected this. I had been instructed to take my temperature 4 times a day so thought, why not? I was shocked to see the number 101.4 in the window. I instantly knew I should have splurged for something other than the cheapest thermometer I could find. After having to go onto short term disability this month, I am cutting costs everywhere in a lame attempt to maintain my dwendling shopping kiddy. Don’t Judge!!
So, I did what any rational, responsible adult would do. I repeated this process between 15-20 times and kept count of the times it fell under the dreaded 101 mark. I have never been lucky at the casinos. After my Mother took her own temperature to prove the validity of the apparatus, I begrudgingly got out my PJs and we were “back in the Uber again” by 10:30 PM.
We were encouraged by the fact that we were immediately taken back and achieved the “gurney in the hallway” status fairly quickly and moved to our ER Taj Mahal by 4:00 AM. This time people took notice. Of course, my fever at that point was 102.6. All hands on deck status for sure. I am trying to find humor but I will admit, I had more than on meltdown, some internal, some that bubbled out.
The morning came and with it, the troops. Over the course of the day, it was determined that I was Neutropenic, not uncommon for those my situation but worrysome if accompanied by fever. It was also suspected that the chemo had caused my still open right gluteus Maximus wound to become angry. This is my Mother’s scientific term for the situation. It is fitting as the wound was draining much more than it had and other changes were noted. All in all this was the course of my day as I was visited by or taken to all of the below:
- The Sarcoma team, a given
- Wound Care Ostomy clinic
- Surgical Orthopedic Practitioner
- Infectious Disease Clinic – I was little disappointed that they were not in hazmat gear. Try Harder!
- Pharmacy, we are talking custom concoction here!
- Nutrition- Let’s help this poor chick understand ways to avoid diving for the valley next time. I get it!
- My Supportive Care Practitioner, Carolyn, my new MDA bestie. Seriously, she is actually pretty great. I would friend her in real life
- CT of chest and abdomen
- X-ray of chest and abdomen
- MRI w/ Contrast of chest and abdomen
- A pletheura of blood work
- Wound care dressing change and education
- Wound cultures
- I am sure I track between numbers 7-257
I felt like I was having the busiest work day EVER!!! People, I am on FMLA!! Take Note!
By the end of the day, thoroughly exhausted at just about the time they would have had to pull out the straight jacket, my trusty nurse flies into the room and says, “I have a room for you upstairs but we gotta move fast.” Why Batman…. fast is my middle name….. ok, so that did not come out right, we are talking speed, my friends, not personality!
So with the help of Robin, the transfer staff, we unplugged, threw my belongings on the gurney with me and were off! We screeched into the Sarcoma Wing in lightning speed. The gurney could use a lil WD-40, ya know? It was as if we had crossed to the promise land. I was met by two angels (nurses) who carried my bags, plumped my pillows and gave me the welcome book. Now we are talking, this is how I roll!!
My room is 5-Star complete with twin Murphy bed for Mom, a picture window across the entire front wall, a closet and even usb chargers built into the bed.
At this point I would have completely relaxed but for 2 things, I had developed a terrible headache due to what my astute nurse determined to be caffeine withdrawal. Drink Coffee Much? And, I was unable to get in contact with my Mom. She had gone back to our apartment and let her phone die. My Mom organically sees a cell phone as an option, something that isn’t always necessary. I agree we as a society have gone overboard but in our situation it is important that we maintain the ability to communicate. I was eventually able to determine that she had plugged it in to charge and at some point it turned itself on. So after a reasonable amount of time, I did what was necessary. I sent a family text asking any & all takers to bombard her with phone calls. She texted me within 15 minutes. I know that was a lil cruel but I did have fleeting moment of wondering if her non-response could be reflective of a serious problem. Nope, just Mom. We Love Her SO!
In similar fashion, she was both impressed by the room and thankful to finally have a bed that did not combo as a large chair. After getting the headache situation under control, I fell asleep…… until about 4:00 AM when the vitals team came in, After she left, I could not go back to sleep and began writing this blog in my head. Then, it came to me…. Hey Dummy, if you get this typed out you may be able to go back to sleep again and you will not have lost the flair of the subject. So, here I am, it is 5:38 AM. The lab Lady will come at 6, so I should probably doze off so she doesn’t miss the opportunity to wake me from restful sleep.
If there is an opportunity for calamity…..we will be in the mix…. WE ARE THE MILLERS!!
TO BE CONTINUED….