Posted by: jility | December 10, 2013

Port in a Storm

It was still pitch black outside as I walked up the driveway to open the gate for the Stinkmobile to exit. The steam coming from my mouth as I breathed reminded me how cold it was for Southern California. The stars twinkled brightly overhead and I made a wish on all of them.

The phone alarm did its melodic wakening at 4 that morning. We had to take care of the dogs, get dressed and be out the door before 5 AM. I hate getting up early! Somebody once asked me if I was a morning person or a night person. I thought about it and answered, “Well, I hate getting up early. I am useless after 5 PM. I go to bed between 9 and 10 PM. So, I guess I am a late morning, early afternoon person.”

The drive to USC Norris Cancer Center took about two hours with traffic. It should have taken an hour and twenty minutes with no traffic. It could have been a lot worse! Traffic really wasn’t all that bad for early morning LA.

We parked in the garage off Biggy Street and walked over to the Norris Cancer Center. We always take Isabella and Crushie with us when we go for any length of time. Isabella is almost fourteen and can no longer get in or out of the Global Warmer on her own. Crushie is just a trouble maker and needs a sitter. The rest of the pack stay in the GW and we leave the door open so they can come and go as needed. It is a big ass doggie door.

Before I left, I scattered Easter biscuits to keep them busy, pulled the curtain shut across the top of the door and headed out for my day of torture.

It all started at 7 AM with a blood draw for evaluation. No longer anemic! YEAH!!!! Iron normal YEAH!!!!! Red blood cells beginning to mature nicely YEAH!!!! All but two things back to normal. That is great news as some were WAY out of whack!

Next stop a walk to the HCC2 building (that is what it is called) for surgery to implant a port in my chest for ease of chemo delivery and blood draws. My veins are tiny and difficult to get. Even using baby needles is of no help. The good ones get the blood easily, but hackers end up doing just that! I come home looking like I was in a sledge hammer fight without a hammer! I had one guy in Washington pulling the needle back and forth in my arm a billion times until I finally asked him to try another place!

I arrived at HCC2 about 7:30 for surgery that was scheduled for 10 o’clock. I am not sure why they allowed so much time but they did. Sir Cussalot drove me there and brought his computer to occupy his time while we waited.

He got me checked in, waited a few minutes, then left to take care of Crush and Isabella. He said to text him when they took me back to the room. I sat until about 8:15 when a nurse came and got me. She was very nice and had a thick accent. She later told me she was 61 years old and from Romania. I asked her if she was a gymnast in Romania. She looked at me strangely, then said in disbelief that I even had to ask, “OF COURSE! That is what little girls did in Romania! It was the time of Nadia Comaneci” I smiled.

Now about fifty or sixty pounds on the wrong side of a balance beam, she still was attractive and obviously took great pride in her appearance. Her makeup and nails were perfect. Her red uniform pulled tightly across her very large midsection. She was very nice, very empathetic and very caring.

I so wanted to send Sir Cussalot a text that read Wait until you see my nurse! She was a Romanian gymnast! You see, he has a thing for gymnasts, especially if they are from Romania. Ernie, Jane and I used to tease him endlessly about it all the time because he sat next to one on a plane on one of our trips. He talked more to her than I have ever heard him talk to anyone! I couldn’t believe it. When I teased him about it, he blushed and said she had interesting stories. Ernie was relentless in his teasing. So I couldn’t resist.

Sadly, my gymnast took away my phone so I couldn’t send that text. I smiled every time I thought about messing with his head.

The gymnast, who shall now be known as Nadia after You Know Who, explained the aftercare to Mel. “No lifting anything for a month. No water on the site for FIVE days.” NO this. No that. I asked her if she would write into the contract that I couldn’t feed dogs for a month. Sir C smiled a little but he is so sick of doing my chores. When she said no lifting or heaving anything for a month, I choked up. I had planned to run Pankies after Christmas. I haven’t run her since Labor Day. Clearly that was not going to happen! We have our ritual and it involves tugging her into the ring. She also drags me around when she is excited, so that just was not going to work. <SIGH> Sir C will try to run her, but I doubt she will have anything to do with that plan. She is her mummy’s girl.

They prepped me for the procedure. I had on a gown about eighty sizes too big that kept flopping open. There was a man sitting with his wife in the next bed. I finally asked Nadia to pull the curtain shut by my bed. Maybe he wasn’t interested in my old saggy boobs, but, even with some of the mortifying things I have endured throughout this ordeal, I still have a little dignity left! Sadly, that little bit was about to disappear with the rest of my pride.

Hooked up to an IV, dressed in that ridiculous mesh cap and baggy gown, I asked her to please find Sir C. She went into the waiting room but came back empty handed. So she called him. He had been in the waiting room all along. He just hadn’t heard her call him.

As he walked into the room I said with a smile, “This is my nurse. She was a Romanian gymnast!” He looked at me and said something nice and smiled. He then looked at me and gave me that, OK, you got me smile. We exchanged knowing grins and life went on.

I was second in line for the procedure. They told me the woman in front of me would take about forty-five minutes and I was next. I heard them talking about some dumbass who had eaten a burrito at 5 AM and the doctor was asking how long he needed to wait to do the surgery on him. There was a difference of opinions. Some said six hours, while others said eight. He had a long wait either way! What part of “Eat nothing after midnight” did he not understand?

They kept asking if I wanted anything. They brought me warm blankets that felt great. I finally said I could use another pillow. Well, it seems they were short on pillows so they doubled up the one I had. I hoped this was not an omen of things to come! What if they ran out of drugs????

By the time they wheeled the other woman back to our room, it was 11 o’clock! Finally, about 11:30 my nurse asked me if I could walk over to the procedure room. WTF? They couldn’t wheel me there like most places? I was all hooked up for the love of God! I smiled nicely and kept my nasty thoughts to myself. She was taking care of me and in charge of my night night drugs and the doctor would be cutting on me. I didn’t want them spitting in my open chest or her skimping on my drugs!

They unhooked everything and off I went, holding my ridiculously large gown closed so nobody would go blind with a sneak peek of my saggy old lady parts.

I walked into the room. There was a long narrow table with a ct scan machine above so the doctor could see what he was doing easily. They told me no pillows in that room. I had no blanket, no pillow, my upper body part exposed to the world and the room was FREEZING COLD! The tech, a rather gruff middle-aged man with an accent from someplace and a shaved head, opened what was still closed of my gown and told me he had to disinfect me. Now, most of my life is an open book, but there are still some things I like to keep private. One of those things would be my private parts. No such luck. He flopped open my gown, exposing me for all the world. They placed my hands in restraints so I couldn’t whack a mole during surgery (those of you who read my blog about my abscess will know that I am not beneath smacking a doctor who hurts me!). The restraints were wide soft cuffs. I looked over at my gymnast and said, “I really feel exposed here.” She said, “We are all professionals. Don’t worry.” Professional or not! I FELT EXPOSED BECAUSE I WAS! I was just one in their assembly line of surgeries for the day. I was a number.

As I lay there exposed, the tech began swabbing me like a pig ready for slaughter. What little pride and dignity I had left, was now entirely gone. I have not really cried through any of this cancer crap. I got choked up a few times when talking to a couple of people, but I never cried. I cried more when I broke my knee because I knew I wouldn’t be able to run my dogs. But lying there, exposed to the world brought on a feeling of almost panic. I had lost all control of my situation and was wide awake to experience one of my worst nightmares. There is a reason I don’t wear skimpy or tight clothing, even when I was thin! I choked back the tears and shook my head to answer any yes or no questions. I thought they should have put me out before doing the sterilization procedure. It would have lessened the humiliation, but that is just me. Nadia said some soothing things to me that only made it worse. One thing I really hate is sympathy. It makes me choke up and feel sorry for myself. I told her that it would be better for her to make fun of me than to give my sympathy. She didn’t get it. I tried to explain, but our personalities were just too far off.

FINALLY, the gymnast began administering my drugs: a combo of fentanyl, Versed and Benadryl: a powerful combination that induces a deeply under but still awake state. Better known as “Twilight.”

I drifted off into lala land and didn’t care what they did to me at that point. I am beginning to understand drug addiction! At first, I felt nothing, but towards the end of the hour long procedure, I began to wake up and felt him hammering on my chest, literally! I felt every prick and poke and began to really get uncomfortable. Nadia told me that it was almost over. It seemed to go on forever after that. After some time, the doctor said, “HMM.” I said, “HMM good or HMM bad?” He didn’t answer me! Nadia said it was good and we were done (I am still not sure why he said that).

At least they didn’t make me walk back to recovery. Having only gotten three hours sleep the night before because of worry, I was really tired. I fell asleep for a few minutes, then I just lay there with my eyes closed. I could hear the nurses talking. They wanted to go to lunch, but because I was not awake, they couldn’t. I tried to summon the strength and energy to wake up but it was just too hard. I really wasn’t ready to leave. I dreaded the ride home in rush hour LA traffic with Sir Cussalot at the wheel rushing to get home to the dogs.

At last, after listening to the nurses antsy for me to get the heck out of there, I told them I was awake and ready to get out of their hair. Nadia was very nice and told me to take my time. I really did like her, she was just too sympathetic and empathetic for my messed up psyche.

They fetched Mel and told him to bring the car around. I got dressed and Nadia escorted me out to the waiting room where she left me by the window waiting for Mel. It didn’t take long before I saw him pull up. I made my way through the doors to the Stinkmobile. I opened the car door with my left arm. I guessed my days of having the door opened for me were now over. I was on my own. I grabbed the handle with my left hand and carefully dragged my fat arse up into the seat. The Stinkmobile is very high off the ground. Off we went.

The traffic was heavy, but I was still slightly out of it and didn’t care. We stopped for vegan Chinese food, which I gobbled with gusto. It was late afternoon and I hadn’t eaten since the preceding afternoon.

By now the sun was low in the sky and on its way down. Sir Cussalot said he wanted to get home before dark so the dogs could play and run. I told him that I felt every single bump in the road and asked him to take it easy. He said he needed to get home for the dogs. That showed me where I stand in the big scheme of things! I can’t say that I blame him for being sick and tired of all this crap. So am I. He has gone above and beyond taking care of me for the past few months. As a friend pointed out to me today, this has been hard on Sir C too.

We got to our long and VERY bumpy dirt road. By then the sun was long gone and daylight was about to end and quickly. I asked him to PLEASE not fly down that road. He informed me that it was better to go fast than slow on that road. I just sighed and took a back seat to the dogs’ needs.

When we got home I told him I was not going to get the gate as I normally do. It was too hard and painful to get in and out of the Stinkmobile. He gladly did the gate without even a “HMPH.”

Once home, I climbed into bed, put the heating pad on my tummy and dozed off into a deep sleep.

Thursday we have to do it all over again. I have a cat scan and my first chemo treatment.

Cancer not only can rob people of their lives, it also robs us of our dignity. It is a humbling thing. It has changed me in many ways. Some for the better and some not so much. They say there is a reason for everything, but I am not sure about this one. We are both ready for me to be well and to get on with our lives.


Responses

  1. Hi, I am new to your blog and relatively new to Agility. At my club they say I am not a newby because of my over zealous attack on learning the sport, my standard poodle Irish is just in Masters!
    Nancy Kleinhans turned me on to your blog.
    I understand getting old is hell, I need a new hip which will totally screw up my time line but limping around the ring isn’t very pretty; my boobs don’t bounce as much though.
    You have a lot going on and your blog must be a big helpful distraction! So I thought I might try and distract you a little more.
    I have standard poodles! What do you think, running contacts or target 2 on 2 off? She gives me the paw quite often on the a frame. I swear she doesn’t like yellow; like she is saying “what Yellow”.
    Then the big leap and I swear she is laughing!
    I am as far away from you geographically as I can be living in North Florida.
    Well, when you have time and are up to it give me your thought.
    Hope you are feeling better soon.
    Annie and Irish

    • Hi Annie,
      It is difficult to type much right now, but I will give you a brief answer.
      This is kinda like asking me the meaning of life in a blog comment ;).
      If you are struggling with 2o2o, you will struggle even more with a running contact. They are VERY difficult to train!
      If you know the progression, it is very easy to train a great 2o2o. Running contacts take a lot more knowledge, precision and repetitions to get right.
      The reason most dogs avoid the yellow is that they don’t understand what is expected of them. Also, if the handler gets upset, disappointed or angry, the dog will avoid the yellow even more.
      The key is to make that 2o2o position the greatest place to be through rewards, not intimidation.
      Think about learning calculus. If you are learning it for the first time and your instructor is teaching you in a foreign language you do not understand, how easy would it be for you to learn? Sure there are savants who would not have trouble, but the average person certainly would. Now, if the teacher showed disappoint at your lack of understanding (or anger), how would you feel about learning calculus? I don’t know about you, but I would HATE it! I might not have warm fuzzy feelings about my teacher either 😉
      Hope that helps.

  2. Helen, so sorry you have to go through this. I just found out. Hang in there, and keep your sense of humor. It doesn’t seem right to say this, but I laughed a lot reading this. More than I do with my kids’ essays. Miss you, old friend. I’ll tune in for the next episode.

    • Thanks Sue. I miss you too. I am glad you laughed :). That is why I write.

  3. You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

    Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.
    John Wayne

    I love you, Helen.

    • 🙂 I love you too.

  4. What a totally sucky adventure.

    Well, you sure do know how to have fun ….

    Not a lot of laughter here, I know how much it sucks.. how it feels with hard veins to find,and all the stuff… and I’d like to slap the guy who prepped you . !!!

    I know how hard it is to be feel so vulnerable and have no control… that is the nature of being a patient in the hospital .. it totally sucks.

    What I do admire is your courage and sense of humor , dark as it may become … and I admire Mel for being so strong and walking beside you, day by day through it all. Use your friends to lean on too, you’ve been there for them, now it is your turn.

    My thought’s and prayers are with you … Give ’em hell.

    Well, you sure do know how to lose weight.
    T

  5. Your stories are so vivid, I feel like a bug planted in the room by MI-5. One loses all modesty in the midst of doctors, nurses and hospitals. There are worse things to lose! But you are in no danger of losing your sense of humor. Hang in there, we’re all here pulling for you!

  6. I hope it gets better for you Helen…it was funny to read and I hope you can continue to see the humor in it…Connie

  7. I’ll be thinking of you on Thursday, Helen. Hang in there
    Sending positive thoughts and wishes to you and Sir C …

  8. Helen, beautifully told, deeply felt, those nightmares of being naked in front of the school, or church, yikes. Dignity be damned. But after all, to have the Romanian gymnast nurse, how funny is that. You turned it all into a great story, what a talent.

    • Thanks Margie. I know you would understand! Lizzie too. THat exposure thing is pretty crappy.

      • Absolutely.

  9. Helen, you make me laugh but I know this journey is hard. been down it too many times with friends. I call it the cancer highway. Lot’s of exit and entry ramps. There is the blood draw ramp, the CT scan ramp, the chemo ramp, the exhaustion ramp, the money drain ramp, you name it. Once one gets on that highway you pretty much stay on it. Wishing you the off ramp called “in remission”.

    • Thank you Kitty 🙂

  10. I read your post with empathy – wasn’t too many months ago that I got lucky enough to have a port inserted. It’s so ugly – like a third boob. I haven’t really gotten accustomed to it but we have already nearly ruined my poor veins with chemo…so port it is!

    I’ll be thinking of you on chemo day. I was so curious what that would be like a year ago when I had my first treatment. Sir C may find himself getting to do even more for you for awhile, but it’s worth it. For you and for him. And, I agree with whoever told you how hard it is on him. I’m the cancer patient, not the caregiver, but I know my husband of 39 years is not having an easy time with me being sick (stage 4 lung cancer). I am sure it is the same for Mel.

    I’m not the agility great that you are, for sure, but I can tell you that, despite the chemo, I’ve managed to run in quite a few trials. Sometimes I can only run in 3 events and for only one day, but I am able to get out there and play! You will be able to as well!

    I know you don’t like sympathy and I’m not as sympathetic as I am a kindred soul who understands what you’re going through mentally, emotionally, and physically. You’re doing great … and I can’t wait to keep reading your blogs! You put into words what I felt and feel!

    Hang in there!!! I’ll be thinking of you on Thursday (and because I have great faith, I’ll be offering up a prayer for you as well).

    • Thank you for writing Donna. Here’s wishing the best for you too!

  11. Helen,

    I have never met you but I look forward to reading your blogs. I can tell that I must love you…..from the style and humor that shine through your writing for the rest of us to read. I used to be an oncology clinical nurse specialist and wish I lived closer to you so I could help you with some of this “stuff” you are going through. You show true insight, Helen. Hope to see you at a trial with Mel and the pups before too long…..

    Mary Butler Petaluma, CA

    >

    • Thank you Mary 🙂

  12. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Welcome to my world. Dignity? Out the window. Face it, they try to kill you with really strong drugs, if you survive the assault, you beat cancer. If not- bye-bye! It makes for some great stories, though. I’ll never forget the look on my Onchologist’s face as she pulled dog hair out of my port. I said “I have 7 dogs. Whada ya want?”

    My offer still stands, if you need help please ask. Being the caretaker is harder than being the patient. So, Mel may need a reprieve at times.

    • Great story Eileen! Are you going to City of Industry January 4th? I would love to see you.

  13. The mold was broke after you popped out. The world will be happy when you are back in the ring as will your pups!

    • Thank you Susan. How is that little Poodle of yours doing?

      • You are so nice to ask about Hedy Poodle. She is absolutely fabulous. I could not imagine life without her! Poodles are very special as you know.

        • Some day a big Poodle for you? 😉 Just say the word.

          • Hmmmmm I will keep that in mind!

  14. This is such a horrible thing Helen, but when you tell your stories they actually make me laugh out loud! Like about not wanting to piss off the nurse so she wouldn’t be stingy with the drugs or that the Dr. wouldn’t spit in your open wound! And dad’s right, it’s better to go fast than to go slow on that road 🙂 Love you.

    • LOL I read your comment to your dad. He laughed out loud. 🙂 Fast or slow THIS ROAD SUCKS! 🙂
      I am glad I make you laugh. That is the plan 😉
      I love you too.

  15. Nothing I can say, you said it all. Feel my hugs and send some to Sir. C.
    Love to you!

    Pat

    • Thanks Pat.

  16. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for the “blow by blow” !

    All I can say is “Jesus” !

    I hope you’re going to start feeling better . . . day by day . . . starting tomorrow !

    Ron

    • Thanks Ron. We have been through worse. We will survive this too I am sure of that :). I tease Mel but he is a keeper. He puts up with me.

      • We’ve never met but have followed you for years. Sending prayers.


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