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(David Bowie reference)

OncoMan and others have been messing around with my chemistry lately, more so than usual. Now, we have moved beyond trying to barely keep from killing me into barely keeping me from hemorrhaging to death.

It is not his fault, nor the fault of any of the ER docs and nurses. I developed those nasty blood clots, the one in particular, and so they put me on lovenox and coumadin, subsequently took me off of the nasty lovenox (only nasty because of the self-injections…no nasty side-effects for me) and had me taking 5mg of coumadin daily.

Last week they decided I was not up for chemotherapy, because of low platelets again, and because the counts they use to decide if you are hemorrhaging to death or potentially about to do so were really high, and sent me home, inviting me back today for some simple blood work.

In the meantime, they wanted me to take half a hit of vitamin K, in the form of a pill that had been split into two parts. Man, and therefore direction reader that I am, I took the first half one day and then the other the next, thinking I was being a very good boy.

Later my wife would ask where the other half of the vitamin K was and I would proudly exclaim that I had swallowed it, good boy that I am. She would ask if I read the label on the prescription vial, and I would say, no, why?, and she would say, it said to take only one half, and I would say oops!

You know what they say: the road to hell is paved with good intentions? It seems I’ve been laying all the bricks lately.

I did, however, make it to the Chemo Palace today. For a simple piece of blood work, I was told. I got there in good time and was shown right into the lab. They gave me one of those dreaded finger jabs, as opposed to the expected needle in the vein, and I should have been happy, but I have grown to hate those little pricks.

They then sent me back out to the lounge area, where I went into my little corner and wondered why I had to wait: they HAD my blood, didn’t they? What more could they possibly want? Last time I was surprised by THAT answer, I was REALLY surprised, so let’s not go there again. I did not have long to wait in any event.

They called my name (“Mr. Soccerfreaks?”) and I headed back to the nether world with a new nurse, new to me, at any rate.

Now, I should admit right here and now that I got up early this morning to watch some soccer, some women’s soccer, some Olympic soccer, and that I have been getting up early anyway, and that I eventually drank a couple of beers while the USA was making its powerful comeback against the Japanese, realizing that it was well into the evening in Beijing and other parts of China.

I’m not saying that this is a good idea for anyone’s breakfast, nor am I trying to suggest it is a good idea in any case. Shame on me! I am only suggesting that I might have reasons for my subsequent paranoia.

You see, once I got back to the nurse’s area, once she had done my blood pressure and pulse and temperature, she sent me back to the Chemo Room.

This was getting more complicated by the moment, as far as I could tell.

Why I am in the Chemo Room I have little idea. Well, at first I have an inkling. They want to spread some good cheer my way, I suppose. But then time seems to go by. No, actually, time GOES by. My nurse, Ms Pink Panties, is clearly ignoring me, as all of the others, and she is not even looking at my paperwork!

She is sitting right next to me taking some elderly lady’s pulse and blood pressure fairly regularly, which I have not seen before, so I am fine with the wait, do not get me wrong…I am not THAT big a jerk. And that seems to take forever (ok, I AM that big a jerk). But I am fine with that. In fact, I am chatting with the young lady to the left of my chair, who is also, of course, getting chemo. Her left leg is red and I am wondering if it is the result of radiation or sunbathing, but am too old to ask, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

But, I am sociable, I am. I offer to get blankets for people. I talk to people briefly, all over the room. If you are under the mistaken impression that I am wasted during all of this, that is a mistaken impression. I am simply bored. I know I am not at the Chemo Palace for chemotherapy, and for whatever reason that has me hopping, as if, hey, I’m not sick today, I’m not a cancer patient today, how can I help, can I help you, how about you?

Strange, how that happens.

In fact, twice, as new folks come in and they are looking for seats for them, I bounce up and say, hey, this seat is available. The first time, they see another open seat in my area and simply thank me and move past me. The second time, the nurse escorting the newbies asks, oh really? And I say yeah! And my nurse finally acknowledges my existence, not by looking at me or talking to me, but by turning to the other nurse and saying, no, he needs to sit!

I feel like a scolded schoolboy for being so polite.

Meanwhile, time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future (Steve Miller reference, something I swear I thought I’d NEVER do!).

I think we should talk about the value of time for just a moment. How is it that doctors and nurses think their time is more important than ours, when WE are the ones on the chemotherapy? Just wondering.

I have a personal rule, one that I use unless I am incapacitated or in irons or strapped to a gurney, which seems to cover half of my time these days, by the way, and I’m not even including the time in irons: you get 30 minutes, whomever you are, and that is that. That includes doctors, even if it kills me. It probably will. But rules are rules.

There is just so much to say about this that I can’t even begin, I guess, to describe it. For all of this time, I am in tune with all of the people around me, seeing them in their doubt and anguish and fatigue and, yes, hope and humor, too. And I feel so oddly out of place.

I feel so healthy. And to be honest, the longer that time keeps slipping, the surer I am that they are going to come and sit at my chair and give me some bad news, news I would rather take in private. Either that, or they are going to ask if I came to the Chemo Palace with a buzz, neither of which is particularly acceptable.

I must point out one fairly interesting juxtaposition I noted: In chair one, right at the front of the joint, there is a very old black guy. He is wearing black everything, including a black hat, and black sunglasses. The only white thing on him is his sneakers. It is hard to tell who he is looking at or even if he is awake.

Directly across from him is an equally old white guy, equally skinny, equally gnarly in terms of shaving and such and who am I to talk, in denim shorts wearing a camo hat, a hunter’s cap. I don’t want to call him a redneck, because I don’t know the guy, and, in fact, I don’t want to give either one of them the benefit of the doubt OR make negative assumptions either. BUT, all I could think, as I sat there, was how funny it was that maybe two guys who used to hate each other or people like each other were sitting directly across from one another fighting the same battle, or similar ones.

Cancer is an equal opportunity employer. That much is for sure.

I wondered if they ever talked to each other. Probably not. Some things die harder than our very selves, sad to say.

So your hero is waiting and waiting and watching and watching and waiting, and offering to get blankets and offering his chair, and no one, NO ONE, has even spoken to him since he got a seat in Chemo Room.

And that is eerie, my faithful reader! Just exactly WHAT takes that long to figure out after someone has had a tiny puncture of the middle finger (I had to tell two different nurses: this is not a statement, my index finger is infected, and they said, both of them, no problem, Mr. Soccerfreaks, and I thought, well, actually, it IS a statement, but not for you).

All of these people are SICK. And I am not. And I do not want to hear anything to the contrary.

In the meantime, I am taking a chair I don’t need. On Thursday, hopefully (hopefully?) I will need a chair. But not today.

And I am approaching 45 minutes, already 15 minutes past my rule re waiting. And rules, after all, are rules, and I have already broken this one, given them 15 extra minutes.

I have taken off the band-aid that covers my right index finger, the one I managed to find a rose thorn with, a man who simply cannot learn to stay away from thorns, I guess, (I may sue the glove maker – I WAS wearing gloves this time!) hoping that someone will look at it, because I have been directed to make that happen, if you know what I mean and I think you do, but they are shrugging that off, at every stop along the way, from the front desk through the lab, into the meeting with the first nurse, and then in to the Chemo Room. So, this one will go without an analysis today it seems, much to my future chagrin, I am sure.

Rolling the band-aid around for about 30 minutes makes my left fingers gooey, but I do not want to just drop it on the floor, even if I suspect no one will notice. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen on this day, other than getting bad news, which seems likelier and likelier the longer this silence is lasting, is to have someone yell “HE DROPPED BIOHAZARD ON THE FLOOR!”

I finally get up, go up to the trash can near the zombie barrier, and finger roll the band-aid, what is left of it, into the can. My nurse is behind the barrier, talking on the phone, maybe even talking about me (yeah, right!), and so I decide, you know, this is probably as good a time as any to enforce my rule and simply leave.

I leave. I secretly hope that before I reach my car someone will come after me. That does not happen. I am off. I am free, but with the burden of unknowing.

Later, they call me. They ask questions, the answers to which they should already know. They advise me to do what OncoMan had already decided on last week. All, apparently, is good.

I don’t mention the fact I swallowed the second vitamin K hit. They don’t mention that I had some alcohol in my blood stream for this test. We are even, in my opinion, except for the 45 minutes they owe me.

Chemo on Thursday. Woohoo!

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