Strange to say, I am about to spend a second night in the hospital. I'm not sure how much of the story I even remember... It's Thursday and I haven't written since Sunday morning. Let's see...
Monday I went in for my radiation treatment. Four left to go. When I was finished, I could barely stand. I was sweating, weak, and light headed. The docs decided I was dehydrated and gave me two litres of fluids. During the infusion, I was violently sick, so sick that there was blood in the bowl. This scared the living daylights out of me. It was determined that the blood was from my irritated throat and not "frank" blood from a bleed somewhere. We upped my anti-nausea drugs, I went home, and passed out.
Tuesday, three left to go. Same symptoms, minus the throwing up part. More fluids. Doc suspects an infection of some kind. Chest X-ray and Urinalysis both clear. Doc prescribes antibiotic just in case. Mrs P gets to fight it out with the bean counters at Blue Cross who don't want to pay for the drugs the Doc says I need. He changes the script so that they will approve his medicine. Why does this seem backwards to me?
Wednesday, two radiation treatments left to go. When I enter the lobby of the Markey Cancer Center, the lady at the desk jumps up and makes me sit down. She gets a wheelchair and wheels me to the treatment area herself. The tall, handsome preacher jumps up and begins praying over me. Shug fetches me to the back and gets me onto the table for my treatment. Only one left. I can barely make it back into the chair. Shug rolls me out, and Mrs P gathers me up and takes me to the doctors' suite upstairs.
More mystery. More furrowed brow. More fluids. A CT scan is ordered. Somebody wheels me through the catacombs under the hospital to radiology. A nice lady shoots the contrast in through the IV line they've been using for my fluids. The scan takes moments to complete. Someone wheels me back through the tunnels to the doctors' suite again.
When we arrive, all my doctors are waiting for me. They speak in hushed tones. "The scan shows a PE."
"A pulmonary embolism."
I am familiar with the phrase. It was featured prominently on my father's autopsy report. I believe that the next place I go is the state of shock.
Now I'm rolling back down the catacombs, much faster this time. My radiation oncologist is pushing my chair. When we arrive at the emergency room we do not stop at triage. He is pushing me right through, telling the nurse that I need to be admitted at once, rolling me to a room with glass windows and steel fixtures. My God. I've beaten cancer and now I have a blood clot waiting to slip its moorings and kill me.
Doctors are hovering over me. I haven't eaten. I need my pain meds. This one does an ultra sound. A thousand people in scrubs with a thousand clip boards ask me the same freaking questions over and over. Do I smoke? What meds am I on? Oh, I have cancer? What kind? Mrs P looks scared. My oncologist looks scared. I may have shat myself. My nurse is a smart Alec wise guy whose neck I would happily wring except there is evidently something like a live hand grenade nestled between my lungs, waiting to complete its trip from my leg to my heart. Hours pass.
Mrs P calls Mum from outside my room. They find me a bed upstairs. Judge Somebody is on the TV. A sign across the room informs me of my nurse's name and encourages me to have a great day (smiley face). I am not having a great day. I am having the other kind of day.
Someone hands me a phone. It is Mum. I try to convince her that I'm OK. I don't even convince myself .More doctors. Nurses. Clipboards. My nurse sounds lust like Mrs. Swan from Mad TV. I can make out about half of what she says if I concentrate.
Finally pills begin appearing. A few cans of Ensure. Mrs P goes out to get herself something to eat. I am so tired, I can't sleep. To be honest, I'm a little scared to close my eyes.
Once I get some food in me, I feel better. I call Mum and this time we are both a little more convinced. The nurses change shifts and a nurse who reminds me of Kathy Bates takes over. Not scary Kathy Bates, but big, sweet, earth-mother Kathy Bates. Things seem to be calming down. Mrs P goes home. More doctors. More clip boards. The phone rings. It's Ms Something or Other calling in regard to my Bank of Someplace account which is quite a bit past due and how would I like to resolve this account today? I explain that my odds of living till Christmas are so slim that I really don't care how she chooses to resolve the account. Then I hang up and resolve not to do any serious negotiating while on Percocet.
Today is Thursday. A lady I recognize from the radiation waiting room is at the foot of my bed with a wheelchair. I've slept well. She wheels me down to the treatment rooms and I get my last radiation treatment. They give me my mask as a souvenir. I say goodbye to the techs and the preacher and the lovely old lady from West Virginia. No time for sentimental goodbyes.
Back in the room, I feed myself. A young woman offers me a bath. I could use one, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I've never been bathed professionally before. We'll try that tomorrow. Father T visits with me for a while, then we make Eucharist together. It is mete and right so to do.
More doctors. More pills. I'm supposed to be still and quiet. It's a little like balancing plates on your head all day long. Just shut up and don't knock anything over.
Mrs P spent the day in the big chair in the corner. We laughed more today. Laughed and worried. I wished there was room on the bed for her to lie down next to me. She perched up on the edge and fed me instead. Later a nurse showed me how to inject myself with blood thinners. Two tiny needles in my belly. My belly! I could stick my belly with knitting needles with no ill effect. I am very well cushioned down there. Those shots will be a snap.
Our friend Kim stopped by for a visit. I really enjoy her. Kim has a way of following her own bliss, and making the world better in her wake. I'm grateful she shared some of herself with us today. It was a good day for a little gratuitous affirmation of life.
Now it is late. My drugs are kicking in. Blood chemistry changing. Clots thinning. Waiting In Cautious Vigilance. Just doing what they tell me and trying like hell to make sure that old Wile E Coyote doesn't take that one extra step backwards into my inferior vena cava and go tumbling down to the bottom of ventricle canyon.
In other words, I have been charged with the task of living through the night. It isn't very ambitious, but it is terribly focused. That's gotta be worth something, don't you think?
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