Still the month hasn't totally sucked. I got to see 2 of my grandson's twice. I got to see my son while he was home on leave from Iraq. And he and his wife gave me a car to replace the despairable one that I was driving. I got to help a couple of friends who are having difficult times too.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
It's January, and it's been a difficult one. We have had two winter spells with extreme cold and ice. Kind of a record this far south. And my health has taken a nose dive. It started with waking up in the morning with a red swollen hand. I was sure that it was cellulitis, but my doctor thought otherwise and gave me prednisone for tendonitis. He's a smart doctor, and he was right, but only for a very short time. After that I had my regular visit with my nephrologist. I had to get a metabolic panel done before going in. It came back that my potassium that usually ranges between 3.5 and 4 was up to 8. My smart nephrologist told me that he'd have anyone else in the hospital, but he was sure that it was a bad result. I went in to repeat the test and the phlebotomist that was there wasn't any too happy to see me returning. I don't know if she was upset about having to deal with my crappy veins again or upset because she felt we were judging her work. The next day I woke up at 4:00 am with a very sore, throbbing, swollen and oozing pus left ring finger. My smart doctor was right the week before, but now I did have cellulitis. The second metabolic panel showed that my nephrologist was right, it was a false high, but he said some of the other values weren't as good as he'd like and he'd like to see again in 3 months rather than our regular 6 month visits. The following week, I woke up on Sunday morning with a cold. Then on Wednesday it was time for my physical. It was the third time in three weeks that I was going into that office. He looked at my finger. It is much better. The he told me that I needed to re-do my pneumonia shot and that he'd like me to re-do my bone density test. I got the shot and a slew of blood tests and left. Thursday morning I went to the Women's Center on Pill Hill to get the bone density test. The radiologist told me in the exam that my spine was nice and straight and that was good to hear, but the rest of the test would be sent to my Doctor in three to seven days and I would hear from him. Pretty much what I expected. On Friday my arm was still very sore from the shot and was red and swollen. I called and was told that is was an unusual reaction, but wasn't dangerous. Just take ibuprofen for it and see if it was better in the morning. But then in the afternoon they called to tell me that my test results weren't good. My triglycerides were high and I have a very low level of vitamin d. So I have added two new pills, and maybe another after we get the results of the bone density test.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I read Oncrn's blog today. I like reading her blog even though she doesn't post much anymore. She has a talent for story telling and a deep heart for people. She seems like the kind of person that I'd want for a best friend. In her post Looking she talks about losing one of her patients whom she cared deeply for. But, she also explained eloquently about the collateral damage that cancer leaves in it's wake. It's a subject that struck a cord with me, especially today. I didn't leave a comment on her post because I didn't want to make that poignant essay in anyway about me.
This month has been one of the months that I do every year that have rounds of medical appointments, so the collateral damage that cancer has wrecked on my body has been brought once agian to the forefront of my conciousness. The phlebotomist at my oncologist office explains to me that chemo has left my veins rubbery and harder to draw from, so he uses a green butterfly. He says that it's a pediatric needle. He knows this because he works in an oncology office. But try explaining that fact to the phlebotomist at the lab I go to for lab tests for my nephrologist. She was angry because I wouldn't let her use my left arm for a blood draw, so she left bruises all over my right arm. Because she was so rough getting the blood, she did damage to the blood that caused a false high potassium level and I had to go back 2 days later to have the blood drawn again. She wasn't happy to see me again.
Most people now know when I explain that I have Lymphedema in my left arm that it means the arm will swell with lymphatic fluid and cause me to be susceptable to cellulitis. But I have had to argue with others about whether they can use the arm for medical procedures, people who should know, like nurses in hospitals and at a former doctors office. But try explaining that to the receptionist who wanted to give me an appointment two days away when I called because I developed cellulitis in my finger last week. I had to leave a message with for the nurse who called me back and told me to come in right away. In two days the infection would likely be systemic because the chemo damaged my bone marrow and it didn't fully recover, and because all the lymphnodes in my left upper quadrant have either been removed or radiated, and that leaves me without a fully functioning immune system.
The cancer is gone, but I am susceptable to infections. But try telling that to my brother and sister and the people in my department who refuse to get a flu shot because they think it will give them the flu. Then having the flu, they refuse to stay home with their germs, but would rather infect everyone around them. Since my co-worker in the next cube was oh so important that she couldn't stay home, she spread her cold around. I now have a cold...nice!
My oncologist explained that chemo would likely affect my muscle mass and it would be less likely to respond to exercise. The chemo also put me into early menopause and 90% of women gain weight after menopause, thus breast cancer is likely to make you fat. But try explainig that to my exercise physiologist when he doesn't understand why I'm not gaining muscle mass, but I am losing body fat.
This is just some of the damage. There is a lot more damage that is just too scary to think about. The people who know about cancer know these things, but the rest of the world, not. Most of the time I just accept it, because I know that I don't fully understand the struggles that other people go through too. Still, it was nice to have someone else validate it by explaining it so well.