Emergency Port Removal Pt 1
So I was going to chat a little about the whole hair process, but I'm going to confer with a few hair care experts, and then post that in my believers section. I'll also include the latest on options for those going thru chemo and want to keep their own hair, as some new, cool developments & treatments have been approved by the FDA
So , I'm going to move on & lay out what life was like for me during middle leading up towards the end of chemo.
It's late spring and my body was starting to adjust to chemo treatments. After the first horrific introduction, which left me in a mummified state, my oncologist made some adjustments to the treatment regime which led to good results. Instead of the extra slow, stiff as a board mummy circling the aisle at the local supermarket, I rebounded into a semi happy camper who was able to participate in activities that I really enjoyed.
The gym received an occasional visit, and I summoned up the ability to somehow ride my bike. I shopped for summer clothes, snagged new contact lenses, attended a Chaka Khan concert in Prospect Park, tried a new ice cream shop (shout out to the super delicious Morgenstern's in the Lower East Side) and visited the Poconos and Atlantic City. My tast buds even showed signs of life & adjusted just enough that I was able to partake in a few new spots (Blvd. Bisto in Harlem and the Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn).
Signs that trouble was on the horizon began to show slowly, like vines creep up on the sides of a building. A slow, steady, persistent growth, eventually covering up and limiting the light.
The first sign was the day I attended a wellness retreat. At the end of a relaxing massage, light meal and educational forum, participants were encouraged to close out the day with stretches and light excercise. As we gathered in the room and began what was supposed to be fluid, easy movement of the arms side to side in a expanded swaying motion, I tired, literally.
Thinking that I just didn't get the details of the excercise right, I stopped and instructed my body to complete the leaders example and again, the sluggish response. Observing my struggle, the instructor suggested I use a chair to complete the excercise session, and I did. Thinking back on it, the alarm should sounded then, but I attributed my difficulty to participate, my shortness of breath and my lack of energy to after effects from chemo.
The second sign came when I went out to one of my favorite little haunts, to get my party on (I'd stopped drinking & had pretty much cut out all partying). I was getting close to the end of chemo and figured a little night out, would be just the distraction I needed to celebrate. As I danced the night away, my best friend commented on my profuse sweating. Again I attributed th change to chemo and rocking my beautiful lightweight wig. Looking back, the second alarm should have went off, when instead of dancing, I'd take frequent breaks to sit down and rest, something that was definitely out of character for me.
Leading up to my last week of chemo my body was giving clear signs that something was terribly wrong, but because I was totally ignorant to what was going on, my main focus was getting to the finish line at all costs. This singular frame of mind nearly took away something that was the most important. My life.
I had attended my nieces 5th birthday party in her classroom and remember leaving to visit the hospital but somehow managed to return home, knowing that I had a visit with my breast surgeon scheduled on a Monday with chemotherapy ending on that Friday. I spent the weekend resting and sleeping and then when Monday arrived, traveled to see my breast surgeon. It was early June, warm with summer on the horizon. The early morning air was thick, heavy and humid with the distinct odor of cut grass and blooming flowers. As I walked down the block towards my medical facility, I could see everyone whizzing by me, the sidewalk peppered with quick stepping commuters. My walk became slower, my breathe became shallow, and by now warm salty sweat poured down and pooled at the base of my neck. Uncovered by the mini skirt I adorned, my legs began to feel the beads of perspiration slipping quickly towards my ankles and I felt like a human candy bar melting in the heat. I can distinctly remember the concerned glance a porter gave me as he mercifully held the door open, as I sluggishly climbed the stairs at the entrance.
Embarrassed by my appearance, I immediately went to the bathroom to shake out my wig, wipe down my head, and splash cool water on my face. As I plopped down in the awaiting to see my breast surgeon, an eagle eyed nurse, spotted me and observed my apparent bedraggled look. "Karen" she said, " How are we feeling today?" I took a deep breath and responded with a meek comment about the warm, humid weather.
My intentions were to introduce the idea of a mastectomy to my breast surgeon and discuss options, period. I was focused and determined to move forward with my decision. Little did I know this would be the beginning of war, a fight for control of my life, sanity, choices and dignity.
As I sat on the examine room table waiting for my breast surgeon I had an eerie sense of calm. I can remember the cool of the air conditioner hitting my damp warm skin and thinking, "I'm almost at the finish line", with the end of chemo just four days away. I watched as my breast surgeon entered the room and began to flip thru my file, back turned to me, the green surgical scrubs hanging loosely. I commented that I'd took the initiative to leave the car at home and get in an early morning walk before the visit. Continuing to speak with their back to me, my breast surgeon praised my apparent attempt at excercise. File in hand, my breast surgeon turns forward towards me and takes a few steps forward and immediately begins with a concerned rapid fire delivery of questions.
"Sweetie, who is your oncologist?" "Are you having trouble breathing?" "Do you feel like your going to pass out?" Simultaneously as my breast surgeon is asking the questions, my gown is being pulled back and my surgically implanted chest port is being examined. Alarmed my breast surgeon, face showing growing signs of distress, steps back and looks at my eyes and places a hand on my forehead. Then my breast surgeon leans in to take one last look at my face before leaving the room. I lay back on the examining table and listen as my breast surgeon begins to bark orders to staff, any staff that's available and within the immediate vicinity. I'm confused now, and watch as a nurse manager and oncology nurses quickly gather in the room. I continue to listen as my breast surgeons anger and concern begins to rise, as the staff rushes to get water laden cups in hand for me to drink and struggle to get an IV inserted into the right arm. "C'mon" the nurse manager yells the at oncology nurse, we need to get this IV in her and I'm going to call the manager in the ER! I'm still confused and watch as my breast surgeon looks angrily into the room, making sure whatever orders that had been barked out, were specially being followed.
In an attempt to gain control and follow the script I had in my mind,I begin to formulate a question. Suddenly, on cue, my oncologist appears in the room (after being called) and begins to ask questions. She is an island of calm as a whirl of activity continues in the room. My oncologist (I assume) is focused on pinning down the timeline on my breathing difficulties and ask me for specifics. My memory is ok, and provide as much insight as I can to give my oncologist a clear picture. I see my breast surgeon out of the corner of my eye, still angry peeking into the room.
My oncolgist explains that there might be a problem with my port and there may be an infection. I will be sent to the ER for evaluation & testing to figure what is going on. My oncologist leaves the room and my breast surgeon re enters, this time only to write something on my chart. As the IV was finally inserted and I'm about to be moved to the ER, I call out to my breast surgeon and blurt out the reason for my visit. My breast surgeon whirls around and glares at me. "We have no time for that now, we have to get you to the ER!"
Mmmm. It's about to go down!
Next up: My name is Whodini, now you see me....