Entry Thirty Six
April 8, 2018
Short entry today. I still have not heard from my oncologist. I can only guess they must be very, very busy at the office, as she has never delayed this long to respond to my emails…
I have not been sleeping well for several nights. I’m in more pain than usual from the Fibromyalgia, Hypoparathyroidism, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Chronic Pain Syndrome. My mind, too, is working overtime to visit me with fears, darkness, worries and a myriad of over things that ruin any chance for a good night’s sleep – and those emotions linger into the daytime hours; like haunting shadows.
Furthermore, I had my monthly blood test done Friday and the results overall were about the same as the time before, but there were a few test results that were the worst they have ever been; which has me fretting and wondering what that may signify.
To top it off, one of my doctors took me off a drug that is prescribed for anxiety and nervousness. I was advised that the drug he removed from my regular medications was not safe to take with another drug I am taking for the same symptoms. Fact is, I’ve been taking both medications, at the same frequency and dose for many years. Why now would this decision be made?
I can only guess that “the powers that be” have deemed doctors must “intervene” and make “safer” choices in what they prescribe for their patients. I can understand that, given today’s more stringent standards for what physician’s should or should not be prescribing to their patients – but, this, to me, is more than disconcerting: Many days I am barely grasping onto my sanity. Having a medication removed that aids in keeping me sound of mind is quite distressing. (And, it was done without advising me first.)
Since yesterday, I’ve not been feeling well. Could be a combination of overthinking about the PET Scan results, the lab results, the cutting off of a helpful medication, not getting any decent sleep, and mayhap, I’ve caught a “bug” of some sort.
A bit of sunshine in the mix: Friday, my weekly IR appointment for ultrasound (which again I ended up waiting almost two hours before being seen) showed about the same amount of fluid, or less, than last time. But, wouldn’t you know it, on Saturday, I began to feel the sloshing of fluid in my left chest. I’m hopeful that the liquid I feel sloshing when I bend down and stand up again, is the “small amount of fluid” that showed in the ultrasound, and nothing more.
I have another IR appointment next Friday, so I suppose I’ll find out what’s going when they do another ultrasound.
Feeling boxed in and frustrated and sad…
Entry Thirty Seven
Note: I wrote this is November of 2009, after my second diagnosis of breast cancer in September of 2009. I was angry. I felt betrayed by the medical protocol I had undergone, twice; when first diagnosed in 2002 and again with this second diagnosis. I felt betrayed by my body, after all I had put it through to rid myself of my unwelcome resident – and yet it returned; cancer. I was hurting emotionally and anger replaced much of the fear I was trying to push away.
Cancer Survivor – Not
You know, I have never felt comfortable using the term survivor, when referring to myself, or any person who has had cancer and is still alive. A “survivor” to my way of referencing the definition, is a person who has escaped from something–an accident, a natural disaster, a plague, and the like – such as a house fire, a tornado, a car accident, a small pox epidemic.
And I do not think a host is engaged in a war, where they “fight” to “wage the battle” against the cancer within their body. The only military-esque similarity would be the weapons used–deadly to what is good and what is bad…
On a more personal level, I look upon my own experience with CA in a different light: my personal perspective definition. I feel more like a domicile–a place where CA had taken up habitation. CA was an unwanted tenant; an undesirable visitor in my abode. And, as directed by established procedure, I went through the necessary steps to evict that resident.
If I am fortunate, the unwanted guest is expelled and I am free of that lodger. But, as may be the record of any dwelling with a history of lives, living and dead, there is usually a good ghost story or two-a haunting, if you will. So, as with many abodes with a few good years on them–the ghost of CA past haunts my home–my body. Moreover, much like the Dickens’ Christmas tale, the ghost of CA present, or the ghost of CA future may visit me. The ghost may decide not to leave, and I am, again, dealing with my unwelcomed inhabitant.
Such is the case now. Two months ago I learned CA has returned to take up residence in my body. I just finished 30 radiation (mis)treatments. In two weeks, I will begin taking chemo–all in an attempt to expel my unwanted guest.
So, do I consider myself a survivor? No, I am more the landlord, the proprietor; haunted by a phantom – the specter of CA; which may or may not take up residence in my abode…
And it is not a war – though weapons of mass destruction are used to rid one’s body of the invasion.
© K. Pippig
Entry Thirty Eight
Note: I wrote this after my first diagnosis of breast cancer – it pretty much speaks for itself. 💖
Hey, Watchya Doin?
More than two decades ago, Paula came to work in the task area where we shared an office.
She had been given the position I had been vying for. It didn’t seem at all fair. I labored to make her feel uncomfortable and unwanted.
But because of her indomitable spirit she kept pressing onward with her positive attitude, generous smile, and infectious friendliness.
But I was not easily won over. I was miserable and worked overtime to counter her goodness.
Deep down I had to admit there wasn’t much about her to not like. She was Pollyanna and I was “The Bad Seed.”
Shame and guilt eventually made me feel loathsome. Perhaps she saw through my bristly facade. I truly hope at the time there was some essence of good that glinted from my soul’s innards. I’m guessing there was and she coaxed that spider silk thread out with her charm and began to weave the web of our friendship.
Understandably, a friendship is a two-way mechanism. A relationship functions best when both individuals proffer the finest qualities from their heart and soul. I had a lot of catching up to do and, consistent with my nature, I extended myself wholeheartedly.
Her friendship was a shining gem that sparkled brightly before my eyes. What she offered was beyond description or value. The bond that two beings can cement which lasts a lifetime… Friendship!
The saying, “Hey, watchya doin’?” became a part of our bitter, joyous, disheartening, thrilling, ecstatic, crushing, and wondrous happenings that living life brings.
Those were the words I stammered the night I drove over to her house and apologized for how I had treated her when we first met, admitting I had been cruel.
I should have gone to her earlier in our relationship and apologized. She never spoke of my treatment of her in those first days. She never told me that my actions had hurt her.
But when I asked her to forgive me she began to cry and all the pain I had been responsible for was etched on her face. She merely nodded.
Then smiled at me.
We hugged and cried together.
I heard those words from her during the rough days when her marriage was falling apart and she needed to talk. When there was a suicide in the family she spoke that phrase through the tear-choked pain of loss.
Though we no longer work in the same area, we still work for the same organization. No matter where the job assignment, stress is part and parcel of the job. And many times we’ve phoned the other with the question, “Hey, watchya doin’?”
We have seen heartbreaking human suffering, abuse, and loss. As much as we might try to “leave it all at the office” we cannot always shove it in the desk drawer, turn off the lights and head home with a peaceful spirit.
It is at such times we have sought solace in each other.
“Hey, watchya doin’?” she said. “Why don’t you come on over tonight for dinner? We need to talk.” I did, and she introduced me to her fiance — a wonderful man who would give her all that she deserved. The joy of a good marriage. She was long overdue!
She has asked me that question when her voice bubbled over with happiness because she wanted to tell me her daughter was engaged. And again, twice, each time she learned her daughter was pregnant.
“Hey, watchya doin’?”
That evening we got together and shared our fears. We were no longer young women and the fast rushing reality of years gone by seemed to hit us at roughly the same time.
“My folks are getting older. Oh, Kathy! I am so afraid of losing them.”
Tears burned hot in my eyes. “Me, too.” My father had died years earlier but my mother and step father were still alive and very much a part of my life.
“Hey, watchya doin’?” I asked one late afternoon. “I just got in from work.”
“Why?” she replied.
Emotion choked me as I tried to squeeze the words past my constricted throat. “I have cancer…”
On another afternoon, when I woke up from surgery, I saw her face. By her side was her youngest daughter. They both smiled tremulously.
Their eyes shimmering wet. Their expressions full of love and hope. They had a gift and a card for me, but to this day I cannot tell you what the gift was, or what the card said.
All I saw was the glow of a loving friendship reflecting back to me — the years we had shared our secrets and hopes, our fears and triumphs.
“Love you!” she said.
“I love you, too.” I garbled roughly through my tears. “Thank you for being my friend.”
Two and a half years have passed since that afternoon. We still greet each other with that old phrase. And every now and then we will say…
“Love you! Thank you for being my friend.”
And when I say those words, I count myself blessed to have your friendship, Paula.
“I love you. Thank you…”
© K. Pippig
Entry Thirty Nine
April 17, 2018
The Last Week
Last Monday I started feeling quite poorly. I hung on, thinking it would pass. It didn’t. On Tuesday, I was extremely sick; non-stop throwing up, blasting headache, terribly weak, and with pain throughout my body. I got very little sleep Monday night and no sleep Tuesday night. By Wednesday, I was so weak, it was an effort to get up from bed and walk anywhere for any reason. It was too much to go to the bathroom to vomit, so I kept a pot bedside. I had nothing to eat Tuesday and nothing Wednesday.
I decided to contact my oncologist about how I was feeling. She recommended I come in that day for an IV fluid infusion. I was not feeling well enough to safely drive myself to the hospital, so I called my mom. She came over right away.
On the way to the hospital, I got a phone call from the hospital informing me my oncologist wanted me to get an EKG prior to the IV infusion. They directed me to head to Cardiology as soon as I arrived, I was then to go to the Infusion Clinic.
I felt just awful and upon entering the hospital, I began crying, feeling so miserable – which is not like me, at all.
Due to some error in registering me into the Cardiology Clinic, by a lady who was new to the department, I ended waiting an hour, even after asking 3 employees at the front desk how much longer until I’d be taken back for my EKG.
The clinic was in the process of preparing to close up for the day when they realized I had not been seen yet. Turns out I had never been registered into their system for my appointment.
Because my EKG was done so late, I was more than an hour overdue for my IV fluid infusion, but they called over and advised the staff at the Infusion Clinic I’d be there soon.
Graciously, the lady helping me and a few other Infusion Clinic staff members stayed late to accommodate me. Bless their souls!
Other than what has been given to me at the times I’ve had surgeries, I have never been to an Infusion Clinic. It was in the same area as Infectious Diseases.
Well, the lady sat me down in a comfy chair. For some reason, I was freezing and asked for a blanket, which she promptly brought. It took awhile to find a vein she could slip a needle into, due to the level of dehydration I was in; but after a couple of tries, she found a suitable vein and got the fluid infusion going. She also added Zofran to the infusion. She asked I I wanted to watch TV. She said it helps block out the sounds and activities going on around a person while in the clinic.
I looked around but didn’t see any TV screens. I asked her if she was serious and she said she was; to which I said, “Okay.” I hadn’t noticed until she swung out a device from the side of my chair and settled it in front of my face: Every chair in the clinic had one of these devices – a TV. She asked if I’d like to wear headphones, which I did. And voilà! TV, headphones. In addition, there was a remote control next to my right hand that I could use to adjust the position of my chair; lie down, sit up, or anything in-between. Nice!
The IV Fluid Infusion made a welcome difference to how I felt, though I was still weak, and had no interest in food. But later that night, I managed to eat, and keep down, a few saltine crackers and a can of Campbell’s Chicken Rice Soup. By Thursday, I felt nearly normal.
April 16, 2018
Monday I had my appointment for my “butt shots” and my visit with my oncologist. The last time I had my “butt shots” they were pretty unpleasant “going in” and I developed an avocado sized lump on the right side that was throbbing sore and lasted over two weeks. I explained this to the nurse who does the injections and she suggested I lie down for the shots (whereas I stood for all the others,) as my buttocks would be more relaxed and the thick (warmed) fluid of the Faslodex injections would go in easier, with less trauma afterward. That seems to have done the trick, as I didn’t experience as much pain during the injection and the resulting lumps from the injections sites are much smaller.
During my visit with my oncologist she seems to feel I had contracted the stomach virus that has been going around. That, combined with my body’s reaction to the Ibrance pills, and the Faslodex injections, was why I had become so ill. She strongly advised that I go in as needed for IV fluid infusions.
She told me she put in an order for me to have multiple visits at the Infusion Clinic and that I should take advantage of them whenever I am feeling weak, sickly, and headachy. She said many of her patients go in for IV Fluid Infusions regularly; some even go in every other day… She commented that she realizes how much I dislike having to go into the hospital, at all, but that I must think of all the appointments and procedures as a maintenance program I must keep up in order to remain as healthy as possible.
April 17, 2018
I have an MRI scheduled for this evening, as I wish to rule out the possibility that the cancer has migrated to my brain… If it shows clear, I’ll know that all my forgetfulness and brain fog will be due to meds foremost; then stress, depression, weariness, fear, and the reality of my situation.
April 18, 2018
I have noticed, over the years, that the negative things that have betided my body, for the most part, have and are happening to the left side of my body. Since I was very little it has been so.
When I was a young girl of elementary school age, I suffered an illness accompanied by a high fever. I awoke during this illness one morning to find my left eye had turned toward the bridge of my nose. Though my eye eventually straightened out to a more “normal” position, I was later diagnosed with “lazy eye” also known as amblyopia.
During my fifth or sixth year of elementary school, I had to wear an eye patch over my right eye, in hopes of straightening and strengthening my left eye. And thereafter, I have had to wear eye glasses. My left eye needs the strongest prescription and the damage to my eye is such that no prescription will ever be able to totally correct the vision in that eye.
In the year 2002, 2009 and 2018 – I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2002, in the left breast. In 2009, in the left chest (breast lymph node) under the sternum and near the heart. In 2018, in the left chest, multiple areas.
Though I’ve had surgery on both knees, it is the left knee that has been operated on twice, while the right knee, only once. Each surgery was to repair a torn meniscus and shave off spurs of arthritis. The orthopedist also re-positioned my left knee cap. My knees are such that all that can be done for them now is knee replacements.
Since the 1990’s I have had a history of falls that I could not explain, aside from just being clumsy and not paying attention to where and what I am doing while walking, running, trekking about while doing yard work, traipsing on unfamiliar terrain, or simply ambling around the house. Some of these falls have resulted in fractured ribs, multiple scraped knees, shins, hands, elbows and injuries to my face.
It wasn’t until just the last two years that I discovered why I have so many falls – I do not pick my left foot up high enough to avoid tripping over things. It has become so bad that I will trip on the mortared cracks between the tiles of our house.
I believe I am just recently finding why – because my left foot is dragging closer and closer to the ground, instead of being lifted up high enough to be safe. Unless I consciously think about lifting my foot up higher than normal, I am at peril of tripping.
When I was transitioning between being a child, to being a teenager – commencing at about the age of twelve – I began to have egregious migraine headaches. They were on the left side of my head. I had them for over a decade, before they began to taper off.
Furthermore, I cannot hear nearly as well out of my left ear as I can my right ear.
My deviated septum is on the left side.
I am right handed, and right footed. Does that have any bearing on why my left side has so many weaknesses, physical and medical problems? Definitely weird and peculiar. I wonder if any research has been done on this?
There has to be a connection! Why hasn’t this been studied by the medical community? Or has it, and I just have not heard about it?