Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bald Is Beautiful

At least I hope so.  The last couple of weeks have been very surreal, the last couple of days have been crazy.

After the ct scan (6th month follow up from radiation) on 2/3 showed an abnormality, Jules and I have been worried but tried to be optimistic.  Then I had to have the biopsy on 2/16 which sort of cemented for me the uncomfortable path that lay before me.

I'd never had a biopsy before and it was a lot more uncomfortable than I had imagined.  It was a CT Guided biopsy, so I prepped just as if it were a normal CT scan only I couldn't eat or drink after midnight, and I couldn't take aspirin or anything that might thin my blood.  That morning I had to pick up barium from the Sibley imaging department, then check in at the admissions section of the hospital.  I think I checked in about 7:30.  Around 8 am I drank the barium and shortly thereafter was moved into a room where I had to take all my clothes off, put on an open-in-the-back gown, and was given an IV line with a saline drip.  Jules and I watched a couple of episodes of Psych via the Netflix app on my iphone, before I was wheeled away (a humiliating experience) from the second floor to the imaging room on the first basement level.

From there I had the first CT scan (lying on my back as is normal) to confirm that the abnormality was still there (it was, I'll be calling it a "node" from this point forward) and I had to roll over onto my stomach (exposing my derriere) and had a second scan.  I was wearing glasses and when I rolled over I took them off, and they had Julie come in and get them from me (she was in the waiting room across the hall).  There were three people in the room (four if you count me), the doctor/surgeon, his nurse/assistant, and the CT tech.  The CT tech was doing most of this initial work, giving me breathing instructions for the scans and marking my back with each repeat scan for the location.  Once they had the general trajectory the doctor stuck a needle into my back to administer the first local anesthetic.  It hurt. 

About 30 second later a second injection which hurt a lot less, but was still uncomfortable as I suspect it went in deeper to anesthetize deep down into the location.  I was extremely tense and uncomfortable, and it was about to get a lot worse.  Almost immediately after the second shot they began the biopsy, sticking the needle into my back which hurt like hell.  Obviously not as bad as without the local, but it was really uncomfortable.  It felt like it was the circumference of a straw, but it was probably only slightly larger than a normal shot needle I couldn't see it being on my stomach and all).  Once the needle was part way in, they did another scan to (I assume) guide the needle to the node that was being biopsied.  Three more times the needle went deeper, followed by a scan.  Each time the pain/discomfort was worse.  The doctor was on my left (the node being biopsied was on my left flank) and the nurse was on my right stroking my forearm and trying to coo reassuring words. 

After the fourth push and scan they were in position and took two samples.  I could hear a loud click as the samples were taken, one after the other.  Each time I could feel a sharp cramping in my gut, which still hasn't completely gone away. Before removing the needle the samples were send up to a lap to make sure they were sufficient, and a few minutes later the needle was out and I was bandaged up.  Julie was allowed in to see how I was doing (I was whispering to her "that hurt like hell, it still really hurts).

I had to roll onto my back back onto a gurney and wheeled back to the second floor for recovery.  This time I asked if I could walk instead, but they told me I could not.  It was about 11 am at this point and I'd had nothing to eat or drink since bedtime.  I was starving and thirst, but had to spend two hours in the recovery room before being send home.  The nurses there gave me some ginger ale and juice, a few crackers and finally a lunch bag.  I ate the crackers and part of the lunch, but it was true to the stereotype, terrible food.

Anyway a few episodes of Psych later (and a lot of "I can't believe this is happening again") we were on our way home.  We picked up Bica from daycare on the way, ate a late lunch at home, and napped.  I went to work the following day (Friday) and around noon got the call that the biopsy had tested positive for cancer.  I haven't been back to work since, and may not go back until treatment ends.

All of this week (after a great three day weekend in Philly with Julie & Bica) have been doctors appointments and tests.  You always hear people complain about being poked and prodded, now I know what they mean and it's no small complaint.  I've had my veins poked by so many needles, had to drink so much barium, had shots full of contrast, been run back and forth through radiation imaging machines, carried around a miniature plastic gas can that was collecting my urine for 24 hours, and have even been injected with radioactive glucose.  Today alone I've had an IV port stuck in my arm for hours while I drank a liter of barium, had the afore mentioned radioactive glucose shot into my veins, then spend 35 minutes lying on a bench being imaged from head to toe.  That was immediately followed by CT scan of my chest (shot full of contrast for that one).  After more than 2 hours at the Sibley Hospital imaging services, I was looking forward to my first food and drink of the day (I'd brought a PB&J and a thermos of coffee), but the bus I take home was at the stop so I hopped on (no eating or drinking on the bus).  Just as I got on the doctor called and wanted me to get a pulmonary function test today if possible.  I had Julie call to schedule an appointment while I was on the bus, they could get me in in a couple of hours.  So I took the bus back to the metro, then took the metro to MD.

It was an unseasonably warm day today so I sat outside on a park bench in front of Tiffany's in Friendship heights, put a spaghetti western on my cell phone via that Netflix app, and finally ate my sandwich and drank my coffee.  It was about 1:15.

At 2:30 I had my pulmonary test (breathing) to get a baseline as one of the chemo drugs I'll be taking can have an adverse effect on your lungs.  My lungs looked great, scored just 2% points shy of 100%, the tech said I could stand to lose a good percentage before being bothered by the drugs (which didn't comfort me, actually).

I got back home about 3:30, got a few wiggles and kisses from Bica, and then settled onto the couch with a beer to finish that Western I had started on my phone.  The home phone got me off the couch though when it started ringing, I have to go to the doctor again tomorrow at 11:30 to get the scoop on my chemo treatment which might start on Monday, the following Monday at the latest.

I think I'll be shaving my head this weekend.  I'm going to feel like Ponyboy from the Outsiders.

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