The Infusion Room

For the last two days I have taken a friend for her chemotherapy at Presbyterian Kaseman Cancer Center.  This is the fifth month of a six month round of therapy.

My friend is resilient, independent and self-sufficient.  She has no choice.  She has no one at home to care for her. Her cancer is stage four.

We check in and go into the center. There is no wait. One of her favorite nurses comes to get her. He brings her into a two recliner room  and inserts her IV catheter. Blood is drawn for the labs. Expertly done.

Next is the weigh in and the doctor’s visit. We have the same doctor. Pleasant man. Today he takes all the time she needs and helps her solve the at home nausea problem and he reviews the labs taken 10 minutes ago.

On to the infusion room. It is a squarish room.  Large windows, mountain view.  Lining the walls are recliners each having an IV pole on a stand with a controller.

The nurse for the day starts a bag of saline running. A warm blanket and pillows appear.  A bag of steroids with nausea medication is hung. Followed by medicine to protect her stomach.

That done the nurse appears gowned  gloved and masked with the first chemo. The infusion is started.  My friend tolerates the infusion. We talk. The oncology dietitian stops by for a visit.  Someone offers us snacks.

I step out for lunch. My friend has a sandwich and a banana. The last bag is hanging.

I am surprised to see that most patients have no one with them to offer support and to while away the time.  I expected someone to be there for each.  Life would be so much better if there were.

Next day was a shorter version of the first. All went well.

Hopefully, her nausea is under control. Today she did express a need for a hamburger. Tomorrow,  if her night goes well, we will stop at Fuddruckers  on the way to our cancer rehab class on managing fatigue.

 

 

 

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Bring out the best you through exercise workshop

Recovering from cancer,  Addressing  the issues

Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital  >>open to all cancer patients>>Wednesdays 1-3>>                        call  505-559-8761 to join group or come to an individual class. FREE and Supportive +++good for any level of ability

10-1-14                                                                                                                                          Lymphedema discussion                                                                                                                             Ada Portman, MPT,CLT and Gretl Bernaert, OTR/L,  CLT-LANA                                                                Activity:   therapeutic exercises

10-8-14                                                                                                                                                               Fatigue and activities of daily living                                                                                                          Overview, management :     Ann Mustoe RN, ONS and Gretl Bernaert, OTR/L,  CLT-LANA                 Activity:    Chair exercises

10-15-14                                                                                                                                                              Nutrition and dietary considerations                                                                                               Overview,:   healthy eating, weight gain/loss Jan Esparza RD                                                                      Activity:     nutrition game and circuit training

10-22-14                                                                                                                                                             Peripheral neuropathy  and cognitive impairment                                                                              Overview, management     Monica Bartley, exercise specialist  and Ada Portman MPT, CLT               Activity:       balance class and cognitive exercise with movement

10-29-14                                                                                                                                                              Long term side effects and exercise                                                                                                           Bone:    Gretl Bernaert                 benefits of exercise                    estrogen blockers                             Activity:  low impact aerobics

All classes also include breathing and stretching and journaling

Cancer story 2

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Ageless, petite, dressed in her usual ankle length tights and colorful full shirt.  Sitting next to me.  Waiting for our turn to get zapped in the radiation room.

She said when her mother died of cancer, she didn’t know how to help.  Now she knows how to help.

She volunteers her hair dressing services to hospice. Very helpful and very satisfying.

She is worried.  Her cancer is progressing.  Who will take care of her hospice patients when she is gone?

I said, “Then, you need to get better so you can continue to take care of them.”

 

Medical staff story 1

 

A sweet little old  Hispanic gal,  fresh from open heart surgery,  finally decided to take a Percocet at bedtime.

Two hours later she coded.   The response was fast as the whole seventh floor was heart staff and always happy to help out at a code.  Revived.  She opened her eyes, looked intently into mine and said ” It was the pill.”

She was moved to the SCC, the ICU for open heart.  I would miss her.  Fortunately for me, I was soon  invited to work in this unit.  I was very happy to be there.

Cancer Story 1

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Perky and energetic, she invested many hours involved in cancer programs.  She exercised, attended support groups.  Kept current with local cancer events .  Was  always happy to share her knowledge.

Her cancer was a lymphoma, chronic.  Always with her.  Always being monitored.  Somewhere in her consciousness, she felt unsettled.  She was sharing her body with an unfriendly stranger.

She took great pride in her children and grandchildren.  And in her husband, a good looking supportive man.

A cruise is planned for next summer.  She is committed and excited about the trip.  Still,  she wonders out loud, “Will I still Be here?”

What happens at a CT scan

purple flowerT-Day

I have to admit I was afraid.  I had set it aside while on my trip. But today was the day. No more ignoring the possibility of more ca.  Today was CT scan day.  I start my day with my normal routine. Thyroid pill.  Load the Starbucks beans. Enjoy as the grinding releases the unmistakable aroma.  Coffee brewing in the dependable Cuisinart.  Check the blood sugar.  Say hello to Max and give him breakfast.  He is busy, but he definitely is not a morning person.

Settle into the first coffee of the day.  Comfy chair.  TJ bouquet is Fall colors. Nice.  Journal out. Start writing.  Write about yesterday. Tough as my RA was flaring again.  Probably because of the 25% cut in prednisone.

Light breakfast.  Need three hours of fasting for this test.  Just make it.

Front Desk Procedure

I arrive at KM Hospital x ray department.  Take a number from the automated ticket dispenser. Sit in a room full of unhappy looking people.  Waiting.  Number called.  Electronic signature times two.  One for permission for treatment.  The other is something about abuse?  My check was less than the test amount.  No problem. I  will be sent a bill.

Next I was sent to see another woman at another desk.  She gave me a form to fill out.  I filled it out and waited until 10 minutes after the appointment time to be called.  Mary she calls. This  new woman did not identify herself.  She asked me for another form.  I did not have it.  She went back to the second woman and got it.  Sat me down in still another waiting room to fill out this form and left.  About 10 minutes later the third (no name) woman returned and led me off.

The Big Machine

The scanner looked like a big electronic donut. I was asked to remove my bra (might wear a sports bra next time) and a dental partial.  Metal.  Was led to a table.  Place for my head. Support for my knees.

An IV was started. (For GI things a drink is given.)  This IV was connected to a fat syringe attached to the scanner.  Head position was checked.  And without a word, my nameless woman left me alone with the machine.

The machine started without warning or pleasantry from the control room.  The machine told me when to breathe and when not to breathe.  I could feel the dye as it entered me and then washed through me as a saturated warmth.  Two doses for two scans.  Quick.

Done

My nameless woman returned.  Removed my IV.  Wrapped the site in a purple stretch bandage.  (I like them.  I feel special like a kid with a super hero band-aide.)  Said I would  hear the results in a few days.  Gave me an instruction sheet not to take my metformin for 48 hours and a card. I finally knew her name as I walked out the door.

Waiting

This is the hard part.  Waiting for the results: what will it be and what will happen next.

After cancer treatment what next?

Surviving Cancer is a tough trip.   After the treatment is done,  before the next tests,  there will Couragealways be the worry that the cancer will come back.  There will be the worry that a new one will soon reveal its ugly form.  After all, the body betrayed itself once.

Then,  after all the dust has settled and friends and family have disappeared back into their own lives,  the long term effects of treatment settle into roost.  Fatigue.  Fatigue and more fatigue.  So common.  So very hard to deal with.  Chemo brain. Peripheral neuropathy.  Feeling fragile.  Being fragile.  Reality.  Then there is the huge financial upheavals.

Maybe a visit to the Caring Hearts Support Group at Kaseman in Albuquerque is in order. This group embodies what human spirit is all about.  A  group sharing a common experience, meeting for a late lunch, a presentation by a medical oncology specialist, time for talking. People who understand your issues and are willing to help.  Be brave come for a visit.

Caring Hearts Support Group meets in six week blocks. This block started last Thursday. On Thursday, 2:30-4.  Lunch is served at 2 and included. The Cancer Center at Kaseman. Open to all cancer patients.  Call Eric at 505-559-8761 for more info.

Cancer Club Thought of the Day: The Doctor Appointment

cancer club thoughts

All of us who have a serious disease that may be chronic or may be life threatening are a little nervous when we go for a doctor’s appointment.  We may get more bad news.  We may have to make another decision.  We may have an issue that requires us to be assertive, like questions about what is going on.

And here we are:   in  The Doctor’s Office. 

I do mean the place they park you after they get your weight.  It’s like being in a foreign land. I was thinking bus station, but maybe not.  There is the familiar computer. The chair for the Doc. The chair for you.  There is the exam table.  The sharps container is on the wall. There is the awful gown you are expected to put on.

First tip

The nursing  assistant takes your temp, BP and and asks all the standard questions.  Have you fallen in the last 30 days?  Do you feel safe in your home?  I do wish they would check the notes from the last visit.  She is only vaguely interested in your responses so  my first tip is to save your energy for the Doc.

Next:   Be a pro

After a few minutes, there is the knock on the door.  Your smiling, energetic doc appears on the scene.  He wants you to have a satisfying  experience with in your 20 minutes and you do have his full attention.  Tip number 2 is to seize the moment and use your time wisely.  You are now on the clock.  Being nervous at this point is easy to understand unless, of course, you are a seasoned pro yourself and know exactly what you want from this visit.

Have a plan

Start with an fact sheet of your health situation.  On it have  a summary of your disorders. For each,  list  date of onset,  dates of surgeries,  treatments,  the drugs that you are taking for each disorder.    RA drugs under the heading of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Breast Cancer drugs under the heading of breast cancer. And so on.  I also have my latest  A1C and new vaccines or tests. This fact sheet is dated and is only changed when something on the list changes. Easy. I keep the sheet  in my purse and in my journal.  I am the  leader of my medical team.  I need to know what’s going on.

It is very important to make a list

The day before my appointment I review my fact sheet.  I make a list of topics I will need to have addressed at my appointment.  I usually use a 4×6 post-it note and attach it to my fact sheet.  I prioritize the list in order of importance. I also add drugs that will need to be refilled.

Your doctor wants to help you

Prepared with  information and an  agenda, plan in place. Pen ready for notes.  My doc can now use his time to help me.  He’s not a mind reader. He doesn’t have the memory of an elephant. But he has much knowledge and can be very helpful if given the opportunity.

 

 

Cancer Club Thought of the day: how about no choice in the matter

cancer club thoughtsCathy, my very dear sister-in-law, and I were having one of our long conversations.  She is in New York.  I am here.  If we were in the same place, we would spend a lot of time together.  She was saying we have no choice but to carry on.  We were discussing difficult times and when someone says, “How’s it going?”,  she says what choice do we have but to say fine because we have to carry on.

Her husband, my brother, died of metastatic colon(appendix) cancer about two and a half years ago.  She’s had a hard time.  They were married over 40 years. They were a good fit.  Being alone has been hard for her. I am always missing my brother so it has been hard for me too.

I have two cancers.  I had to be tested, to have surgery, to have radiation treatments, to have new pills and then more doctors’ visits.  New news is shocking, life changing.  There is the adjustment period. Then  adaptation and just keep going.  With the nature of my situation, I will have more cancers.  I wondered how I will be.  I know now.  I will just proceed through a variation of the above steps and I would carry on.

That is what we all do. We go through the necessary steps and then we carry on.

Everyone says I have a great attitude. I don’t see it as a requirement to being a cancer patient. My attitude is good, in part, because I have had much intense adversity in my life.  I am used to difficult times.  My attitude is good also because I find a great deal of pleasure in the day to day.  I know how to be happy in the present moment, just like a little kid.

I carry on even though I have very difficult times. I carry on because I do in fact love the little things in life. I would miss them to much if I didn’t carry on.

 

Cancer Club thoughts-zoo music

Shaggy bleached blond at 9 years old.  He was on the heavy side but solidly built.  Beat up old sports shirt. He stood solid in his shoes. He knew who he was and where he stood in the world and was fine with it.  He had a sureness about him many adults wished they possessed. He followed the rules. He did ask his mom if it would be okay if he walked around. Off he went with his cousin, a boy who also had a devilish glint.

We are at zoo music. Paula Cole is the entertainment. Lounging in lawn chairs after a picnic of summer delights. Feeling good. Under the trees. On the grass. Surrounded by an amazing supply of people just right for people watching. Good to be with friends.

I just finished my 6th week of Cancer Rehab at the Healthplex. I am stronger. I have better balance. The program is doing what I had hoped. I am rebuilding. I will be healthier or I will have more stamina for the next round. Either way I’ll be better than I was without it.