The Peachfuzz Chronicles

July 28, 2011

Grits and Giggles

Filed under: Uncategorized — by thepluckygastronome @ 3:41 pm

Can I just say we’ve had a helluva week?

Things are calmed down. We know what’s going on and I can go into this week’s chemo rabbit hole worry free. Warning: This is a LONG post.

About a week ago, I developed a pain in the back of my left knee. Being a former competitive high jumper and physical therapist/athletic trainer’s daughter, I figured it was a tight muscle and ignored it. A day or so later, the tightness spread to my upper calf area.  I did the “normal thing” and did calf stretches. Sensible right? A few days later, the tightness incompassed my whole calf. More calf stretches. By the time the weekend came–and isn’t it always on the weekend??–I got out of bed to a searing pain in my leg. Uh oh…

The Dread Pirate Roberts also had a gimpy left leg. Notice how he too, must peg-leg about during sword fighting.

I racheted up the “treatment” with gentle massage and heat. Sunday morning came and I could not walk.  I was hopping around the house like the Dread Pirate Roberts. Just get me an eye patch and a parrot for my shoulder. Argh Matey! By Monday, the swelling and redness emerged. I was now in deep doodoo. It was time to call NancyG, my oncology nurse.

Since I live an hour away from UPENN, Nancy directed me to hobble immediately to the nearest local hospital where she would call in doctor’s orders for an ultrasound.  One of the things that they see quite frequently is clotting or Deep Vein Thrombosis in their clinical practice and you don’t mess around with possible clots. If one of those little suckers dislodges and makes its way to your heart, you are in the deepest of deep doodoo.  My father had leg clots after his colon cancer surgery, and one of the football coaches he worked with for many years was felled by this malady. Daddy was immediately hospitalized and watched like a hawk until they remedied his clot problem. So I took her warning seriously. I knew that if the test showed clots, I wasn’t going home. I would be admitted.

Jim raced home from work and took me in. Happily, the ultra sound was negative and we went home relieved. NancyG told me to keep the leg elevated and we would further discuss when I went in for chemo on Wednesday. I fell into bed and slept like a rock until the following day. Jim worked from home the following day, which was a comfort because the leg got even worse.. I remained elevated and quiet all day. Later that evening, I shooed Jim and Caroline out for a break at the movies. Jimmy stayed on at the house in case I needed anything.

I do not have one of these in-scripted on my chest.

Boy was I glad he was there!  I was jonesing for a couple of those peaches I picked earlier in the week. Thinking I had some sort of “S” on my chest, I got up and peg-legged to the kitchen and started to peel and slice a small dish of peaches. I barely made it.  The pain was so bad I nearly vomited and then got light-headed. “Jimmy, I need to go back to my bed to lie down.”  He made sure I safely got there.  So much for thinking I was one of the “Supers.”  Jimmy was great. He served me my peaches and made sure I got all my night time meds taken.

The following morning, Jim took a vacation day and we began our sojourn at 6:30 am to Philly for the first infusion of round three!  I always meet with the doc prior to the first infusion of each cycle. He didn’t like to looks of my leg. Just to be sure… he wanted to do a full MRI on the left leg after my infusion. Would we be OK with that?  I looked at Jim. “We’re here, for the whole day,” we said. We wanted to make sure too. Especially after our experience with my Daddy. The doc, who always wears really snazzy ties, also had good news:  my bloodwork looked good and my CA-125 dropped into the 20s!  Plus I dropped another four pounds–which I can still afford to lose.

My infusion went well. My chemo nurse Mary Kate is a real “Annie Oakley” with the a needle.  All she needs is one shot to hit the target.  She knows how to wrangle Gromit and always gets him connected in one shot. He has proven to be an elusive little bugger for others. It was about 2:30 when we got done with chemo and we rushed down to radiology  where we would be “fit in” to the line up.

They have a sweet set-up there where you check in with a maitre ‘d type who hands you a clip board to fill out.  Then you wait for your name to be called where you go to one of 8-10 desks where you give all your info and get processed. When I was handed the clip board, I started to sway. They had to go get a wheel chair. I must not have been looking too good. I’m too embarrassed to tell you what I was wearing.  They tell you to wear “comfortable” clothes for chemo. Let’s just say I had that “fresh out of bed” look going–complete with pajama pants.

I looked at the first sheet on the clip board.  “Please list all drugs you are currently taking.” …are you kidding me?  There must be two dozen drugs I am currently taking and they are all in their computer system!  I felt the tipping point of hysteria slowing inching closer. I made a game attempt at filling out the rest of the forms.  I was called to the desk.  “Ma’am,” I said. “With all due respect, I am not filling out this form,” I said sliding it across her desk. “I’ve been here since 7:45 this morning. I confirmed all my drugs at 8:30 with my doctor’s nurse.  It is in your system. You can call upstairs and have someone fax it down for you if you are unable to access it.  I just finished four hours of chemo and I’m at the end of my rope. I hope you understand I’m just keeping it together for one more procedure today.”  Her eyes got a little wide and she got it.  All she asked was for me to confirm my address and birthday. Bless her!

I made it through the next several hours on sheer grit. With Jim banished to the waiting area, I got wheeled to the women’s dressing area, where I stripped my kooky chemo wear and strapped on the required gown–much more fashion appropriate. Then I waited. CNN was on the TV monitor. They tossed the show to anchor Brooke Baldwin at 3 pm.  I watched and waited. My leg was not elevated. Then Brooke started previewing Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room, which I know comes on at 5 pm.  Was I having an out of body experience?  Have I been here that long?  I did a time check. It was only 4 pm. I pulled more grit up from who knows where.  When my time came, I was wheeled to the outside of the MRI suite.  I had to peg-leg inside as the chair was metal.  No metal allowed.

Young son of "Mr. Siemens"

Brigette was my MRI tech. A real sweetie. Bad news:  I had to have another IV because they needed to insert contrast dye into my veins for the study. Hey!  What’s yet another needle?! She too is an “Annie Oakley” and got it in one shot. She got me on the slide and set me up for the tube. She slapped some earphones on me. I requested classical and we were off and sliding.  She began to rev up “Mr. Seimens” and I realized that I couldn’t hear anything in the earphones.”  I asked and she turned it up–but only a little. By then we were off and running. “Bang, Bang, Bang; Rat a Tat Tat Tat; Buzz Buzz Buzz, Ping Ping, Ping,” blasted through the earphones.  During pauses in the imaging, I thought I could hear a Rachmaninov concerto in the background.  Luckily for me, I had listened to some Chopin on my iPod during Chemo so the music was still fresh in my mind.  I had to play some mind games to get through this.  Digging deeper, I brought up more grit and started imagining all the notes in Chopin’s Etude #7.  Too Namby Pamby. I needed something with more horsepower.  So I clicked up Polonaise #5 in F sharp minor. If I remembered every note in sequence I was good for another 10 minutes.

I had pretty good success blocking out the noise of the MRI machine. Brigette’s voice came on telling me I had about 8 more minutes to go and she was going to start injecting the dye. My mind went back on Chopin. With about four minutes to go, I had reached the end.  I began to have the more uncontrollable urge to start laughing hysterically. I started thinking about my situation and all the over the top things that have happened to me recently.  One of the former colleagues called my blog “tragicomic” and that is the thought that just got me started.  The problem was I couldn’t move. My chest started small heaving. I had to dig for more grit to keep still!

Finally it was over.  I managed to get dressed and meet up with Jim in the lobby.  I had been gone two hours. I wanted to hug him and slobber kisses. But I started laughing. Hysterically.  I was out of rope. My Grit was gone and my bestest friend and man that I love was there to pick up the pieces. We were headed back up to the doc’s office for the verdict. If  I had clots, I was headed across the street for a stay at the hospital.  I laughed all the way across the lobby, all the way up the elevator, and was talking a mile a minute.  “You’ve got a wicked case of ‘rachetjaw’ and if you don’t calm down I’m going to have to put you in the ‘quiet’ waiting room.”  Jim teased as he wheeled me to the reception desk at my doc’s office. “She’s baaaaack,” I sang out loud.  Maybe a little too loud.  Jim wheeled me in the quiet waiting room.

It was a good decision.  I was a mess. I started laughing till I cried. I hadn’t laughed like this for a long time. “I can’t believe how much you are talking and everything you are saying sounds like your Dad talking,”

“You’re dang straight!” I retorted. “And his cancer doc said, and I quote, that he was ‘tougher than owl shit’ and I think I earned that status today after how tough I’ve been today!” I peppered my poor husband’s ears with many majestic Marv euphemisms (“My veins are screaming, ‘what the heck??!!’) until he went to the magazine rack and brought me the catalog for the 2011 Philadelphia Antiques Show. I quickly became absorbed.  Does that man know his wife or what?!!

Pretty soon, my Doc’s “Fellow” came out.  He was still waiting on the report.  The radiologist was probably furiously typing it into the computer system. For whatever reason, “Dr. Fellow” couldn’t access it. In about five minutes he came back with the thumbs up.  I was going home!  His Rx:  take baby asprin for the next 10 days and wear a TEDS sock.

“You want me to wear a TEDS sock!!??”  Dr. Fellow instantly made me feel 70 years old. My Dad wore TEDS socks for the last few years of his life.  He whined about very few things but he hated wearing those suckers.  It took two people to hike them up his legs. Plus, talk about ugly.  Daddy must have ordered his from the Frankenstein Goth store.

“What’s a TEDS sock?” asked Jim, recognizing the look of recoiling fear in my face. “They are compression stockings–Thrombo Embolic Deterrent–that help keep fluids from collecting in the lower extremities,” offered Dr. Fellow.

“It’s a DAD sock!” I translated. Jim immediately got it.

Great News! My new pair of Futuro Anti-Embolism Stockings are not Goth at all! I could wear these to a wedding!

“Our nurses frequently wear them when they have long shifts,” offered Dr. Fellow. Obviously he wasn’t familiar with the Roberson family experience with Frankenstein DAD socks.  I was encouraged that I could pick up a TED sock at the local CVS. Surely they can’t be too Goth. With that, we were free to leave.

We pulled out of the parking garage at 5:30. Just in time for rush hour. We didn’t care.  We were going home!  As we pulled off the exit, I got all emotional. First traffic light-green. Second traffic light caught us. Third, fourth and fifth–all green.  We pulled into our neighborhood development and I started to cry. I was HOME!  As Twinkie would say, lots of Aroo’s. I cried all the way into the garage.  Jim turned off the key, helped me out of the car.  I felt enough grit come back to greet the waiting dogs and my kids with a smile.

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2 Comments »

  1. This explains so much. 😦 It doesn’t make the worry less, but it’s nice to know.

    Comment by Marti — July 31, 2011 @ 7:33 pm |Reply

  2. Nick just sent me the link for this blog. I’m procrastinating my internship research paper to really catch up on you…

    If it’s any consolation, I had to wear TEDs on both my legs for about 2 weeks after both my knee surgeries. I know girls currently wearing them to bed now for whatever aches and ailments.

    The silly things. You’re much too tough for TEDs and paper gowns but won’t it be fun to look back and say, “I owned you.” Keep grittin those teeth. One brave chick. Most importantly, be proud of yourself. I have every faith that that alone will be plenty enough to pull you through and so much more.

    Catch up soon!

    Comment by Claire — August 9, 2011 @ 10:39 pm |Reply


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