Tag Archives: oncologist

A week after

Today is Sunday and my wife and I are preparing to go to yoga. I will probably stop writing soon and finish after yoga. 

Last week I had a bad night. On Saturday my dad held a small family gathering with some distant relatives, people I hadn’t seen in five years the last time and even longer before that. But one of his cousins messaged me she wanted to visit him in his recovery and he was very happy and quickly organized the event. My wife and I had breakfast and lunch with family came too soon. On our way there we stopped to buy tacos for me. Lasagna wouldn’t be good. All the tomato and pasta would be very hard on me. I ate my tacos on a full stomach and I forgot my medicine. My tummy got bloated and at night it attempted to empty in a bad diarrhea that didn’t empty it and made me lose water and electrolytes. Around five I had the tingling in my hands, I took potassium but the way it was, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix it myself without the hospital. I told my wife we should go. We prepared the suitcase. I was scheduled to be there for surgery on Monday anyway. The lump in my neck was found by the CAT scan to be most likely malignant, and my surgeon would remove it on Monday. 

We arrived to the hospital soon and I was in good shape, so we didn’t even use the ER ramp. We found a spot, parked and I walked dragging my wheeled backpack to the ER. Everything was the old routine. I spent a year visiting very often until I was finally able to take a nine month break until now. A nurse came in and left, my wife told me she was the nurse she hadn’t liked after she told her to leave the room while she worked on my arm once, long ago. I think my wife didn’t leave and both stayed uncomfortable, but she did a good job and we forgave her. She peeked and left. Another came in and said hi enthusiastically. I asked if she had worked on me before and she said she did. She hooked me up to the IV line. I told her what I wanted: please do my left arm, not the right one, if at all possible, because I’m right handed. Please do it between the wrist and the elbow, not the back of the hand or the wrist or the elbow, because that’s much simpler to handle. If not possible, do whatever you need to do anywhere, the IV is a priority and I’m a good patient. She looked and looked and finally was able to do it as I asked her. I was very happy. 

I thought it would be routine as most times. The third time I asked to use the bathroom, I felt the tingling starting in my hands. Once I got back to the bed, or as soon as I stood, they would cease, I thought. I was washing my hands and they began cramping. It wasn’t easy to get the soap off when I couldn’t rub my hands fingers of one reaching between fingers of the other. Hands were becoming stiff and tight. I forced them desperately and hurried to dry. I reached for a few paper towels. They became trapped in my hands. The nurse came in, pulled the paper towels from my hands and tore them. She dried my hands with the pieces. My wrists pulled inwards. My arms started contracting as I jumped on the bed and they started to wheel me back. As I left the bathroom I was in pain. Legs and feet were contracting. I heard my name in a cheerful tone and it was my gastroenterologist. I asked the nurse to pour electrolyte solution I had with me into my mouth. I couldn’t open the bottle or hold it. I drank the remainder of the bottle. Back in the room my wife opened another one and emptied into my mouth and then she open a third one and I drank some too. I asked my doctor to put potassium in the IV. My numbers were good, he said, but soon a nurse came in to put a little potassium into me. My cramps were not as tight now. Brilliant! My doctor put a little potassium that wouldn’t hurt a healthy person, but would certainly help. I asked my wife to pull my hands and arms straight. I was in pain! I had been thinking, ok, if I have to die, I will die, but “this is not the way I go!!!” But the cramps weakened. The nurse came back and I asked my wife to take a picture of us together. By then I was already crying, so thankful for being helped with the electrolytes out of the cramps. It was a picture in which she crouched to reach my level and we held both hands tight, I was so thankful!!! Then my inlaws arrived. I cried as I held them as best I could. Then they said they had a room for me. My wife wanted to join me once I was there, but I wasn’t going without her. She came along in the elevator with me. 

The room was new and I was pleased. I started to feel better and better, but I still had diarrhea. I had diarrhea the whole night. I was safe with my IV line. I had a ton of gas in my tummy pushing liquid waste out. I went to the bathroom frequently and my butt felt like a baboon’s! Monday morning I woke up early, pulled out my computer and worked, as always, but at two I quit to try to prepare for surgery. I went to the bathroom and lied on bed trying to get rid of waste and gas. I made progress and I thought I’d be ok. They eventually came to get me and wheeled me out to a room just outside operating rooms. I waited and waited. I fell asleep. I woke up and the surgery hadn’t been done. It took pretty long. My surgeon had been operating in another hospital and they were delayed, and when he came to my hospital the operating rooms were busy and we had to wait. I went to the bathroom before they took me to the operating room. The anesthesiologist, a lady, asked me if I was ready for the welcome cocktail. I said I was, she had her syringe in hand and pushed he plunger into my IV. I don’t remember much after that. I woke up with foggy eyes and the half awake and half paralyzed feeling from anesthesia. I tried to breathe deeper to help get rid of the thing, but it didn’t seem to improve. I had an oxygen mask and they had taken care to cover me with blankets. Somebody came to tell me they had finished and that I had shitted the bed in the operating room, but not to worry because they had cleaned me and placed diapers under me. Oh, I was happy to learn the story, but that’s what I had discussed with a work colleague when he called for help with a case. We laughed and he said not to worry emptying the tummy, just let it all go in there, and that’s what happened. I don’t think I have told him how it ended. 

Next morning was pretty much the same, but I was better. Coming back from surgery I ordered food and ate, and the next day I woke up to work, except that I had a remote training session I had forgotten, and I tried to catch up and connect in time, but I lost time running to the bathroom with my IV pump and then connecting wasn’t immediate. I lost half an hour, and by then they were into questions and comments that just made me lose time. I then tried to catch up, they brought me breakfast and it had to wait until I had everything again under control. After breakfast the nurses wouldn’t give me my Metamucil and my gas-x, because the doctors had left a note for every 24 h instead of after every meal. We had a few fights until they gave it to me, but it was already too late and I wasn’t in the best shape for my surgery. Again, I made an effort to empty my tummy, but felt I could have been better. Time came and I was wheeled out. 

The same nurse was downstairs and she again made a comment about the lotion I had put in my hands. My hands were so dry from washing them too often! They were already cracking. The anesthesiologist came talking on the phone and started preparing things. Then she asked to hold and came to meet me. She asked me if I had liked the welcome cocktail from the day before. I told her it had been a little strong. She laughed and asked if I was ready for today’s, and reached to my IV line with her syringe. I saw and hurried to tell her to wait a bit! I had to go to the bathroom and I hadn’t yet signed the consent forms! She said she’d do it inside and left, picking up the phone conversation on hold. They wheeled me in soon. She now put the injection and they worked on local anesthesia and sedation (the welcome cocktail). I woke up very suddenly as they were finishing up. It was immediate. I think they were seeing me up. I heard them talking and working, and I told them I was already awake. Soon they wheeled me out to recovery and then to my room. My wife wasn’t there but I found my phone and texted her. She was in the restaurant. A friend had driven her to the hospital and they were finishing a meal. She hurried and came to see me. I ordered food. I was hungry. It was a mistake. I ate a lot and had a bad night. 

Next morning, the doctors came early and said I would most likely be going home very soon. Around ten, probably, a doctor came with a nurse to give me my discharge paperwork, and the nurse started to remove the IV line immediately. I called my wife to let her know. I called the insurance office to let them know, but nobody answered the phone. I went to take a shower. This is the best shower, once you don’t have the IV line and are “wireless” and free to move and stay under the hot water. Showers and food is my favorite when I’m in the hospital. My wife arrived and the insurance was still working my release and payment. We fell asleep. When they were done, I went downstairs to check payments. In all, I only had to pay $25.00 USD for a box of gloves the insurance hadn’t paid. This time they even paid the few diapers they used. I was happy. I had asked my wife to park on the fourth floor, which has a direct bridge to the building. Nutrition service arrived with lunch and my wife and I ate it before leaving. 

The tummy has been improving slowly. Diarrhea has decreased to my usual normal, irritation is pretty much gone and I’m sleeping a lot better. Actually, i sleep peacefully as if I were healthy! I don’t feel sad. I have a sense of humor. Today I went to sign a work contract, and in this case I get to earn a bonus just by being in the company in a year and in two years. I need to be alive to earn the bonus. Maybe my wife will keep the money, but I need to make it until then. I also got life insurance. The amount isn’t huge or awesome, but it’s something. I have to rush reading the books I have bought recently, it would actually be sad if I didn’t finish because of lack of time! I don’t know what more I want. Of course, being cancer free would be awesome! I don’t know what my odds are or what an oncologist could expect of my case. I am sure I want quality more than quantity. I am happy with who I am and who I became, and how I led my life. I have already lived ten years more than my mom. This isn’t bad. This has been good and I’m still here and happy. 

At the oncologist

Let’s start this while I wait and see where it goes. My gastroenterologist suggested a tomography because my tummy is hard to tame and I went to the ER about a month ago, and the doctors initially suspected a blockage. I ruled it out immediately because I was pooping a massive flood and the nurses were already tired of wheeling me in my bed to the toilet, as their policy says, but I welcomed the tomography because it’s always better to see and know ahead than just waiting blindly. 

Results came in and there are calcifications here and there, and some could point to tumors, which scares me and makes me very nervous, because I should be clean. It is what it is. Dr. Internet said those things point to old lesions, but I need to hear the oncologist. For now the worst case would be a bad suspicion backed by my CEA marker requiring a PET. I haven’t seen the results of the CEA, because reality is tough, but I already downloaded them and asked the receptionists to print them for the doctor. It’s been a few minutes and they don’t call me yet. Sometimes my doctor arrives late. He once arrived casually for whatever other reason, not remembering my appointment. My wife said she just saw him, so it should be good. I brought the tomography in a USB I copied myself so he can keep it until our next appointment, and I copied the one from last year. I’m a smart patient, is like to say. We also brought mi wife’s laptop in case there was no other way to play the thing. 

I have been thinking a lot about my mortality. I tell my wife that it’s actually good, because if I were healthy and knowing nothing, it would come as a bucket of freezing water, and the surprising shock could be so bad that it can tear people apart. But I know the business I’m in, so the risks are known and I should be prepared to hear the most heartbreaking news, and I dearly hope I won’t. I dearly hope I will live. I dearly hope I will laugh at this when I’m eighty. 

My dad just turned seventy. We celebrated the last couple of weeks. I have him books he wanted and a CD player he needed. We went to a French restaurant yesterday and I enjoyed being with him and my uncles. They really had to be there. My dad lives with one of my aunt’s kidneys, and he has lived like that for about forty years almost. My aunt and my uncle also spent countless hijab Y my hospital bedside when I had my surgeries, and they are so dear to me. My wife, of course, was by my side and she has cared for me, supported me greatly, endured my storms and saved my life taking me to the ER so many times I can’t remember but the last one and the first one. My dad used to be a little sick most of the time when I was a kid, and because of this, I am a little ok with my current situation, far more sedentary than anybody my age. My dad now feels a lot better, and sometimes we talk about my future, wondering if I will feel like he does when I hit seventy. That would be very nice, but for now I am still covering from the heavy downpour that is this quarterly surveillance and uncertainty, I’m trying to do it as best I can. I don’t like the waiting room in oncology. It’s a ton of people and you don’t know anybody. Some women wear scarfs on their heads, and the rest you don’t know who is patient and who is company. When I was in radiotherapy we were an awesome bunch. I used to think of it as “the social club”. We all went there at the same hour every day, and while we were there rather briefly, we got to know each other a little bit. We used to share laughs and wish each other well. Everybody was kind and nice. We also got to see people in really bad shape every now and then, but that was not the norm. We used to sit and chat while waiting our turns. It was rather relaxing and encouraging, even though we knew that everybody was sick and we never knew what was going to happen to everybody. I hope they are around, remembering our “meetings”. 

It was raining outside and we’ve had three power failures already. The emergency power plant comes in soon and we don’t spend long in darkness. It’s now forty minutes after the appointment and we haven’t been called. Maybe the doctor isn’t here, I don’t know. 

The doctor just came in. My wife had mistaken somebody that looked like him, but he just arrived. He didn’t see us in the waiting room, but now he’s calling us in. 

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He looked at it all and decided to measure again in six weeks. The marker is a bit higher, and higher than the maximum safe value. My liquid balance issues make him want to wait this bit more before requesting a positron emission tomography. He looks very, very calm. He says I look very healthy, and I wouldn’t expect to feel any different even if I were starting to get into big trouble, but I do feel assurance. I am happy, even if there’s no reason to celebrate. A “we don’t know” is not a “you are as healthy as when you ran the marathon or when you biked the pacific coast”, but it isn’t a “the ship has sunk” either. We walked out and now it’s dark. I wanted the hot chocolate mexican style they are offering in Starbucks as one of the specials for this season, so I told my wife I’d buy her chocolate. I drank the hot chocolate from there to her car. I opened the passenger door for her, gave her the chocolate and drove off. The chocolate is ok, but it isn’t like the one brought from Oaxaca. It’s pretty good and it was gone soon. My heart is resting. The tension is gone for now. What can I do? The doctor is the one who knows and I never ask them to be simple on me, they know that I will do what they say it’s needed. Why worry? Why not worry? It’s my life what is being gambled, but I put my trust in this man, and he should have a good judgement to guide my health. 

Tomorrow is Tuesday, I will continue to work my shift, and then try to enjoy my time. I am reading a book (this books with 800 pages make me nervous, because as a cancer patient, you’d better hurry to make sure you will finish it!), I started building a plastic model airplane, and we have a young puppy that just became old enough to go out, so I have to walk him whenever possible. The little guy is awesome and keeps me happy. I will enjoy the coming six weeks and I will make an effort not to visit the ER during this time. On Friday I see my gastroenterologist, and I wonder if he will see in the tomography any reason that may explain why my tummy is so difficult and stubborn. I judge these problems outside of the domain of cancer. These problems explain why I have written almost nothing in the past two years. I hope I can write more often.