Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 - The PortaCath

Dear Blogmeister,

Today was the day that I had the
put into my upper chest, just below the collarbone. And what an interesting experience that was... I have a funny feeling I'm going to be experiencing more interesting experiences on this journey I've never been on before. Everyone from the medical profession to those who either have had or known someone who has had one of these devices have told me I'm going to be really glad my oncologist set this up. It will be much more convenient than them having to set up an IV each time I need to get a chemo session... especially since one of the chemo drugs will be dispersed over two days with that little portable pump. One doesn't want to have an IV needle in their arm and try to move around as normal when at home or out somewhere. Then there will be all the blood work that needs to be done before each chemo session... this saves them poking around looking for veins, which is getting harder and harder to find on me as I'm getting older (grin). I swear, when my veins go anywhere near a lab or nurse, they head for the hills, or behind bones... anything to avoid getting poked (grin).

So Maggie the PortaCath is going to be my friend... could be for a year or longer! The IV nurse told me not to be in any hurry to have it taken out once the treatments are finished, on the off chance I need to get more meds, then this device will work like a charm... and it doesn't have to come out since it is quite fine to stay in for years if need be.

Ok... so off I went to the hospital! Word from the wise, if anyone locally is planning on driving to VGH on 12th Avenue... parking is impossible!! They have a nice big parkade across from the hospital, which is filled up by 8:30am. They have another big parking parkade of Laurel St... it too is filled up by 9:00am. So if you are arriving any time after 9am, you are going to have a tough time finding parking. I ended up parking in a lot just off Broadway and about a 3 1/2 block walk to the hospital (hahaha... totally forgetting that when Jo came to get me after the procedure I would have to walk back to the car with her because she wouldn't have known where I parked) (grin). Thank goodness it was a lovely, sunny day today... walking in the rain, to/from the hospital would not have been pleasant.

But hey, the new wing of VGH (Jimmy Pattison Pavillion) is GORGEOUS!! What a wonderful facility and so modern. And, as probably is universal in all hospitals, the staff were fabulous. :)

Luckily, I gave myself plenty of time because I knew parking might be a bit of a problem... and let's not forget, expensive!! I knew I'd probably be at the hospital about 3 or 4 hours... and for that, it cost me $10.00!! Yikes! I think parking alone is going to be the worst part of all this medical attention!!

Ok... jump to the chase. They were right on time and I got in with no waits. Once I was changed and in a bed, the IV nurse came to put an IV in my arm. The IV was for the saline solution, an antibiotic, and the sedation. Sure enough, she had the hardest time finding a vein. Tried 4 different places on my left arm... no luck. Tried to get a vein on my right arm.. still no luck. SOOOOO she had to go for a vein right on the surface of the wrist... probably the most sensitive part of the body when it comes to poking for a vein. OWWWWWWW!!! Did that ever hurt! They had to do that to me in St. Paul's Hospital at one time too... one doesn't forget that kind of hurt (grin). Sooo, I kept reminding myself... that is why I'm getting this device put in... so I won't have to go through that ever again through this journey.

Once I was all prepped with an IV and she had the saline solution dripping and a small bag of antibiotics, the surgeon came to talk to me. He explained what he was going to do and that he didn't foresee there being any problems, but should he have trouble with the insertion into the vein, he may have to go through the neck (again, I had a line in the neck when I was at St. Paul's, which they put in during the surgery). But he said that he probably wouldn't have to do that... but would I sign the consent form, both for the possibility and for the procedure itself of putting the PortaCath in. I signed the form.

He told the IV nurse that I could have some sedation, which I was now looking forward to. It wasn't that I was extremely nervous, but I have to admit, when you are lying on a hospital gurney, hooked up to an IV that is giving you antibiotics for a procedure where they are going to make an incision, it all starts becoming a reality.. and you do get a tad bit anxious. I really want this PortaCath because the last thing I want is 7 1/2 months of being poked and having painful IVs in veins that refuse to co-operate. But it's that being rolled into yet, another, OR that is a little scary.

Once in the OR, they started prepping me... and it was DAMN COLD in there!! I was freezing and there was no warming up! They had this big machine thingie which is like a mini-CAT scanner. This would be used to show where the line was so the surgeon could make sure he gets it in just the right place. Interestingly enough, the OR bed was hydraulic, so the bed would move electronically to be placed in position under the machine, rather than the machine be moved into place.

They also set up a frame work and then draped it, so that, although I was awake, I couldn't actually watch the surgery in progress. Kind of like those TV medical shows when a woman gives birth by Caesarean section... you see her wide awake, behind a draped frame.

Haha... so I was wondering when would they give me that sedative that would put me in la-la land! Finally, just before the surgeon started, the nurse said, "Ok, Cheryl, I'm giving you the sedative now"... and yet, I felt nothing! No sleepy time... no "nirvana". I realized I was no longer anxious, but no "feel good feeling"! So I was totally wide away and very much aware of what was going on.

The surgeon froze the area with needles and a local anesthetic. In all fairness, the freezing was very good. A couple of times I started to feel something, so he gave me more freezing. I did not feel any pain during the procedure, but a lot of pressure and tugging. He was doing a lot of pulling and tugging and cotterizing and I just knew instinctively that once the freezing wore off, I was going to be pretty darn sore. The procedure, itself, was about 45 minutes. The incision was put back together with staples that my GP will be able to take out in 7-10 days.

Back to the holding room where I was given a snack of a turkey sandwich, apple juice and 2 digestive cookies (no eating allowed since midnight the night before). They waited a bit before starting to unhook my IV and take me off the saline drip. Then the IV Nurse, Susan, went over the instructions. In the 24 hours after the device is installed, if I feel dizzy, get chills/fever, have trouble breathing, etc.. I'm to go to the nearest Emergency (St. Paul's). It would mean my heart is having problems with the "foreign object".

Once the freezing comes out, I may find I'm "tender, sore and maybe a little swelling" (her words), so I didn't think anything of it. She also gave me a Medical Alert card that I'm to keep in my wallet to let folk know that I have a PortaCath installed.

By this time, Jo was there to pick me up. So, I got dressed and the nurse gave me m documentation (plus a prescription for Tylenol #3s with codiene) and Jo and I left the hospital. Seriously, I think I would have been able to drive home myself... but legally, I guess because of that sedative that I never did feel, I was legaly impaired to drive. So Jo drove me home in my car... and I felt just fine.

HA! Until the freezing started wearing off. Thank goodness for Tylenol #3s with codiene. I already had a bottle of them so didn't get the prescription filled, but even taking two at a time... well, suffice it to say, I am sore and tender... and swollen (grin). But, that was expected, so no biggie... and it should only last 24-48 hours. I've noticed that, because of the tenderness, I can only raise my right arm about waist high... it will probably be better tomorrow and certainly better by the weekend. Jo took Bridget out for her walkie when we got home. I took her out to the back lane tonight, but realize, at the moment I can't actually take her for a walk, since I'm used to walking her on the right side with the leash in my right hand. Tomorrow morning, Mimi will take her out and we shall see how the afternoon goes.

Soooo, that was my day! Very, very interesting!! And I just know Patti the PortaCath is going to be my good friend! It is because of this device that I won't have to worry about the chemo drugs dripping under the skin (causing burns) or destroying muscle/skin tissue since they will be going directly into the vein. Isn't modern techhnology quite fascinating???


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 - The Queen

Dear Paperless Journal,

Just a small entry for today. It was a very relaxing day today in that I had no medical appointments! Those are always such wonderful days (grin)!!

The forecast for today was clouds and rain, but I woke up this morning to clear skies... and sun! So, first things first... after Mimi and I had a quick visit, I took Bridget out for her morning constitution. Hahaha... I was TOTALLY LAZY and just threw a long coat over my PJs and out we went! Brrrrrrr!! Ok, maybe it was just a little chilly for that (grin).

Came home, got dressed and then went out to run a few errands in the 'hood. Met up with a good friend, Steve C., who I haven't seen in eons! So we had breakfast at a local corner diner and caught up on all the times we've been meaning to get together and haven't. He also told me to put him on my "driver" list for when I will be needing rides to/from treatment... so, yayayaya, I get to add another name to the list :)

Tonight, I SHOULD be working on the Metro Theatre e-newsletter, but alas, I'm not... I'm watching the 2 hours of American Idol where all the guys are singing. Tomorrow night is all the gals. So, let the competition begin!


Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday, February 19th, 2007 - Start of a New Week

Dear Book (grin):

Another weekend slips by and here we are at Monday already! Hey, after a friend (waving to Diane) pointed out that the picture I had up on this blog made me look like a hospital patient and I'm no longer in the hospital, I took it upon myself to change the picture to a more recent one. Hahaha... one I took this morning before I headed out to the doctor's. I figure, I can now change the picture as often as I change moods... why? Because I can!! Hahahaha! So if folk comment on the pictures I put up, your comments will only make sense when the picture you are commenting on is up... then in a blink of an eye, I might change it! That's one of the powers I have as a blogger (chuckle).

So... whaz' up? Nothing too exciting this weekend, but then, it was nice to have a quiet weekend too! On Saturday, I went to the dentist to get the old teeth cleaned and deep root scaling. Once we start the treatments, I can't have any dental work done, so clever me thought, "Aha! I better get that taken care of now because it will be a good 8 months or so before I can go back to the dentist". I was last at the dentist in August, so waiting another 8 months would be a wee bit too long :) Soooo, that's another "do" off the "to do" list. I did go do a bit of shopping Saturday afternoon after the dentist, but alas, only for about 2 hours then it was time to head home since I was starting to fade a bit.

Sunday... well, basically it was a day of rest (grin). It was suppose to be wet, rainy, windy and basically yucky out... but it turned out to be a gorgeous day. I tell you, the weather folk really should look out the window before they make their predictions for the day! I totally forgot it was Chinese New Year (Gung Hey Fat Choi to all of you!!) and would have really enjoyed going down to Chinatown for the huge New Year's Parade. But alas... I totally forgot it was yesterday (and what a beautiful day it would have been for it) until I ran into my neighbour, Trish, who said they had been at the parade. Oh well... maybe next year (grin).

Soooo, last night was spent watching the first episode of "Amazing Race" (I think I may be hoping for Rob and Amber since all the other contestants don't seem to like them) and, of course, "Desperate Housewives". Those gals are insane... but wasn't that something about Orson's mom trying to bump off Bree?? Not to mention.. Gabby and Zack? HELLO?? I think Zack is going to turn out to be quite psycho!!!

Well, today turned out to be a pretty good day after all. It started out somewhat frustrating. The insurance company (Great-West Life) had sent me yet another form that had to be filled out by the doctor and they are saying that the doctor must send all surgical reports, test results, treatment plans, diagnosis/prognosis and whatever other 'osis' reports. They made a point of saying it's my responsibility to get this information to them and the doctor(s) have every right to charge for filling out forms and filing reports, so I would have to absorb the costs myself since the insurance company won't pay for those charges. Sheesh! Whatever happened to compassion for the employee who has an illness that is requiring Long Term Disability?? I swear the insurance company constantly sends out these requests, with the hopes the employee or the doctor screws up and misses something... then the insurance company can deny the claim. But... Dr. Fay came to the rescue! Even though he hates filling out government and insurance forms (I now don't blame him!), he came through like a champ. Not only did he fill out the "assessment" form, he made copies of all the various reports while I was there (I didn't have to come back for them) and he didn't charge me. He never does, but he has the right to if he wants. So I now have all the needed forms in the envelope, addressed, stamped and ready to be put in the mailbox! Another "do" off the "to do" list!

Then there was the mixup/confusion about whether I need a home care nurse to come and pack the part of my incision that is real slow in healing. Dr. Brown (surgeon) had said his office would arrange for home care nursing; his nurse said I didn't need it and could just go to a walk-in clinic when I needed the packing/dressing changed; Dr. Fay was not impressed with that idea; so all last week there was this back and forth, miscommunication and I was without the service. Personally, it was just one more headache, wondering what I should be doing... on the other hand, if this was going to speed up the wound healing, then we needed to get it started. As long as the wound isn't healing, they won't do the radiation. Without the radiation, that ups the risk of a tumour forming on the abdominal wall. Blah, blah, blah.....

Well, today we are all straightened out. Dr. Fay is pleased with how the wound is coming along, even if it is going to be slow. He says that he doesn't think we need to go the home care nursing route... and we'll let nature do it's thing.

So, yayayayayaya... I now don't have to worry about home care nursing, walk-in clinics, or insurance companies!! :)

This afternoon I went to work for a visit (and to use the zerox machine to make copies of all these reports!) It was really great to see everyone again!! Well, most everyone... but wouldn't you know it that I arrive and some are missing -- Dave? Janice? Charmaine? Rob? Hahaha.. I almost thought that hey, I could be back at work... I had a busy morning but still had energy when I was at work. But alas, I was there about 1 1/2 hours and it hit me that I was not only tired, but REALLY tired. And silly me, thinking I was going to include a little exercise with this visit, I parked the car 6 blocks (1/2 mile) away from the office. So not only did I walk the 1/2 mile downhill to work... when I was tired, I had to walk that same 1/2 mile back up hill to the car!! Duh!!! Ok, so I'm not the brightest planner (grin)... and both walks were in the pouring rain, although, I did have my umbrella :)

Oh... and if any of the work gang from across the pond in Victoria is reading this blog, I received the card that you all signed! That was really, really sweet... and made my day! Thank you!! And James... you are my hero this week (ok, second to Hugh Grant (grin)) for fixing up my archived vacation.

That's it for today... hope you all are keeping dry!!!