Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: VA Hosp (page 2 of 3)

PET/CT Scan

This entry is part 18 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I swear I still have the flavor of the barium sulfate suspension at the top of my throat.

I had to drink 900ML (approx. 30.4 oz.) of it for my PET/CT scan today. My appointment was at ten, but I arrived about half an hour early (’cause I could, since Mom wasn’t with me to complain about arriving too early and having to, oh, dear, wait), and they got me in for the scan a good fifteen or twenty minutes early (because they could since I was there early and the room was available—this is why I choose to arrive early, especially to cancer treatment stuff—earlier in, earlier through whatever procedure it is, earlier on my way HOME End rant).

I told the nurses/techs/not-quite-sure-what-they-were I’d brought a pair of sweat pants because the paperwork I received yesterday stated specifically I should wear loose-fitting clothing without metal. I don’t wear sweats during the day (unless under jeans for warmth in winter), because it’s an important mood boost to dress in day clothes, and sweats make me feel depressed. The techs nodded, saying they understood completely, and led me to a locker room with a single chair in it with further instruction on how I should dress. So, after removing my bra and putting my tee shirt back on, I pulled on my sweats, totally ignoring the hospital pants draped on the chair—which I knew wouldn’t fit, so didn’t even bother trying them on.

When I stepped out, they showed me to a little room with one of our VA’s unattractive recliner chairs. This one happened to be teal, and it had little oblong tables attached to the arms, one of which was covered in what looked like a puppy piddle pad. They laughed when I called it that, and one of the girls said, “yeah, they do look like that.” I sat, the one who I guess must have been a nurse despite her everyday attire covered me up, and the other set out the various accoutrements of an IV line on the right hand (the covered) armrest table. I let Nurse get as far as wrapping the band around my arm before making a comment about it being the arm with the neuropathy, and the one who’d covered me up (who I’ll call Tech) said, “Yeah, that’s the arm she had the surgery on, maybe you want to do the IV in the other one.” So she did, thank goodness.

The IV was quickly placed while Tech went to fetch the radioactive tracer. Nurse injected the tracer, then went around the back of the chair to fetch the two tall bottles of barium sulfate suspension they wanted me to drink (so my digestive tract could be seen better in the scan later), then Tech asked if I was comfortable and told me they’d be back in about an hour and fifteen minutes to take me to the scan.

They left me alone in a dim room, facing a clock which the one recessed light left on illuminated perfectly. I spent the time swallowing the barium sulfate solution, which had a prominent citrusy scent but rather bland flavor either watching the minutes passed or simply sitting still with my eyes closed. At one point, I heard an tone sound, then a male voice declared, “Building One. First Floor. Zone C.” This was repeated over about ten minutes, with the tone then the three announcements. At one point, a guy poked his head in and said, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about, just a fire alarm in another section. It’s probably a mistaken pull or something.” I asked where Zone C was, and he told me down the hall a ways and if it was necessary for me to leave, they’d be by to tell me so, then he left. Not long after that (about a quarter after eleven), Nurse and Tech fetched me to go to the PET/CT machine.

This machine (unlike an MRI machine), has two open ends, and Nurse and Tech had me climb onto the table extended from the “bottom” end, placing my head at the end closest to machine. While Nurse connected my IV to the contrast dye injector, Tech tucked me under more blankets, making sure to snug my feet well. Nurse hooked the tube to the injector around my thumb, then told me to raise my arms over my head. She stepped aside, and the table slid into the machine up to about the point of my neck. A male voice told me to breathe in and hold my breath, so I did, and it was followed by a scan, my body moving deeper into the PET/CT scanner tube. It stopped, moved me back out, and told me to take another deep breath and hold it.

After this second arms-above-my-head scan, The table moved all the way out and Nurse asked if I was wearing a necklace. I was. We got it off my neck, and the scan continued.

The remainder of the scan involved me laying very still, with my arms held to my sides by a large wrap which was connected to the table. It crossed from right to left and was held by Velcro on the left side; the IV tube from the dye injector was still hooked around my thumb, and exited out the “bottom” edge of the wrap, which covered me from abdomen to hips.

Before they injected the contrast dye, Nurse warned me I’d feel a hot flash and have a funny taste in my mouth. “Hot flash” was an understatement. It felt uncomfortably hot, as if I’d been out in the sun on the hottest day, dressed all in black, with a humidity of 100%, only I wasn’t sweaty after. It lasted perhaps five seconds. I didn’t get the funny taste, but the injection of the dye did cause a liquid-at-the-top-of-the-throat sensation and made it feel like as if I’d wet my pants, though I hadn’t. It was the only time I did not feel slightly chilled in that room, because they had fans going to keep the machine cool.

Then they did more scans. At one point, they stopped the table so my head was just at the other end of the tube, and I spent the five minutes my head was right there trying to read the stickers beside each of the three black rectangles—one on either side of my head, one right above me. Since I’m horribly nearsighted, and the print was small, it took me almost the entire time my head was there to puzzle out, “Laser Aperture. Do not stare into the beam,” at which point it made me very glad they hadn’t turned those lasers on. Then again, if those had been on like the ones at the other end, I wouldn’t have left my eyes open (LOL).

Not long after that, they completed the scan and the table ejected me from the “bottom” of the PET/CT scanner. Nurse removed my IV and bandaged me up, and they took me back to the locker room—they had to show me because I was very disoriented after my experience. Tech told me she got confused, too when she first started working. Back in my proper day clothing, I returned to the corridor and Tech showed me the way out, complimenting me on my cooperation.

After the PET/CT scan, I had a quick lunch and went to visit Nyna so she could write out my Chemo calendar; my first Chemo appointment is set for the 19th at nine in the morning after an eight o’clock visit to the lab to draw blood.

Scars and Stuff

This entry is part 15 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I would not have noticed the lump in my breast if it had not been right beneath the skin. In fact, I didn’t notice it for quite a while. The lump seemed kind of large to me, and the fact it had already attached to a lymph node gave me the impression I’d been feeling the lump and assuming it was my nipple being hard for a lot longer than I’d like to admit. I was not doing active breast exams, but I can tell you, finding this cancer has definitely galvanized me to do so.

The lump’s position on my breast was at about ten o’clock when facing the breast, right beside the areola. Now, since the surgery, I can feel the stitches put in to pull the remaining tissue together so I won’t have a void where the cancer was. My nipple is about half-submerged now, due to the pulling of the surgical scar; I don’t know if this will correct itself over time. It’s also a little off-center—my nipple now points in a slightly right-hand direction instead of down. It makes things like folding my arms very interesting now, because it’s right at the point where my arm bends when I do so.

I measured my scars today, too. Just to give y’all some idea what’s there:

I took the remaining steri-strips off my breast scar. It’s approximately four inches long, and is somewhat vertical, edging the areola. It directly bisects the ten o’clock position where the cancer was. A month following the surgery, it is now pink and looks well-healed.

The underarm scar is at least three inches below the point where my arm bends, and is approximately two and a half inches long. A month after surgery, it is slightly purple but well-healed. It feels swollen in that area and higher up under my arm, but it may actually be me feeling interior stitches which haven’t dissolved yet, or part of the neuropathy side effect from the surgery.

Approximately one and a half inches below my underarm scar is the JP Drain scar. This is perhaps half an inch wide and pinkish, well-healed. It no longer itches and when I get goose bumps, it doesn’t hurt as it did before (lots of shivering recently as it’s getting colder).

I have cancer-stuff appointments next week. Tuesday, I’m going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for radiation prep and on Thursday I’m going to the VA for various tests and to see the Oncologists again. I’m not sure what the radiation prep appointment will include, but I imagine it may be an introduction to radiation therapy and a discussion with the doctor about my condition/status. I called the VA to ask what the Oncology appointment would be about and was told I’d get information on Chemo and how to deal with it and that they won’t start Chemo until after I’ve had two or three appointments with the Huntsman Institute about my radiation therapy so they could coordinate care prior to starting it. Apparently, this system is slightly less cumbersome if one is receiving all their cancer care up at Huntsman (LOL).

Side Effects of Surgery

This entry is part 14 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I know one thing which is a side effect—and drives me absolutely batty when I go to bed—is the fact I can’t lay on my right side any more. Trying causes a great deal of pain, in both my arm and the edge of the right side of my back, where some of the numbness crawls around. That spot isn’t bothering me much right now; I can actually feel where my bra crosses the area, and where my shoulder strap comes up back there. Sometimes I can’t feel these things due to the neuropathy. This is a definite side effect of the surgery, because, from what I understand, they had to cut a nerve under my arm, and it apparently affects this area in addition to the back of my arm.

What I’ve noticed just the past few days, as underarm discomfort fades since the lumped-up steri-strips have come completely off the healed-up wound in my armpit, is a bruised feeling which extends down the entirety of my arm from the armpit. There are even some faint bruises, I’m guessing left over from the surgery, because I haven’t done anything or been touched where they are (near the inside of my elbow, and just above). It almost looks like someone grabbed my arm and dug in with the full length of their fingers. It hurts to stretch or raise my arm, but not as much as it did when I had the JP drain in. As I said, just a bruised feeling, and the “no, you don’t want to do that too much” feeling from it.

Good news is that the JP drain entry point is nicely scabbed over, and the surgical wound under my arm is well-healed, though a little purple. The cut in my breast is very well-healed; it’s just a pink line right now, though I do still feel some residual pain if I move it too much or press into it, probably due to the stitches under the skin. Sometimes my breast will throb with pain for a few seconds, but it always passes, and usually happens in response to me doing something to cause it, like press my folded arm against my breast. Some few of the steri-strips have come off my breast, but most are still quite well attached. I may peel them off next time I shower so when I visit the Oncologists again, they can see my skin’s healed up there.

The other day, the I got a call from the VA to set up an echocardiogram appointment. I’m to report for the appointment at ten AM. It’s supposed to be a fasting test, which will just be totally wonderful (LOL), and I’ll get to eat lunch afterward, then go do the blood draw they want. After that, I get to spend about two or three hours hanging about because there’s no point in trying to come home when I’ll have to turn around and go right back up to the VA for my three o’clock appt with the oncologists. I’ll definitely be taking books and music. Not sure if Mom will want to come, but I’m thinking not. If she does, she’ll probably come up just before the Oncology appt so she doesn’t have to spend all day at the VA like me.

Bits and Pieces

This entry is part 12 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I have a few things to say here. May have said some of them before, but I thought I’d try to go into a bit more detail about anything like that.

Such as the numb area of my arm. Today, I can tell it goes around to my back a bit. Its borders back there tend to fluctuate, I think depending on whether or not I’m having other sensations. Like itching. Itching is fun. Neuropathic area itches, reach to scratch, realize area to scratch is actually numb to the sensation of touch, so can’t actually scratch the itch. Sometimes those itches settle in the edge of the numb area, where the one I’m trying to ignore right now is. This is a mild annoyance, and not as traumatic as the sensation of pain which sometimes crawls through the neuropathic area. Sometimes this pain comes on its own, sometimes something I do (usually moving my arm up so my hand is somewhere at head level or above) causes the pain to come. This generally strikes the back of my upper arm, is fleeting, but is shocking at times when I least expect it. Other times, it’ll come in and hover for a while.

Really, I’d rather have this than cancerous lymph nodes.

The steri-strips are still on my armpit and breast. The ones under my arm are peeling off at the ends and bunching up toward the middle, right over the wound from the surgery. I think it’s this which is causing the bruised feeling in my armpit, and the sticky areas keep catching on hair growing and pull it without warning, usually at night when I’m laying on my left side. Move right arm to more comfortable position, pull hair.

This is not to complain, exactly. It’s not that much to have to deal with. Just thinking there might be someone out there who might want to know about all the little discomforts which come with cancer treatments.

Yesterday, I received a call from Robin (a nurse, not Robyn, the Physician’s Assistant who came with my surgeon). She wanted to discuss the order Dr. Weiss, the head Oncologist, put in for something called a “porta-cath.” I think that’s what it was called. It’s something they insert under the skin of the chest for long-term chemo treatments, and she said it made sense they ordered it if I’ll be getting such treatments for a minimum of at least four months. It makes administering the chemo drugs easier and less stressful on the body—she said it can be rough on the veins if doing it through an IV. I have to go in at 7:30 in the morning on the 15th of next month for a fasting lab (whee, no eating/drinking after midnight) and report to the AMU clinic for the porta-cath to be inserted. According to Nurse Robin, they’ll sedate me for the procedure, so I’m going to take Mom with me so she can handle the cab. Also according to Nurse Robin, the sedation will wear off after a few hours and I’ll definitely feel like they’ve done something, but it shouldn’t be too painful. We’ll see about that.

If I find out they’re not doing the chemo long-term, I’m to call and tell Robin, and they’ll arrange to do something slightly different. Something about having a tube hanging out my body, and dressings which need to be changed, with a lot of care required. This enthuses me no end, I assure you, so I’m kind of hoping to do the porta-cath instead.

Robin was most displeased I recalled nothing of this being discussed during my last visit with the Oncologists. I could have heard something about it, and it may not have stuck, but she said it was up to them to make things clear, and she was upset I hadn’t received the printouts they promised. So, I’m kind of hoping my visit with them on the 7th turns out to be nothing more than me getting those printouts and hearing again what they’ll be doing, and maybe getting a firm answer on just how long and how frequently I’ll have to be in for chemo.

Today I got the letter the genetic counselor, whose name is spelled “Anne,” sent me. I’m glad she didn’t take her time about it. I have the distinct impression she got back to her office last Friday, prepared all this, and had it in the mail by the time she left the office for the day.

Some interesting facts from the letter she sent me (I haven’t read the printout from a cancer center’s website she gave me yet. Can’t bear to look at that bit yet).

-Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic (not due to inherited factors).
-Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
-A combination of factors can contribute to development of breast cancer (including smoking, unhealthy living).
-Simply getting older can cause breast cancer—most women who develop it are over 50.
-Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by inherited predispositions.
-Changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 can also lead to an increased risk of other cancers, including ovarian cancer.
-In some families, a specific genetic change can’t be identified, but many members do develop cancer (more than expected by chance). In such cases, it’s considered familial, though they can’t identify the specific cause.

Once again, she iterates I should get the genetic test because of my complete lack of knowledge of health history of my father’s side of the family and my young age (39-40) at developing it. She’s going to call me before the 7th to make sure I do want the test, then put the order in for the blood for it to be drawn at the same time I have it drawn prior to my visit to the Oncologists on that day.

Genetic Counselor’s Advice

This entry is part 11 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Yesterday’s appointment with the Genetic Counselor went pretty well. She previously got what I knew of my family health history over the phone, and that ended up having a bearing on what she ultimately told me.

We had to meet in the Women’s Clinic of the VA Hospital because the genetic counselors don’t actually have offices anywhere in the hospital itself. Though genetic testing services have been offered for about three years to VA health care recipients, their home offices are actually elsewhere in the city. And, Salt Lake City, Utah, is the only place where the genetic counselors actually see the patients they’re assisting. Every other VA health care center in the us offers the genetic counseling, but only by phone.

Makes me happier than ever I ended up moving here instead of Denver, where I originally wanted to be.

I’m not sure how to spell the genetic counselor’s name. It’s either Ann or Anne. I’ll go with Ann for the post and correct myself if I learn differently later.

She took me back to one of the clinic’s exam rooms, and we sat down. We went over my family history again, and I was able to fill in a few more spots about my mother’s side of the family, but could only repeat that my father died of heart problems in his 40’s and smoked and drank. Ann explained that the total blank of history from my father’s side of the family inclined her to suggest I have the genetic test for the breast cancer gene done. She said, combined with my youth—most women get it in their later years—it made getting the test a good idea. It would give me either peace of mind, or enable me to determine a course of action I could take to prevent further occurrences of breast cancer.

In the course of our discussion, Ann told me the test could have three possible outcomes. Most likely would be, No, I don’t have the gene. Slightly less likely would be, Yes, I do have the gene. Third, and least likely of all—at five or less per cent—was I have a mutation on another gene which they’re not sure indicates breast cancer, but it’s cause for concern anyway.

To explain: The two breast cancer genes they know of are brca1 and brca2. There are specific places on these genes which sometimes mutate, providing the possibility for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. There are a few other genes, which she didn’t name, which may cause breast cancer, but they’re still uncertain, so while they do look at these genes in genetic tests for breast cancer, they can’t provide a definitive answer on whether or not a woman will get cancer.

As I said, Ann told me the most likely response would be No, I don’t have the gene, but she said the complete lack of health care knowledge about my father’s side of the family made it a very good idea to get the test.

I opted to take the test. My next appointment, with Oncology, is on the 7th of November, and before I see the Oncologists, I have to have blood drawn and an electrocardiogram done. Ann said she’d put the order for blood to be drawn for the genetic test to be drawn with the other order, and that I’m to expect the results in two to four weeks from the test.

I’m a little scared.

Oncological Update

This entry is part 10 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

My mind is blasted. It started at the VA Hospital today, at my late afternoon appointment with the oncology department. I did not expect this to happen, and I wish now I’d taken notes because I just can’t seem to sort anything out of what I was told.

I’d like to go into what specific chemotherapy drugs I’ll likely receive. Didn’t write any of them down. I do know one is a steroid, though.

I’d like to write about how long I’ll be in chemotherapy. I can’t, though, because I didn’t write that down, either. I do know it’ll be anywhere from four months to at least eight.

I do know I’ll likely be going for chemo about once a month. It’s tentative, but that’s what the head oncologist plans for me. This, I must say, is a relief to hear, and I rather hope it comes true. I’d far rather make one monthly visit for several months rather than two or three visits a month for a shorter period of time. Especially after what I heard about some of the side effects of the chemo medications. He’s going to call someone at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to discuss his plans and see what they say, and I’m glad he’s getting a second opinion. General consensus from the people I spoke with today, including the head oncologist, is that since it looks like all the cancer was removed, they don’t need to do a major attack with the chemo stuff. From what I understand, this is simple follow-up to make sure nothing which may have been left behind survives. My prognosis for surviving this cancer is very good.

I do remember a little about the side effects of the chemo. I’m definitely going to lose all my hair. My eybrows. My eyelashes. I was so far behind on what they were telling me by the time the woman who spoke longest with us got to this part of the side effects that the only question I thought to ask was, “Will my eyelashes grow back?” This makes me laugh now, but I was very concerned about it at the time. As much as it annoys me that my eyelashes brush on my glasses lenses, which then require cleaning, I just could not imagine not having eyelashes.

Oddly, the woman we spoke with longest (who was neither of the two I met last time), told us (Mom was with me) her own mother had recently gone through breast cancer. She said each individual’s reaction to chemo is different, so while she could tell me what most people went through, she said things might not be on the same timeline as theirs, if it happened at all for me. For instance, her mother lost her hair early on, but not her eyelashes or brows until near the end. I might have one chemo treatment and have everything fall out before the next time I go in. She was also able to verify the differences Dr. Savarise told us about—that the energy-sapping effects of chemo may be different for different people—and that I should expect to be tired around ten days following treatments. She said this is because my white blood cell count will drop, and that I should stay at home if at all possible on the tenth day and on days preceding and following it, to ensure I don’t come down with a more mundane illness on top of everything else.

She was also able to tell me that I would most likely experience at least nausea. Vomiting is possible, but she said it’s not as common any more. They include three anti-nausea/vomiting drugs in the chemo treatment (one for short-term prevention of nausea/vomiting, the others for long-term prevention), and I’ll also receive prescriptions for more anti-nausea medications to take at home. She told me it was best that if I woke up the next day with a feeling of nausea I need to take the anti-nausea medication ASAP, to prevent the nausea getting worse, because it’s a matter of staying ahead of it. In addition to the nausea and possible vomiting, I may also experience a lack of taste or food may develop an odd or metallic taste for the day or so following the treatments, but those are temporary.

Basic advice was to try to keep my life as “normal” as possible while undergoing chemo treatments. This means I’m to continue rising at a regular time each day and performing my daily habits. I’m to go grocery shopping (though preferably not around the tenth day after treatments), and I should likely stay home on any square dance night which falls around the tenth day of treatments, to ensure I don’t get ill. However, every other Tuesday of the month, I’m to continue dancing as usual, because keeping spirits up is important.

I’m surprised I remember so much. Anyway, I’ll be getting all this again before treatment, in writing as well as in another discussion.

Next step toward chemo treatment is having a heart test done. Either EKG or the other test (which I’ve forgotten the name of) which was called by a different name. They need this as a baseline because the chemo can affect my heart. I’m to call the hospital tomorrow for my heart-test appointment, and, today, I also had a blood test done, for a baseline reading of everything, which passed.

I hope things go well.

Surgery Follow-Up

This entry is part 09 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Today, I went in for my surgical follow up. Got to see Dr. Savarise and Robyn again, and we discussed a few things, including something they found with my tumor, a DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. As I remember this being described to me, this is basically the precursor to the cancer I had, so it wasn’t unusual to find it. Dr. Savarise went on to explain Chemo and radiation are the methods they use to ensure any other such carcinomas don’t form up into proper cancers. According to him, the next step is traditionally Chemotherapy, then radiation, which, to me, didn’t make much sense until he explained it. Can’t remember his explanation, or I’d repeat it here—I was in no condition (in a hospital gown on an exam bed) to take notes and Mom, who was with me, didn’t think to write anything down except “DCIS.”

Dr. Savarise took out fourteen or fifteen of my lymph nodes, but the only one with cancer was the one they found on ultrasound. This is good, though. It means no more surgery required at all. I can go on to the next step of cancer care without any concerns we’ve left anything undone.

Oh, and I had my drain out today! Yay! It’s such a relief to have it gone. Robyn did the removal for me, and she tried to explain what it would feel like (“a little discomfort with a little pain, but so fast you won’t really be able to register it”), before she did the procedure. To be honest, I was expecting to feel a great deal more than I did. She snipped the sutures holding the tube in place (didn’t feel those being snipped or removed), then she said, “One, two, three and we go!” and I didn’t feel the removal of the tube. I looked at her when she got done and asked, “That’s it? I didn’t feel anything!” She was very pleased to hear that. She and Dr. Savarise bandaged me up (he put the tape on the gauze), and she showed me the end of the tube which had been in me; it’s made of silicone and looked somewhat like a ladder on one side because of all the collection holes.

Both my surgeon and Robyn were quite pleased with my range of movement, but, honestly, I’ve had full range of movement since the day after my surgery. Yes, it hurt the first day after, but I felt confident I could handle it, so I moved normally. Most of my pain and discomfort now come from the effects of the surgery, which I forgot to ask about, and I meant to. However, I have Robyn’s contact information, and I can call her with my questions later.

Busy Day . . .

This entry is part 08 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Yesterday, the 10th, I had a busy day.

My first stop was the VA, where I solved the blockage issue once and for all. I got to see Robyn again, and she spent a good half hour to forty-five minutes with me, helping me clear the blockage in my drainage tube, scrubbing off the adhesive residue from the dressings’ tape, and generally giving me advice and chatting with me. The biggest thing she did for me is show me that the tube isn’t going to break if I squeeze and stretch it with trying to get something down it. She even removed the collection bulb, which I wasn’t aware could be done. After doing that, she checked for infection (none) and scrubbed my skin using adhesive removal wipes. Then, before sending me on my way, she gave me more adhesive removal swabs and various other items I needed.

Another thing she was able to do for me which I think is pretty important was tell me the numbness and phantom sensations in the numb area of my arm are perfectly normal following removal of lymph nodes. She said I’d either get used to it, or I may get sensation back. I’m not too upset at the thought of the neuropathy being a permanent symptom. I’d rather have it than cancer, for one thing. For another, I know I’m not the only one who’s gone through this, and there’s no use getting angry or upset about it. Doing so won’t change anything. At this point, it’s a minor discomfort, not even a concern or irritation. I know why it feels that way, and I’ve been told it may be permanent, so I have all the information I need.

After that, I had lunch, went to my therapy appointment, then headed downtown to do some errands I’d neglected. I didn’t get home until after nine.

Issues . . .

This entry is part 06 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

My first shower since surgery was Thursday, due to the fact my mom couldn’t get over to my place until then to help me remove the bandages and cover the incision area with plastic to keep the drainage tube insertion point dry. I’ve noticed, since that day, a distressing reaction to either having my underarm all taped up or the surgery itself. Part of my right arm is numb, from the underside around to the back. I think this numbness goes onto my back, and I know it extends to an inch or two above my elbow on the back of my arm. I have some minor numbness around the front where more tape was, but my breast has not had this reaction at all, and it was also pretty extensively taped with a bandage of its own. Also, I’ve noticed a propensity for this numb area to itch and tingle, two sensations I have to endure because scratching does nothing whatsoever due to the lack of sensation when I touch my arm.

I, however, do not consider this something to worry about right now. If it’s still bothering me when I have my surgical follow-up on the fifteenth, I’ll ask about it.

What I do find of greater (though not necessarily extremely great) concern is the fact my drainage tube seems to be blocked up. I won’t describe what seems to be in it (it might make you sick), but it definitely fills the tube all the way around. I’ve been trying to squeeze this blockage down on and off since yesterday, and it’s just not working. I’m not greatly concerned yet due to the fact I still seem to be draining . . . through the incision point where the tube enters my body. This is all clear (or relatively clear) liquid, so I’m not staining my clothes. Whatever I wear will just need to be cleaned before I put it on again.

I’m not sure if I should go to the emergency room with this complaint or wait and call on Monday to see someone. Since I’m definitely still draining, I don’t want to cause undue concern. My main issue with it is the fact I’m supposed to be recording the output for some reason, and having my lymph drain the way it is now is preventing that.

There’s also the fact that transit isn’t its best here on weekends, and if I end up hanging out at the emergency room with this late, I won’t be able to get home without taking a cab. I’d really rather not do this because my income is rather limited and I’m having to save up money for the first round of Chemo appointments later on, so I can cover my transportation costs before the VA pays me back for it all.

I’ll have to figure something out. Maybe a friend can drive me to/from the hospital.

Edited to add:

It seems to be draining into the bulb again. I feel no additional pain or discomfort from retention of any fluid, and I don’t see any bloating. Looks like all that tube-squeezing I did worked.

Edited again to add:

Everything seems to be back on track with the drainage system. I had a bit of drainage through the incision where the tube enters, squeezed a few more times, and the blockage is now in the bulb reservoir. I apparently was having some sort of collection of fluid up under my arm, because after the drainage and the blockage moved, I noticed a great relief of pain I’d been having, which I’d thought was due to me moving my arm up and around too much (similar to normal, despite discomfort). Now the pain is gone and movement of my arm over my head is accompanied by the same level of discomfort as it was before the blockage happened. So all is well, thank goodness.

Nano and Chemo

This entry is part 05 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

For the past few years, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nano, where I can be found as Ashe Elton Parker with The Power of Music 3 listed as my project), which happens each November. A few weeks ago, I wasn’t certain I’d be participating due in part to the cancer treatments I’ll be undergoing during that month and in part to the fact I didn’t know what project I’d be writing for November. I wanted something I could either prepare quickly or which was already somewhat prepared and only needed finishing-up in the way of outlining so I could hopefully work in the word count around my chemotherapy treatment visits up at the VA.

Night before last, I started making progress on TPOM3’s outline once more. I’ve also got ideas for how to handle the big major conflict that’s supposed to happen in it, which was primarily what I needed in order to continue with the outline. Now that I have those bits, I can finish the outline, hopefully before the end of October, and be ready to jump into Nano on November first. I’m not sure I’ll be sitting up ’til midnight to start progress on it, but I’ll definitely be doing my best to get words later on that day.

I expect to be starting chemotherapy up at the VA sometime either in late October or early November, so this will have some effect on my writing. I won’t know for sure the start date until the 17th of this month, when I see the Oncologist again. By that time, I’ll have seen my surgeon again and I hope I’ll have my drainage system removed then. Since I expect to be taking weekday-daily trips up to the VA, for two or three weeks in a row for the chemo, I’m kind of hoping they have at least a place where I can hook up my laptop so I can work on my writing. If they don’t, I’ll probably just read, or I may start working on another story I plan to write after Brotherhood is finished.

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