Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monthly Treatment - 6/9/09

After checking in at the front desk, paying the insurance co-payment, getting weighed (down one pound as I thought, lol), and having my blood pressure and temperature checked, it was time for the usual ordeal - having blood drawn. The nurses always have a hard time drawing blood from my veins. I've been told often that I have relatively small veins, but the nurses always make at least one attempt. I think it stresses them out more than me when they miss the vein, so I try to put them out of their misery and ask them to access my port instead. I'm always asked the same question, "Are you having treatment today?" Yes, I'm having Zometa. They will then proceed to get one of the nurses from the treatment room to come and access my port and fill several small tubes with my blood.

I am then shown to a private room to wait for my oncologist. Today was a short wait, as I had a very early appointment and there weren't as many patients that early in the morning. My oncologist is younger than I am, very professional, and gets straight down to business. I don't mind. She's busy, and I really want to get in and out of there as fast as possible, as it's the least of my favorite places to be.

I am told that my blood counts have fallen again. The anemia has become serious. She looks at the numbers. "You should be at 230 something, but your count is 32." Oh . . . .

Yes, I've been taking the iron pills since my visit last month. No, I haven't had blood in my stool. No, I haven't had blood in my urine. No, I haven't had a period. Yes, I've been tired; exhaustion is more like it. Yes, I've been having shortness of breath.

"We're going to have to start you on a 4-hour IV of iron today." I had been running away from that IV for months, but this time she was not taking no for answer. Nothing else was working. "You're going to feel better." I sighed. That would be nice.

She has decided to wait another month to do the PET and CT scans. I have been having scans every three months for the past year and a half. She thinks that we are at a point where I can be scanned every four months now. That is good to hear, because having scans is not fun either.

"How is the bone pain?" It's about the same, I tell her. She nods knowingly and asks me to hop up on the examination bed. She listens to my heart, feels the lymph nodes in both of my arm pits, and then places the stethoscope on my back and tells me to take deep breaths. First, below my left shoulder. Breathe. Then my lower left back. Breathe. Next, below my right shoulder. Breathe. Finally, down to my lower right back. Breathe.

It's now time to go into the treatment room with the other cancer patients. There are very few of us there today, and the nurses are able to take care of us relatively quickly. I always bring a good book to read, because I never know exactly how long I'll be there. The Zometa is first, and it takes 30 minutes to pump an IV bag into my body through my port. One of the nurses comes over to talk to me about the IV iron. Like everything else, it has all kinds of possible side effects. I will be given a test dose to make sure that I don't have any immediate reactions to it. After the consultation, I sign the consent form.

I then have to take 2 pain pills, because iron infusion may cause body aches. I am also given an IV of antibiotics. I sign another consent form that says I've been advised not to drive for at least six hours, because of possible drowsiness from the antibiotics. We both know that I will drive straight from the hospital to work, but I tell her I'll call someone to pick me up if I need to.

I am also given an IV of steroids. It's a good thing that I'm not an elite runner, winning races all over the country. I would fail the drug test at the end, lol.

All of this has taken up enough time to call my insurance company to approve the procedure. It's a go, and we start the test dose. The nurse inserts a large needle of the dark brown liquid into the tubing leading to the port in my chest. She slowly pushes the liquid through, watching me for any signs of distress from the iron. She asks how I am feeling and smiles sweetly. I pass the test with flying colors.

In between my hot flashes, I am cold to the point of shivering. I ask for a blanket, and a nurse hurries to the back to get one for me. The nurses in the treatment room are wonderful and will bend over backwards for you if they have to. My childhood dream was to become a nurse. I liked helping others and thought I would be good at it. But as I grew older, those dreams changed. Coming here and watching the nurses makes me wonder if I made the right career decision.

They start the 4-hour IV iron bag as I push the reclining chair back so that I can relax. Reading my book, I've dozed a few times, so I'll get a good nap in before it's all over. Ever so often a nurse comes by to see how I feel and if I am tolerating the infusion okay. I feel fine, but I'm getting sleepy. I would wake up when someone's IV timer went off, letting the nurses know that the patient's IV bag needed to be changed. Or it may be the patient's last IV bag, so they are allowed to leave. I would look around the room, notice that certain patients had finished and were gone and other patients had taken a seat to begin their treatments. I would then doze off again. The 4 hours seemed to pass by quickly.

The last timer I heard go off was mine. A nurse came over, removed the bag, flushed my port, and removed the needle and tubing from my port. She placed a band-aid over the pin-point hole and wished me a good day. I proceeded to the check-out desk to arrange for next month's treatment. There was only a mid-day appointment available. It would be busy here that time of day, but I would have to take it. There were no other choices.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it through another treatment. I was headed to work to finish out my day. As I passed the front desk, the lady that checks me in every month says good-bye. I wished her a good day, and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't even know her name.

"You're going to feel better," my oncologist had said. Yes, that would be nice.


  1. Hi Angela,

    You are such an amazing person. And you are handling your treatment with such grace and dignity. What an inspiration you are.

    I will keep my fingers crossed that your Iron treatment will give you more energy and help you to feel better.

    And of course I will hope that you develop so much energy from this that you suddenly are a front runner that gets tested for steriods and then has your 1rst place striped because of your steriod use, but then given back because of the doctors note:-)


    P.S. for people who I run into frequently but do not know their name I give them a name. At Umstead (and several other races with repetition) when I would see some of the aid station volunteers multiple times I would give them a name in my mind. Then I would ask them if their name was "Dan", "Carol" (or whatever I decided they looked like). So far I have not guessed a name but I have told alot of people I think their parents meant to name them XXXX. At 2 in the morning I (and perhaps they) find this conversation very amusing:-)

  2. Tammy:

    I love the name game! If you don't mind, I'd like to adopt it. I'll start with the receptionist that checks me in every month. She looks like "Mary" to me. I'll let you know if I guessed right next month, lol.

    Take care and happy running!

  3. Hi Angela,

    Definitely play the name game. Good luck in guessing correctly.

    I had alot of fun with one of the volunteers at the 24 hour race around the lake in which after he told me his "real" name I could not for the life of me remember it. For the next several hours I would call him "my" name and insist that his parents meant to name him "my" name.

    Good luck at the Midnight Boogie 50 this weekend!