Monday, March 15, 2010

Life Interrupted

I am now reaching the end of cycle 3 and the supposed half point of this ordeal called chemotherapy.  This cycle has had some new challenges.  I was much sicker during the first two weeks than in earlier cycles. Nausea and vomiting seem to become a constant companion.  Then I woke up last Wednesday with a pain in my right calf.  I thought at first I had somehow pulled a muscle (which is hard to imagine since I do not do any exercise) or perhaps had a form of a charlie horse, which I was getting a lot last year.  But then, I looked down at my right leg and realized it was swollen to twice the size of my other leg.  Time to call the doctor.

I called the number I was given and then was transferred to an automated answering service for my doctor's practice.  Eventually, after telling people that, no I am not part of their clinic but just a regular patient, I talked to a person who took down my name, my symptoms and promised to have a nurse call back.  After a half hour, I decided to do some research on the internet to figure out what this problem might be.  Unfortunately it looked like it might be a blood clot which can be pretty life ending if a piece winds up near your heart.  So after another hour of waiting, I called back the doctor's office and mentioned I was still waiting for a call back.  The person who answered this time said that everyone (!) was at the clinic and I might not get a call back until after 5 p.m., another 4 hours. So I decided to mention that I thought I had a blood clot.  Like Groucho's magic word, the bird came down and a nurse called me back in 10 minutes.  Then I spent the next 4-5 hours getting an ultrasound and being wheeled around the hospital because I could not walk anymore.  Finally after 6 p.m. I saw the doctor on call with the results of the ultrasound--a blood clot that went the entire length of my leg.  They gave me a shot and consulted about whether to admit me but then decided to send me home with a prescription for Lovenox for at least the next 3 months.

So I have been dutifully giving myself these blood thinner shots for 5 days and keeping my leg propped up as much as I can.  However, I still cannot walk so we canceled our end of cycle trip to Santa Barbara, which is our effort to have some normal time during this overwhelming abnormal 5 months. Now instead I am just hanging out waiting for cycle 4 to start this Thursday.  A little disappointing but better than having my heart stop.

I have to keep remembering when I feel sorry for myself that nothing is normal these days and my life has been interrupted big time, that there are far worse things that could happen.  In my own life, there could still be dangerous complications to the surgery, the cancer and the chemo.  And in the past week I have read of the deaths of 2 young women--one a 13 year old who died after being hit by a car and the other a 20 year old college junior who died this weekend for reasons unknown.  These deaths happened to children of people whose lives on the surface seemed perfect.  Both young women attended prominent schools and lived comfortable lives where they could spend their leisure time learning dance or theater.  Each of these children have grieving parents whose lives are now not just interrupted but forever altered.  I think I will call my 20 year old and tell her I love her.