When someone falls ill people seem to channel some sage old woman who encouraged those ailing to rest as much as possible. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people told me to “take it easy” or “get lots of rest” or something to that effect. However, if you’ve ever actually been diagnosed with cancer you know that there is no rest period, because you are constantly running from appointment to appointment – at least in the beginning. My calendar looked like a black out bingo card; there were no open spaces. Now normally I would be ecstatic to have such a booked social calendar, but this was ridiculous. I spent the first month after my diagnosis in my car driving to appointments, in waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, or having some uncomfortable procedure done. And if I wasn’t with my ‘doctor friends’, I was with my family and friends who accurately assumed that social engagements were a necessity after my week of running around.
The running around is all just part of the prep work associated with having cancer. Based on all the appointments and procedures, I would have sworn I was preparing for an apocalypse. After my meet and greet with Doctor J in Boston and Doctor Z in my ‘neck of the woods’, an individualized plan was outlined just for me. I had to have a consult with a Radiology oncologist just in case I needed radiation in the future. Luckily, he looked a lot like Emilio Estevez in his younger years; so despite the fact that I loathed the thought of radiation, going to see him wasn’t all bad. I met with a care navigator, a therapist, and a nutritionist who could all be put on speed dial if need be. I had to have a consult with my trusty thoracic surgeon so he could explain my fancy new titanium mediport that he would be equipping me with the week before ABVD started. I needed an echocardiogram and EKG to make sure my heart would survive the apocalyptic chemo drugs. Also on the list was my most dreaded appointment, the bone marrow aspiration.
Now I have to admit the thought of someone drilling even a tiny hole into my hip bone sounded pretty awful, unbearable even. And when my phone autocorrected Dr. Z to to Dr. Zombie, I was sure it was going to be even worse than I expected. (Dr. Z did not quite find my autocorrect as amusing as I did.) So I arrived at my appointment only to meet one of my new favorite people, Julie. This was our first real meeting and I have to say it was a little awkward since she had to give me a shot right in the ass. Apparently it’s meant to dull the pain. At that point I was thinking this is really going to suck if they are giving me a shot and Ativan to calm the nerves I didn’t know I had. By the time I got to Dr. Z I just wanted to get it over with, considering I was envisioning child labor as portrayed by my middle school health video, that might as well have been a black screen with screams of agony. But I laid down on the bed and braced myself. And then I waited…I could feel the pressure of the drill but it wasn’t getting through the bone. I could hear the frustration in Dr. Z’s voice, he even stated that it was quite the work out. He was sweating, like he had just hit the gym for real. I joked that at least we knew I wasn’t suffering from osteoporosis…and he just sighed at me. It took a little bit more oomph than either of us anticipated but it finally went through and honestly not nearly as bad as i had made it out to be in my mind. I think in some ways it was worse for Dr. Z on that one.
After that experience, everyone knew I was going to be ‘difficult’. And they were pretty spot on with that deduction. For example, my mediport was put in an unusual location, higher on the neck than most, causing crazy swelling and pain which led to a another appointment for a dye study to make sure it worked properly before starting chemo. My blood draws never go smoothly. I usually have to do some form of yoga before it will actually work. Julie usually gets the short straw and is stuck with me and once I think I even saw Susan try the nose game because I’m such a difficult draw. So once all the prep work is complete, you can begin your regularly scheduled programming and things settle down. Up until that point though, that sage old advice of rest is not an option.