Ruth's musings

I have been dealing with breast cancer for a while, and have been sharing my journey with friends, family, and prayer partners. This blog brings all my updates together in one place, and leaves me free to muse on other parts of my life. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ruth Update #23.2, sent September 11, at 9:16 pm

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

(This is pretty long. Don't say I didn't warn you. My high school English teacher did accuse me of being wordy!)

Since I have recovered a bit, I will try to tell you all of my adventures in the last few days. I know it was distressing to many of you when I told you that I was going into the hospital with a fever, but didn't give you a whole lot of details. I just wanted the prayers to fire up, and knew that God knew better than any of us what the problem was.

On Thursday, September 7, I went in for a regular chemo treatment. I had an office visit with my oncologist, Dr. Broome, before the infusion. I get my chemo in the same office, so this is handy. While I was talking to her, I mentioned that my hip has been aching ever since she told me that the cancer is still there, though smaller. We agreed that some of it might be psychosomatic, but not all of it. She suggested a drug, Zometa, that has been used for the past five years in many kinds of cancer. It kick starts the bone healing process in people who are fighting mets to the bone. I asked about side effects, and she said there were none, as long as I didn't have any major dental work done. It could contribute to osteonecrosis of the jaw. In other words, bone death in the jaw. I assured her that my dental work was caught up for now, having just gotten a new crown. So, we elected to add the Zometa, a once-a-month IV drug. It was infused while we were waiting for my Abraxane to dissolve. The visit was uneventful, and I stopped at Wendy's on the way back to work to grab some lunch. I got the bulletin printed, and looked with dismay at the work I would have to put off until Friday. I had missed quite a bit of work already this week due to a funeral, a dental appointment, and taking Matt to the nurse practitioner with sniffles and a fever. His diagnosis was a cold.

Thursday afternoon, I was feeling kind of lousy. This feeling doesn't usually set in until Friday afternoon. Paul had a 7:30 pm meeting, so he got dinner on the table -- steak, rice, veggies. He left for the meeting, and I started clearing the table so Timmy could do homework. While doing this, I started getting chills. Not a good sign. I had chills like this when in Kenya. It meant I had a fast-rising fever, usually malaria or salmonella or something. I was pretty sure this wasn't it. I got Timmy started on the home work and dressed up in my warmest hooded sweatshirt and my self-knitted "terrible tube socks." They are ugly, but they're warm! The boys saw me getting sicker and were pretty worried. I kept expecting Paul to get home any minute. I finally sent Matt to get Paul out of the meeting. Meanwhile, I had Timmy running up and down stairs to get me a thermometer, a glass of water, and a bucket, as nausea was setting in. He was so good. He was scared, but when I whimpered "Don't leave me alone!" he stuck near. Eleven years old, and I had to saddle him with this.

My knight in shining armor burst in the door and took charge. He checked me out and then called our HMO's help line. He did manage to get to a live person and explained the problem, and then they put him on hold for what felt like hours, but was probably twenty minutes. Matt and I were getting frustrated. Paul has a very high tolerance for frustration. Matt hollered at his Dad, who was standing there, patiently listening to the hold music: "Dad! DO SOMETHING!" I was tempted to have Matt grab the phone and call 911. Paul finally reached his frustration point and hung up on the hold music. "We're going to the emergency room." Sounded like a good idea to me. We got in the car, me with my bucket, Paul with my ugly belt bag, which has all my contact information in it, and away we went.

Just as we were parking at the emergency department, my bucket came into play. I suggested a wheel chair. Paul scampered off (I hate that people can scamper when I feel like road kill). Turned out that we were at the wrong door. So I swung my legs and my bucket back into the car. When we got to the real ER entrance, they had a shortage of wheel chairs, so I staggered into the waiting room with my stinky bucket and found a place to sit while Paul did the insurance card stuff. It wasn't a long wait before I got to see the triage nurse. She took my vitals and my history. My temp was 103.3 degrees F. This is not good, especially for somebody on chemo. So, they got me a room in the ER.

Objectively, I must look at me from the POV of the ER personnel. I was breathing. I was not bleeding. I was conscious and moving and bitching appropriately. I was not real high on the list of sick people. So, I got to wait on the freaking gurney for what felt like forever. They couldn't give me anything to drink until I was appropriately evaluated. There where a few times when I pressed the call bell, and the perky voice said "May I help you?" My reply was "Aaaauugh!" Somebody came in. I at least got some ice water to swish with. I was also in a room, and not in the hall. I had Paul, too. At one point he gave me a foot massage. That was great. Also, the cool cloth on the head and face was really nice. Anyway, when I rose to the top of the list, the doctor came to see me, and he called Dr. Broome. They tried to access my mediport, but didn't have much luck, so they started an IV in one of my few veins that work. They drew blood for cultures and collected a urine sample. I went to x-ray for chest films. I got some anti-nausea meds in the IV, and took some Tylenol for the fever. I began to feel human again. When the lab work came back, it didn't show any active infection. I had few if any cold symptoms, so we can't blame Matt's virus. I was given a powerful antibiotic, and sent home. It was 0250 hours. I crawled into bed, and Paul told people he was not coming to work. I did the same, talking to answering machines.

We tried to sleep, but the boys had to get to school. Paul took care of all that, and then spent the morning monitoring me. When the fever went back up and over 104 degrees, he called Dr. Broome. She thought I should be admitted to the hospital. Sounded good to me. The thing is, she is outside my HMO, though she contracts with them. She felt I needed to be admitted by the HMO, so away we went to the clinic. Exam tables are even more uncomfortable than gurneys. My primary care doctor agreed that I should be admitted. Now, they needed to find a bed on the oncology floor. And they kept looking. And looking. Finally, after hours in the exam room, moving from chair to exam table and back again, trying to get comfortable, the decision was made to transport me via ambulance (!) to the ER. Again. There to start treatment and to wait for a bed. Paul was to follow in the car.

A side note, here. An ambulance is a truck. It rides like a truck. I think I would have preferred to ride in our car. However, once I hit the door of the ER, things moved pretty fast with county EMT's moving the gurney, so that was an advantage to the truck ride. Also, while enroute, a bed opened up on the oncology floor! So they walked right through the ER to the elevators. They pulled their gurney right up to the side of the bed, and I slid over. A real hospital bed! A private room! Ahhhh. Nurses descended upon me, took history and vital signs, and accessed my medi-port with great skill and efficiency. I got into a clean gown, and slid under the covers. Paul found me. He had stopped at McD's on the way, as he was hungry! I don't blame him a bit. He got to run around trying to sign admission papers, but he finally gave up. I sent him home. The boys needed him, and I was in good hands.

Now, they weren't giving me water, again waiting for the doctor's orders. I was thirsty and jittery. Again, the call button and "Aaargh!" Orders were to start me on powerful IV antibiotics, just in case. More blood and urine samples. More x-rays. The pharmacy was not in a big hurry to get my meds to me. Finally, I had some water and apple juice and graham crackers. Those were the first calories I had consumed in about twenty-four hours. I had been drinking lots of water and taking pills. They also brought a box lunch. Less said about that, the better. I gave it to the boys. Once I got my meds, things got better. I find that Ativan is good for the jitters, and antibiotics are good for peace of mind.

I spent two nights in the hospital. I watched TV and crocheted. My fever dropped, and I was well fed with a normal diet. I saw the hospital doc from my HMO, and my oncologist's partner. None of the test results showed any sign of a bacterial infection. On Sunday morning, the oncologist gave me the choice of going home or staying another day. Now, having meals brought to me in my private room (most of the rooms on the oncology floor are private -- it's the nature of the treatment) is nice and all that, but I think I would rather go home where I know the germs than stay in the hospital where some really bad ones lurk. So, after lunch, Paul came and got me. I only had two little bags, as the less you bring to the hospital, the less you might leave behind, and they have most of the things you need, anyway. I sure didn't need a comb or shampoo!

I slept a little better in my own bed, but found this morning that I was not ready to go back to work. I got Timmy to school, made arrangements for somebody else to pick him up, took a shower and put on a clean nightie. I tucked myself in with my friends Ativan and Percocet, and slept the day away.

The only thing that we can figure caused this adventure was the Zometa. Apparently it does sometimes cause fever as a side effect, but not usually that high. There are other drugs that accomplish the same thing, but I may just avoid them all, as my pain in my hip is not that bad to begin with. I will see my oncologist on Thursday and discuss this further.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.




  • At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Ilka said…

    Wow--what an ordeal. Glad you're home and hoping your back to your old self again... ahhhem... not "old" old, you know what I mean... LOL...


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