August 24, 2014
Looking back on July 15, 2013
Pre-Chemo Port Placement surgery (and changing surgeons)
This was an outpatient surgery to place a catheter port through which the chemo and cocktail of drugs could be given. I did it the day before my chemo started. The port is the alternative to having a huge new IV stuck into my arm every other week. Painful and dangerous if they make a mistake and the chemo goes in the wrong place, I hear. I elected to fully enjoy my last week prior to chemo and, instead of having the surgery a week prior to chemo, I did it the day prior. I do not recommend this unless, like me, you could not possibly waste a good day of your life that week before. In my case, my oldest step son was in town from NYC, I had a hot new ‘boyfriend,’ I wanted to have the “Hair & Boobs Party” and I had to work as much as possible to make money that week while I still could. Self-employment has no sick time pay. Doing it the day prior to starting chemo made the first treatment much more painful and difficult, but I’m glad I did it that way, regardless. I wanted that extra day of feeling good more than I wanted an easier first week of chemo.
The surgery itself was, well, I don’t remember. There was a very funny anesthesiologist who I’m sure was sharing hits of his own medicine. He assured me that although I have ‘redhead pain issues,’ which means it take 4 times as much local to make me numb at the dentist, and Fibromylgia (mostly controlled now), he would knock me out and be by my side if I felt anything or my blood pressure went crazy like it does when I exercise. My mother and a friend, Amy Bradshaw, sat by while the surgery took place and afterward as I recovered in the room. We discovered that my codeine allergy also applies to Oxycodone (hmm, you think they the docs might have warned me about this since it’s the same derivative) and after itching like crazy for two hours I was prescribed Valium instead. WTF? How did housewives all over America function on this in the 50s? And they drank martinis and had those cute hairstyles? That’s talent! I’m not sure it took away the actual pain, but it did make me high as a kite in a very strange way. My 5’2” mother was like a linebacker blocking the stairwell each time I had to wobble down the hall. She was sure I would tumble down, taking her with me. Brave women. That stuff makes me loopy! I took it that next morning when I started my first chemo treatment and wore a big pink ribbon in my hair all day. I was still in pain but didn’t care.
The actual lead up to the surgery was incredibly stressful. First, my actual surgeon was not available, and I needed to either use one of her partners, do my surgery a very early, or delay my chemo start date. This was a minor surgery, so I elected to use her partner. That new surgeon said she would not do the surgery until speaking to my cardiologist about an odd exercise-induced high blood pressure issue I have. That sounded reasonable. She and the cardiologist actually spoke the following day after that Tuesday pre-op appointment regarding the Monday surgery and agreed to proceed. However, her nurse would not return my call to confirm the surgery. This meant I did not know if I was having surgery (or, to my understanding, able to start chemo) the following Monday until 4:45 Friday night. It took 5 messages over the week and finally finding a nurse navigator at the hospital to physically walk into the surgeons’ office, find the nurse in question, ask her and then the navigator called me back. I have now changed surgeons even though she was the most recommended and I liked her personally. I can’t imagine going through something like that again prior to a major surgery like the double mastectomy that is to come in November. Way too stressful on top of a situation that is already stressful.
I’m learning quickly to remove as much additional stress from my life as possible. This includes situation, some people and even some of my doctors. You spend far more time talking with a physician’s staff than you do with them. The staff, and whether or not they have time for you, is extremely important. I’m not upset with the nurse herself. I really liked her personally. I feel that she must be overworked and stressed too, otherwise she would have called me. I feel badly for her being in that position. However, my body, my cancer, my life cannot wait on someone else’s busy. This is my ship and I’m the skipper as much as I can be. I needed a new crew with a surgeon and nurses who have their own structures in place so they have time to return my calls, sail me straight and help me through the upcoming gale winds.