The Machine

Last week I met with Simone, a colleague (and now friend!) who blazed this trail before me. She’s awesome, and you can read her blog here.

We met for coffee, she gave me reassurance and we laughed. A lot. We should have been friends a long time ago. She told me that I was now in ‘The Machine’, and I would be well taken care of. She wasn’t joking.

So. Many. Appointments.

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Monday, July 24: I met my medical oncologist (chemo doc) at the General. Not sure how I feel about him yet, his bedside manner is lacking to say the least, he seemed a bit confused (no Dr. it’s the RIGHT boob, not the left one)… and when I asked him to front me an Ativan for the MRI (thanks for the suggestion, Simone!) he wrote me a prescription… for ONE Ativan. He then sent me for bloodwork and due to a mixup at the blood lab I had to be stuck twice 🙁

Tuesday, July 25 AM: Genetic testing at CHEO to review mine/my family’s medical history and have some bloodwork to determine if I carry the BRCA genes, which will inform some later decisions. I’m not going to stress over this now since I have no control over it.

Tuesday, July 25 PM: Chemo school at the General. I sat at a table with 8 other soon to start chemo folks. The session was good, the instructor volunteer and the nurse were terrific, but I didn’t belong here. I was given an envelope with my name on it and I joked that I was there so often I was already getting mail delivered. Another person said that maybe it was a cheque! I opened it to see that it was my first chemo appt. Oh. Small punch in the gut.

Once the Q&A was done we went for a tour of the chemo centre. There were a few folks having their treatments and we walked around trying not to disrupt. One of my schoolmates was in tears. It was hard. I wanted to run away screaming. It’s all so surreal still. I’m scared. I hate this.

Wednesday, July 26: Echocardiogram at the Ottawa Heart Institute. My technician and I spoke about ‘bad boobs’. He’s seen some pretty ugly ones – really old silicone boob jobs, etc. We laughed a lot. He wished me luck.

Thursday, July 27 AM: PICC line insertion at the Civic. My nurse was AWESOME. I was less awesome. I’m not great with needles and the idea of this procedure really freaked me out. The nurse asked if she could take a break before starting and left me in my room. I was happy with this because it gave me a chance to calm my nerves.

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Almost fell asleep. When she came back in my head felt calm but my legs were shaking and my fingers and toes ice cold. I probably should have said something to her.

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After she gave me local freezing and started the procedure I asked “am I supposed to feel woozy?” she looked at me and said “oh, you’re fainting” and proceeded to tell me to close my eyes and breathe. When I came to and we felt we could proceed, she flushed the PICC with saline. I told her I could taste it and then fainted again. She asked another nurse to come in and raise the foot of the bed to get the blood to my head. And I proceeded to faint once more before she was finished taping me up. She told me to stay lying down as long as I needed to then to try roll on my side, and then eventually sit on the edge of the bed. I fainted 3 more times before lifting my head. I told her I felt a weird pressure in my throat – I was sure the line had shifted. She said it could happen and the x-ray would tell the story. She brought me apple juice hoping it would help me feel better and also offered me cheese and crackers, and then basically rummaged through her lunch. I wasn’t hungry and had had breakfast so I stuck with the juice. She said that I hid my anxiety really well, but if we need to do this again I should probably take Ativan beforehand.

Once I was able to get mobile without passing out I wandered over to x-ray to get a shot of my chest to ensure the PICC was in the right position. My wonderful nurse and another offered to show me the picture, as long as I promised I wouldn’t faint.

They showed me where the PICC line travelled. I didn’t think to take a photo of the x-ray so here is the artist’s rendition:

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I was totally distracted by the other stuff I was seeing so I asked what that white blob was – was that Timor? And all those blobby things underneath – were they my remaining cysts?? As they told me they were not permitted to disclose the rest of the x-ray since it’s not part of their role today, a male nurse walks by and says “it’s gas. You need to burp”. The nurses laughed, I laughed and said “maybe that was what I was feeling in my throat!”. And then he pointed to the blobby things and said “and you’re going to need to poop soon” 😂

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I will never ask again 😳

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Ummm not tonight, thanks. I’m apparently gassy and need to poop.

Thursday, July 27 PM: MRI at the Civic. I was feeling a bit blah and very tired after the stress of the PICC insertion, but I still took the ONE Ativan just in case.

Upside of getting the PICC? The contrast dye is administered through it! Hurray!

So a breast MRI is taken with you lying on your stomach with your boobs HANGING through a hole in the table. I found this rather funny and the question of whether there was one big hole for both boobs, vs. individual holes became the topic of conversation (and possibly wagering) at the office. I suspected that it would be one hole because how do you account for size and direction of people’s boobs? Well I was wrong (and Carole won the day!) because there were two holes!! And once I lowered myself into them, I felt woefully inadequate.

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The MRI itself was ok, though my hands were numb from lying with Superman arms for 45 minutes. To pass the time I would alternate between being on the verge of freaking out from being confined (thankful once more for being face down) to almost falling asleep to the sounds of the crappiest rave ever. The machine sounds that went on for 4 minutes at a time of DIE DIE DIE DIE  were not welcome, so I flipped them in my head to BYE BYE BYE (buh-bye Timor!) which is much more positive. Steve would say that the sound was a subliminal BUY BUY BUY (I may be on a shopping spree, but it’s worth it when 20 of these sleeves to hold my PICC in place come by next day mail from Amazon – I now have 20, so prepare for a fashion show!)

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Friday, July 28: medical oncologist at the General. I wasn’t too excited about waiting for almost an hour before the Doc came in to see me, but according to “Rate my MD” he’s notorious for it. Oh well, I need to roll with it. I started to perk up when he said he had results:

  • Bloodwork: normal
  • Heart: healthy
  • MRI: no evidence of spread to other tissues or lymph nodes! Timor is floating around by himself! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone putting out good juju and prayers – it’s working! ❤️

I was super excited to be cleared for chemo!

WTF?!?

Saturday, July 29: Carefor Community Nursing to change the dressing on my PICC. This will be a weekly date. At least I didn’t faint.

Next stop – chemo.

10 thoughts on “The Machine”

  1. Love you girl!!! Ran 35 miles for you yesterday. First 8 for 8 weeks of chemo! I thought about you All Day!! Keep up the Strength cuz I know you are going to kick ass and get 100% healthy when this is all over. 😘😘😘😘😘

  2. Una you are amazing. Love the sleeves, looking forward to the fashion show. The care you are receiving seems exceptional. Keep up the humour, it is medication for us all. So thrilled about the MRI results, hooray for the good Juju. Love to you, Steve and even the Black Boob ( little does the tumor know its time is running out).xo

  3. Hang it there Una. You are doing great. I find you so courageous. Thinking of you alot. You still have a great sense of humour.

    Simone is right, you are in very good hands. I think you had more testing than my sister-in-law. I rememered, she had to fight very hard after 6 months of chemo to get the PICC line. I am impressed that you have it already.

    Miss you and stay positive, it’s your strenght!

    Sylvie

  4. Una, we don’t know each other, although I feel like we do. We have a mutual friend, Jo-Anne, who has shared your blog and some of your story. I pray that should I ever have to go through what you are currently going through (maybe I should say WHEN and not IF), I pray that I have your wonderful sense of humour!! Keep smiling! YOU GOT THIS!

  5. Una, We have a mutual friend who posted your story which really spoke to me. Currently living the same and I do mean the same thing. TNBC – Stage2a -diagnosed early June here in Ottawa. I’ve not told very many people and am still struggling greatly with the whole thing. For me surgery first – piece of cake however treatment starts next week and am terrified! I’ll be watching your story unfold and hoping for only good things to come your way(and mine 😉 ).

    1. Sandy, it freaken sucks that you have to go through this too!! I’m through chemo 1 for the most part, and so far so good. I was terrified. Now I’m just stunned. If you’re on social media please friend me – I’d love to cheer you on <3 Stay strong!!!

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