Just when I think I have this chemo day figured out, I learned I don't have it after all. What a crazy day.
We arrived at 8:30am for my appointment with the oncologist at 9:00. I was able to ask some questions that had been weighing on my mind and he answered them honestly and openly which I appreciate so much.
Armed with my Gator bag and my quilt, we headed to the 5th floor for chemo. They start by drawing blood from the port and sending it down to the lab to make sure all of the values meet the criteria for receiving the chemo. I was praying they would be OK after the pneumonia and the low hemoglobin, as I didn't want delay any treatment.
However, when she put the needle in to draw from the port, nothing would draw back. She tried several times and no blood return. I wasn't immediately concerned because I knew they could try some heparin (a medication to thin the blood and help remove clots). Maggie, my nurse was very patient and calm. I like that also. She said I'll just get some heparin and we'll have this thing working in no time.
After about 2 hours and 3 different doses of heparin, it still wasn't drawing. So Maggie, still trying to downplay the problem, said she would call pharmacy for some TPA ( a very strong anticoagulant). While waiting for the TPA we had a wonderful visit with a man named Dave who was also having chemo in the room we were in. While we were visiting an older man who was a volunteer came around and offered box lunches. Only the patients are allowed the lunches so they didn't ask Carl (although if they knew he was diabetic they probably would have offered). When they asked Dave what kind of sandwich he wanted he said "I'm finished here in a couple of minutes and I'd rather eat at home, just give my lunch to Carl." The older gentleman said he wasn't allowed to serve it to visitors and Dave said OK and I just said Carl and I would share mine. When the volunteer came back with the lunches, he waved the Dave's box lunch over Dave and then handed it to Carl. It brought a laugh to all us, including the volunteer.
We waited about an hour and a half for the TPA to work and no luck. About this time I started to pray (my stress relief) because I am a difficult stick and did not want to lose my port. I also knew that this chemo could not be given in an ordinary IV and I didn't want to delay the treatment even by one day.
Maggie ordered another dose of TPA and we tried for the next hour and a half with no success. By this time it was after 2:00 and Carl had to leave to teach. After Carl left, Maggie came back in and said she would try one more TPA and then call the oncologist. In the meantime she would just try to stick me for the labs so we could at least get them sent off. Oh boy, here we go a human pin cushion :)
When Maggie pushed the 3rd dose of TPA she explained that if we could get it to infuse a little she would ask the Dr. if we could go ahead and infuse the chemo and watch it closely and then deal with fixing the port afterwards. The 3rd dose of TPA gave just a little pink tinged return but it was better than we had seen so far. After a call to the Dr. she started the chemo.
She explained to me that after the chemo I would go to radiology for a portogram (pictures of the port to see if it had a fibrin sheath or a large clot). The fix was to go to the cardiac cath lab and guide a wire up through the femoral artery to the tip of the port and try to remove the clot or fibrin sheath. Maggie knew I was a nurse and she didn't have to tell me the risks as that was the first thing I thought of when she was explaining the procedure. Again I prayed that God would intervene and all fear of any risks disappeared. Thank you Lord.
After the chemo, I went to radiology. It was cold on the table in a gown and I wrapped up in my quilt.
Have you ever taken your child to the Dr. or the ER because they were so sick that they couldn't move; only to have them jump around and act like perfectly normal little creatures when the doctor walks in? Well, that's what happened in radiology. After chatting with the radiologist about how the NICU was, he started the test. As soon as he drew back on the port it flowed freely with blood return!! He looked at me and said "What exactly was the problem?" I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I said "Well either the TPA finally took effect or my prayers were just answered. I prefer to think it was my prayers." He smiled and spent the rest of his time reading my quilt and matching up names of nurses he might have known :).
By this time it was about 6:30pm. I still had the needle and tubes that go into the port hanging out. I walked over to MD Anderson Cancer center to get them removed and they were closed. Not a soul in sight.
So I left with the apparatus hanging out and went to the NICU to put up a thank you letter for my quilt and was able to visit with all my friends while waiting for Carl to pick me up. What a great way to end a long day.
When we got home at 8:30pm I was reflecting on the day. I thought about how stressful and irritating it could have been without prayer and the peace that God gives. As I opened a card that came in the mail today there was one that was so appropriate for this day that I wanted to I share it with you. It had a picture of a desert cactus on the front and it said:
"Life can seem a little prickly sometimes..... just before it blooms!"
"The desert and the parched land will be glad... it will burst into bloom: it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. " ISAIAH 35:1,2
That is the promise I stand on as I walk through this desert, it will burst into bloom and I will shout for joy!