Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Coffee is TERRIBLE!!!

I've got a lot to write about after my last post on Wednesday....

I went to work with Bob on Thursday.  I had been fighting a little head cold during the week but felt like I was improving.  Even with that I was quite tired all day and really wanted to leave on time.  We had planned to go to DeCicco's (our new favorite grocery store) that night to pick up some things for the freezer.  Treatment cycle #5 is planned for this coming Thursday (3/3) so I need to have everything set in the house for the following week and a half.  Also, Sarah and Alex will both be coming home for a few days - the best news of the week!!!  Anyway, DeCicco's also has lots of prepared food with tables and we decided we would eat dinner there too.  I felt so tired that Bob offered  to just go home instead but I insisted we go anyway.

As usual, it was a great trip to the DeCicco's!!  Yes, this has become a highlight of life and would suggest a stop there to anyone... think of it as Adam's on steroids.  Exit 19 off of 84 --- end of commercial!!!

By the time we got the bags in the house and put away, my heart was racing and pounding in my chest.  I got up the stairs to our bedroom and sat in my favorite This End Up chair to calm down.  Yeah, I still have one. I usually only feel this way during the week after my treatment - but not even this way.  During that week I would feel a heaviness in my chest, a sign of fatigue, as I've described in the past.  This was different.  Once my heart stopped racing, it was continually pounding in my chest.  Palpitations. Then the racing would pick up again and then slow down.  I figured I was just really tired and needed a good night sleep. 

I did sleep some, waking occasionally, as usual.  Each time I noted the feeling in my chest hadn't gone away.  When I woke for the day at 6am, I layed there feeling the fluttering of my heart.  Another feeling to add to the fast racing, the slow pounding and now the fluttering palpitations.  Not sure what to do, I decided to try to ignore it and get ready for work.  I already told Bob I wanted to take my own car because I felt so tired the day before that I might want to come home early to rest and then pick things up from there.  I did my 'thang' - shower, breakfast, animals, etc. 

I thought about working from home but knew I had Lynn coming in and needed to see her, not just for business reasons, but because she's just one of the best people I know and wanted to share our lives of the past few weeks. I got to the car and  when I finally sat down I finally realized the pounding and racing in my chest had not gotten any better.  I could say worse and almost continuous.  Call the doctor, I finally said to myself.  I sat at the bottom of my driveway trying to get through to the Poughkeepsie office.  At least 3 people tried to patch me through, but I ended up nowhere.  I finally gave up trying and headed into the office to a 10am meeting I had with a client.  I slept through our meeting on Monday and had to make it up to her. 

Sandy, my client, is very nice.  She knows my situation and has sent me a lovely note of encouragement already.  She opens our conversation with 'how are you feeling?' and I'm speechless.  I knew I had something going on that day, but was it really necessary to share it with my client?  I simply said 'Ugh - it's always something! Let's not talk about it...' She was very understanding and just talked business for 2 hours.  While it was distracting for me, I did pay attention to the feelings in my chest and that they were not going away. 

When I finished, I stood up and went to talk to Lynn.  As I stood there, I had several waves of palpitations and added dizziness to the mix now.... yeah, I was getting a little nervous.   We ordered lunch and it seemed to make me feel better.  Dr. Rubin and Tammy take lunch at noon too and I knew I wouldn't be able to reach them anyway so I waited until after.  Palpitations were back.  It was approx. 1:30 when I spoke with Tammy describing my feelings of the past 18 hours and she was truly concerned.  She quickly hung up with me to contact Dr. Rubin and by 2 I was talking to him myself.  After quizzing me about everything, he convinced me to head to the ER for precautionary reasons.  He closed with 'I wouldn't want you have a heart attack or anything' - I think I'm close to the exact quote.  That sentence scared the crap out of me....

I had every intention of closing up shop for myself and heading to the ER since I had my own car.  Bob was incredibly busy Friday - he had told me so that morning and I didn't want to add any more to his stress.  My last trip to the bathroom before putting my coat on and my cell is ringing from Vassar.  This time it's Dr. Keleher - breast surgeon.  She's kindly calling me to offer a speak to a fellow survivor who's willing to share her experience with the surgery and after.  During our last meeting, she mentioned this option knowing she has a list of people and described the woman she wanted to connect me to as 'not crazy like you' - I really appreciated that comment!!!

I tell her what's going on and she agrees I should head to the ER quickly.  Then comes "You are not driving yourself, are you?"  Of course I am, but she convinces me to tell Bob and have him drive me.  I get to Bob and try to underplay it all but it's fruitless.  At this point, I'm pretty worried and he immediately is too.  He drops all afternoon appointments and before I know it we are in the car headed up to Poughkeepsie.  Bob is calmly talking to me trying to ease my fear of having a heart attack.  A heart attack seemed more real to me that this thing growing, or formerly-growing in my breast.  I could actually feel something going on with this situation where my tumor was silent.  Sitting in the car with my heart visibly pounding through my chest, I was emotional.  Scared.   It hasn't happened often.

The ER at Vassar has come a long way.  While I haven't been there for myself EVER, I've delivered my family and friends there many times.  It has much improved and I'm taken in immediately.  One nurse is asking me questions and at the same time I'm getting an EKG from another in triage.  I look up at my nurse and realize she looks familiar.  I ask 'Did you ever dance?' and sure enough she has.  It was Christine. I had been her teacher at least 15 years ago and knew her mother Lucy from running around Beacon all my life.  My dancing connection never fails...

I'm whisked into a room alone because they don't want my immunity to be compromised.  I really felt confident with my 'team' of  Dr. John and Sarah.  They evaluated me and ordered a bunch of other tests - CT scan, ultrasound, blood work, chest xray, I think that's it.  They are looking for some sign of heart distress or blood clot.  Everything comes back negative except for the blood... I can't remember what the name of the thing is they were looking for, but it came back positive.  This doesn't mean the 'worst' just that it was a 50/50 chance I had something floating around.  After all these come back, Dr. John (who's last name is some god awful long Dutch thing that he is tired of trying to pronounce for people so he just goes by 'John') talks to Dr. Rubin and they agree I should be admitted for observation.

By now, Barbara knows about my visit to the hospital.  We were to have dinner with she and Allen and we had to cancel.  In the conversation, Bob has to tell why.... let's just say Barbara is on the phone getting me a room ASAP.  Unbelievable.   Someone from administration comes down to greet me and ask if I need anything.  At first I say no, but I realize I'm sleeping there now and I came straight from work.  I know they'll supply soap and a toothbrush.  What is really bothering me is my wig!!! I ask if they have some sort of hat I could wear during the night since I will take it off to sleep.  Not only do I not want to scare the crap out of my nurse, my noggin gets pretty cold from time to time!!  Before I know it, she's back with a cotton adjustable hat with pink bc ribbons all over it... perfect and so appreciated!

I'm put on the cardiac floor instead of the cancer floor because of the heart monitoring.  I'm pretty tired so I encouraged Bob to leave and Barbara to stay home.  I was in the right place if anything happened and there was nothing they could do besides watch me sleep.  I'm in a private room with a tv, the heart monitor and the dreaded saline drip and high hopes of sleeping... yeah right.  I slept a little, but nothing like usual.  Somewhere in the middle of the night, they decide I should have the calf massaging things that expand at intervals to promote blood flow.  Even my nurse Maria didn't understand why since I was mobile and walking myself to the bathroom with no sign of edema.  Either way, they weren't too bad after all and I did sleep a bit more after. 

All night, I am still feeling the palpitations - more fluttering while laying in the bed and pounding when I get up to make my way to the bathroom or even shift to get at drink of water.  They continue in the morning while I wait to be seen by the doctor.  Now it's 2 doctors I'm waiting for - Dr. Rubin and a cardiologist.  In the meantime, I'm brought breakfast.  I'm served a 'regular' diet... non-descript omelet, bagel, cereal and coffee. Too much food, too much really lousy flavorless food.  Have I mentioned the coffee was terrible??? The worst I ever had?  I drank what I could.  Why? Because it was there... but within minutes of swallowing my KiSA (Knight in Shining Armor) Bob brings me McDonald's large coffee - what a relief!!!

I finally see Dr. Rubin at 1pm.  It's Saturday, so there is no big rush for them to get through their rounds.  I'm so happy to see him, but he's not so happy to see me in this situation.  We talk all about what's going on and he's very concerned with the effects of the Adriamycin on my system - specifically my heart.  It is known to have cardiotoxic effects and I've felt those early on as I've described the heaviness I would feel in my chest after chemo.  But this episode was very alarming to him.  He spoke with colleagues about lowering my dosage to achieve the result we wanted and they agreed.  I've made it through 4 cycles of it and it would be eliminated from the next 2.  Dr. R talked all numbers - mg. per meter squared, etc.  The dosage I've received is close enough and more than most can tolerate.  This cycle I will not receive all 3 chemo drugs only 2 - Taxotere and Cytoxcin.  In a way, I'm relieved.

In the meantime, the cardiologist has come in.  He's reviewed all tests and talks to me about everything going on with me.  He and Dr. R are discussing my case and they've come to an agreement - no more tests and I can go home.  The tests indicate its a bigeminy arrhythmia - normal sinus rhythm followed by an extra beat.  People live with this all the time and I can too.  It more than likely will go away when I'm done with chemo.  Even with this diagnosis, Dr. R wants to stop the Adriamycin for fear of anything more effecting my heart.

After waiting for 2.5 hours, I'm finally discharged at almost 4pm.  A couple of gripes - first, there is only one doctor in the hospital on Saturdays that handle all admissions and discharges!!! That to me is way WAY understaffed!!! Second, the nurse I had on Saturday.  Once she realized I was not the wife of Dr. Ritter and not in physical distress, so was not to be found.  I stayed connected to a heart monitor and an intravenous drip even though I was being discharged.  All I wanted to do was get dressed and I waited and waited finally alerting a technician a few times to get the nurse there.  Again, doing the same thing to get myself out the door before nightfall. I really hate to complain since I know I'm not the only one needing care, but it did cause undue stress.  Even a visit to my room to discuss it would have been helpful, but nothing.  Water under the bridge...

We went for a burger and headed home.  Yesterday, the walk to the door of the restaurant caused palpitations.  Stayed home last night and relaxed with a bath and a movie.  Perfect prescription because today I haven't had one!!!  Walking around the house, up and down the stairs and not feeling anything like I did before.  I'm a little tired and plan on taking it easy the rest of today hoping that experience is behind me.

1 comment:

DOI said...

Mary, I just realized that I had held my breath while reading parts of this story. What a hair-raising experience! But, as usual, you took it (mostly) calmly and didn't even allow yourself to get angry about the nurse who ignored you and the way you were neglected at the end. You should definitely feel free to express your anger about that because there's no excuse for it -- or for the lack of communication, which always makes things worse. I'm relieved to know that your cardiac symptoms are subsiding and that you will not be getting any more adriamycin.