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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Don't ask me to pronounce the middle word . . . I just know it belongs in there.

The hospital stay was for seven days. The chemo I was started on was for 2000 MG and increased to 3000 MG when the count would not go down. I did have to go through a bone marrow biopsy. Everything you have heard about how painful it is is absolutely TRUE! First, I did hype myself up for it. I was prepared for excruciating pain. First, they give you a lollipop with pain killer in it. It was sweet and tasted like grape. I was determined to suck every last drop from that lollipop! lol Once that is finished, they roll you over on your side. Nina was there with me for the biopsy. Thank goodness for her! Once I was rolled over on my side with my butt sticking out for the entire world to see, Dr. Bland proceeded to inject my hip with a local anesthetic to numb the area. Nina states she used several three inch nails to inject the area and I did fill the first prick but it wasn't much. Dr. Bland massaged the area I guess to spread the local about and numb the entire area. Nina then describes a much longer wide needle was inserted and I could actually feel something scraping inside of me. Dr. Bland had a hard time inserting the needle into the bone. Dr. Cruz had shown up at just that time to explain to Nina what was going on with my treatment. He made her cry! She wanted to know when I would get to go home and he assured her the best place for me was in the hospital for medical assistance in case I had a stroke because I was very likely to have one if the white blood count was not brought down. I had the same headache from Thursday so when he stated this I got freaked out and realized the urgency in getting the white cell count down! I could have stroked out at any moment. Also, because the blood was so thick I was having trouble getting oxygen into my body and that explained the shortness of breath. Anyway, Dr. Bland suggested radiology since she could not get the needle into my hip bone. Dr. Cruz had to assist and performed his first biopsy in five years! It was pointed out I was special! Didn't make it any less painful. He informed me when he was in with the needle and Nina described it as a six-inch tool. I did feel the bone marrow being pulled out and trust me on this one . . . . it was VERY PAINFUL. Not as painful as I had hyped myself up for but nonetheless painful. When it was all over, Dr. Cruz explained my bone mass was just so thick it made the retrieving the bone marrow difficult. So I was doubly special.

Then, because I had so much nausea and vomiting from the chemo and the constant blood being drawn, they decided to insert a PIC line. I think that is how it is abbreviated. It has three openings, one for the IV, second for blood to be drawn and the third one for medication. I was receiving two of the anti-nausea medications through injections . . . and yes . . . blood drawn every 8 hours! I am amazed they could get anything out the last time they attempted to draw blood! Lilly got to witness the PIC line being inserted. First they do an ultrasound on your arm to find a good strong vein. Then, they cover you up so you cannot see anything but they say it is to keep the area sterile. It also proved more difficult than usual because again, it is pointed out I have thick skin! Once again, I am special! Having the PIC inserted after the biopsy . . . was not painful at all! lol But it still hurt a little. It actually hurt more when it was removed on my last day of the hospital stay. Nina was there for the removal and she made a face that made me turn to look at what was being drawn and the PIC line was L - O - N - G! Once I saw it, my arm started to hurt! I hadn't had pain until I saw it. After the PIC line was inserted I couldn't understand why there was so much concern about it being too close to the heart. It was this little plug on my arm! Hindsight being 20/20 and all! :-\

There was this wonderful anti-nausea medication they gave me through the PIC line called Phernegren or something like that. That stuff KNOCKED ME OUT! I loved it! :) When they gave it to me at night, I didn't feel them when they came in to take my stats. We could have had a tornado during the night and I would not have awakened for it!

Hospital food was not too bad. Something about eating three regular meals that really helps the body because I normally am not a good eater! I mean I have breakfast because I am a breakfast person but the rest of the day I do not eat at a regular set time or even a solid meal!

At one point, I had a cocktail of seven meds. I forget what they were now but there was the chemo, anti-nausea medication, antibiotic because I had developed an infection as a side effect from one of the meds, a blood thinner, iron for the anemia . . . because on top of all that . . . I was also anemic and the anemia contributed to the shortness of breath and fatigue, Prevacid for stomach acids and something else they were giving me to keep . . . I forgot the name of the acid but it start with a U and if there is a build up of it can cause pain in the joints and I think it is called gout when that happens. I know people with gout and I DO NOT WANT IT either!

I had to sleep in a bed where the mattress rolled and massaged my body and was very noisy. The bed was to prevent bed sores because one of the things they didn't want me doing was walking around on my own because of the meds. Any one of them made me dizzy and lightheaded! More so than I normally am! lol ;) At night I had to strap on these boots that massaged my legs to keep blood clots from forming in my legs. It was all just a thrill . . . . really!

I am home now . . . taking 1500 MGs of the chemo. I had my first lab today. Haven't heard anything from the lab and so I figure no news is good news! :) I didn't get to get a date for going back to work. I hope soon cause I am going stir crazy! The peach of a supervisor . . . . let me tell you what he had to say when I called him to tell him I was in the hospital. First, I started with reminding him how I had missed work of late and he immediately goes into a tirade that I had not told him I would be out of the office on Friday but someone had informed him. I interrupted him to tell him that was not what I was referring to but instead to the days of absence due to headaches, fatigue and upset stomach. He points out yes, you have missed a lot of work since the new year. :-\ I told him we now had a reason for my absences and I informed him I had chronic leukemia. He proceeds to say good now we know why and keep me informed. I have written he is a PEACH! :-\ When I called him to inform him I was being dismissed from the hospital, he barked back I was not to come to the office until I had a FULL MEDICAL RELEASE and this had been sent to me already. Hadn't I received it? I reminded him I had been in the hospital and did not have access to email. He barks NO, IT WAS MAILED! So, again, I point out I have been in the hospital and had not been home to check my mail. :-\ I cannot wait to get back to the office! The only thing I know is he will not be allowed to fire me because it is against the law to do so but I am thinking I will have to be very careful to dot my i's and cross my t's. :-\ Boy howdy! I am also taking iron for the anemia and Prilosec for the stomach acids. I was also given two prescriptions for anti-nausea but haven't really had reason to use these yet. I am saving them . . . . just in case! :( I have good days and bad days. Sunday was a bad day physically. I woke with fatigue and had shortness of breath all day. Yesterday, I was quite emotional . . . really, . . . almost to the point of hysteria at times! :( But aside from that, it has been almost if all last week was just a nightmare . . . I keep thinking I should have pain or feel sick but I don't . . . . not really . . . . I am reminded many years ago I had a nurse tell me cancer does not hurt . . . but something about the idea you have cancer in your body makes you think you should be in pain . . . . IDK . . . . maybe it is just me. Anyway, I am following MD's orders because I want to get well! I have lots of things to do . . . . I have a great deal of faith that in 10 to 20 years someone would have discovered something new for treatment . . . . I am strong . . . . I am woman . . . . I am invincible! I know this because Nina tells me so! lol ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You have leukemia . . . .

three words that have forever changed my life. I was truly expecting you have high blood pressure. Meds and a change in lifestyle. Well, I did get that . . . . meds and a change in lifestyle.

I was instructed to go straight to the hospital. I was not to take a detour home first but straight to the hospital. It was hard to comprehend what Dr. Lear had said. Leukemia? No one in our family has had cancer. It obviously is a huge mistake. As I walked to my truck, I wondered if I should tell anyone. What if it WAS a huge mistake? On the other hand . . . what if it wasn't? I didn't want to be alone for this. Who to call? I naturally called my favorite person in the world. Nina. I wasn't sure how to break it to her other than to first start with "Let's not panic and it is probably a mistake but do you think you could meet me at the ER?" Yes, I thought that was a fine way to approach it. Once she agreed to meet me at the ER, I drove out of the parking lot to drive the 3 or so blocks to Covenant Medical Center. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I was struck with the most absurd thought . . . "The house is a mess. I haven't had a chance to clean this week." Too be perfectly honest, I had been given the opportunity to clean the house but most days since the playoffs last year and the Cowboys didn't make it . . . since the peach of a supervisor was allowing the sh*t to roll down hill . . . . since my heart was broken yet again by the same man for the upteenth time . . . . I hadn't much energy to do much . . . . I was blaming the lack of energy on depression and stress.

I got to the hospital and was quickly whisked away to an examining room. Someone in a lab coat calling himself Dr. something or other walks in and asks why I was there. I tell him my story. He responds more bloodwork is required before making that determination. I am somewhat relieved at this point. I have always seen life as you get what you make of it, the glass is always half full, there is a silver lining around every cloud, nothing really bad ever happens to me . . . . so it IS all a mistake.

Nina arrives and I tell her what the Dr. Labcoat said. We agree that must be what it is. So blood is drawn, I am taken away for X-rays and Nina and I proceed to wait it out. At some point the decision is made blood must be taken from an artery and the first technician turns out to be someone who doesn't know what he is doing. Pricks me twice and gets nothing. In case you do not know this, having blood drawn from an artery can only be described as PAINFUL! He finally accepts he is unable to do this and calls someone else in. Thankfully, the second technician was able to get the blood drawn after his first and only prick and again . . . . in case I have left any doubt in your mind . . . . it is PAINFUL! Nina has to leave at 9:30 because of her work schedule. Once she leaves a good looking man in a suit walks in and introduces himself as Dr. Cruz. He proceeds to explain that there are two kinds of leukemia. There is acute leukemia which must be treated aggressively with chemo for four to six weeks and is very serious. Then there is chronic leukemia and he suspects this is what I have but additional tests have to be conducted before knowing for sure. He explains a bone marrow biopsy would help determine this along with some of the lab work being conducted as we speak by Dr. Bland. As he is explaining the treatment for chronic leukemia his phone rings and it is Dr. Bland. As he speaks to her, he smiles at me and nods. I suppose this is good news! Once he terminates that phone call he proceeds to tell me I will be admitted for seven to ten days to treat the chronic leukemia and did I have any questions. My only question after receiving so much information was "so in the morning, after all these tests, we will have a clearer picture?" No he explained, the picture was clear, I had chronic leukemia but it is treatable, people have an 80% remission rate and go on to live 10 to 20 years with treatment. With that he left and I was left with thoughts of all the things I had to get done over the next 10 to 20 years.

As I lay there on the uncomfortable hospital bed contemplating this, my next thought was how to tell Jay. I was not sure he would understand all of this but I thought it best to tell him exactly what was going on. When I called him, my first question to him was did he know what leukemia was. He responded yes, it is what John's mother died of in Terminator II. So I thought he understood and I explained to him this is what I had and I would be in the hospital for the next seven to ten days for treatment. We spoke about changes to our routine for the weekend and he seemed to take it all in stride considering.

I then had sense enough to call Lilly and let her know what was going on. We agreed mom was not to be told yet. I didn't want to call Eva yet because of her condition and also it was late.

I was then transported to Lakeside ICU. I knew that was a bad sign. While the nurses were prepping me for the night, I couldn't help but cry. One of the nurses asked if I was in pain. I answered, no, I just couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. She agreed it was perfectly natural and OK to do so because I had been through a lot that night. Despite all the thoughts running through my head, I finally fell asleep about 1 AM. But before I did I was given 2,000 mg of a pill that was pink and purple and hooked up to an IV. Oh, and more blood was taken. I was also hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and oxygen. I am sure I made quite a sight! :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Three Little Words

. . . forever changing my life . . . and they were not "I love you" . . .

On August 18th, 2011, I left my office to go to Grace Clinic to be . . . what I thought it would be anyway . . . diagnosed with high blood pressure (HBP).

It starts way before then though . . . .

On August 11th, I had gone to Sonic and decided to treat myself to a foot long coney with an order of tater tots. I normally do not eat like this but I had been good (in my book) and under a lot of stress at work so decided what the heck! Tater tots were a little salty but I ate them anyway. After finishing my lunch, I developed a dull headache and felt a little nauseated. HBP runs in my family and I remembered my sister, Eva, once telling me these were symptoms of HBP. I remember thinking . . . crap . . . . but the headache and nausea passed and by Friday I felt better. Saturday afternoon I once again developed a dull headache and nausea. I also developed a little bit of a tickling cough. Nothing I thought I needed to freak out about. The headache and nausea also passed and quickly this time but I thought Monday I should schedule me an appointment with the MD. Monday came and I remembered my supervisor was on vacation and he is rather a peach about my being absent when he is not in the office so I decided to wait until he came back. Mondays are always super busy for me at work and I didn't get a chance to call and set up an appointment. Tuesday I woke with a little chest pain along with the cough and it was rather a nuisance. Wednesday, I still had the cough and I felt a little short of breath and noticed it was difficult to answer the phone at the office because of the shortness of breath. Eva texted me and told me she was going to the ER because she was having chest pains. Lilly later called me to tell me Eva was having a pacemaker put in! WILD! Yes, completely caught us by surprise. Scared me a little so I decided I would have the cough checked out. Went to Grace Clinic before going to work on Thursday and at the time I only had the cough and shortness of breath so I was X-rayed and diagnosed with walking pneumonia. I have had this before and knew what to expect. I was informed I should be hospitalized but I had lots of work back at the office and, again, peach of a supervisor on vacation would not be happy to come back and learn I had been out of the office at the same time. I thought I could rest when I got home from work. I refused medical advise and signed the waiver and left for the office. After arriving at the office I developed a wicked headache and now when I coughed there was SEVERE chest pain . . . no longer just a nuisance. It started in the middle of my chest and traveled to the back between the shoulder blades. I had read years ago women have severe headaches and upper back pain when they have heart attacks so I thought maybe I should go back to Grace Clinic just to make sure all was OK. At 2 PM I notified my production counterpart I was going to leave early to go back to the Grace Clinic. I left the office at 3 PM and headed to Grace Clinic again and I really believed deep in my heart I would be diagnosed with HBP and given some meds and directions on how to take care of this. I arrived at Grace Clinic and this time they took a whole bunch of blood and in addition to more x-rays, I got an EKG that proved normal. I remember thinking when the physician's assistant (PA) came to give me my results, if I had HBP, I would go to McDonald's and get a side salad and fruit and yogurt parfait . . . and if not . . . . a Big Mac . . . cause I was starving! I had not eaten since breakfast and that was coffee and a Texas cinnamon bun from the vending machine at the office. At approximately 5 PM, Dr. Lear . . . not the PA and I knew then something was wrong . . . came into the examining room holding my lab results and announced my white cell blood count was 183,000 and normally it should be 10,000. I asked him what this meant . . . and he spoke the three little words that changed my life forever . . . . "You have leukemia."

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