5:22 am. I'm sitting in the van that my husband so thoughtfully warmed up. I'm feeling nice and toasty in here while he loads my walker in. As I watch Benji in the window watching us, it hits me, what the day is (explanation below). Tears start welling up, but I don't know if it's the sadness of remembering what the day is, the thought of all of the appointments and long day ahead, or sheer exhaustion. Probably a combination of all.
Driving through the city before the sun comes up. The monuments look impressive all lit up with the dark backdrop of the sky.
6:07am. We had good traffic and are already sitting at the light on the Whitehurst Freeway to turn left onto Canal Road. The Exorcist steps look eerie in the dark. This light is my cue to apply Lidocaine to my port site. Lidocaine is a numbing creme. I apply it about an hour before my port will be accessed to make it less painful. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
|my view of the CT scanner|
They were able to take me back early. The nurse came to access my port, but the port gave us some trouble, with no blood return. They ended up putting an IV in my right wrist. IV will stay in, and my port will stay accessed so that one of them can be used for treatment this afternoon.
8:00am The CT scans are done, and we are now in the Cardiac testing department, waiting for my echo-cardiogram. I have one of these done every three months to monitor my heart. Herceptin, one of the medications I receive via IV every three weeks, is known to cause heart problems. So, echo-cardiograms are done to monitor my heart.
9:15am Laying on the bed still hooked up the the machine while the tech goes out and shows the images to the radiologist. He comes back in to say that some of the images aren't clear, so they want to inject a chemical to enhance the images. Good thing I still have the IV in. As I type this, he is out of the room mixing the chemicals. I will rest while I wait, and more than likely doze off before he gets back. It's been a long day already.
10:30am. Just finished a late breakfast of Chick-fil-a in the Lombardi Cancer Center lobby (one of the few waiting rooms that has comfortable seats). Now I'll go check in an hour and a half before my scheduled appointment, and settle in with my knitting, coffee, and the hope that they have a light schedule today and can take me early while the harpist plays relaxing music.
As I sit through my appointments today, I am so very thankful to have my husband by my side.
No, he doesn't come to every appointment anymore. He just can't; there are more appointment days than he has leave available. He does come to the most stressful ones. Today is stressful because not only is it five appointments and will be exhausting, but today is the 10th anniversary of my sister's death. Her cause of death? Cervical cancer. Last Friday was the 13th anniversary of my mother's death (complications from the stroke that paralyzed her on her right side). Next Friday will be the 18th anniversary of my father's death (laryngeal cancer). Yes, I know -- January has not been good to us. I watched the three of them, in turn, suffer with their illnesses, then die.
As I sit through my appointments today, I can't help but to reflect on the kind of caregiver I was to them.
1:20pm. Done with oncology appointment. It went well. The results of the chest/abdomen/pelvic CT scan came through already. "No evidence of metastatic disease" -- what ever cancer patient wants to hear, always. The CT of the neck was still being read, so I don't have that result. The echo-cardiogram report did come back, and it looks good. So, so glad.
Now upstairs at the 2nd floor infusion center. My port is still not behaving properly. The nurse de-accessed it and re-accessed it, which is a bit painful. Still no blood return. Now, she will TPA it -- she will inject a medicine into the port to hopefully dissolve any crystals that may have formed, blocking it. While that medicine is working on my port, she has pushed the Zofran pre-med into the IV in my wrist, then hooked up Herceptin, then Perjeta.
As I sit in the chair in the infusion center, I nap, and I contemplate. As the lifesaving medication drips into my veins; as my husband, my rock, sits at my side, I contemplate. As I listen to the person in the next bay getting sick, as I hear the "last chemo" bell ring, as I hear the nurses rush back and forth, I contemplate. As I feel a little queasy myself, despite being given the pre-med of Zofran, I contemplate.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have been a much better caregiver.
I would have known to just sit and listen, and just be, with them.
I would have known to not leave my sister alone at her house that day after she ordered me to go when all she could do was cry and say, "It just hurts so much."
I would have known to have more patience after I asked my mother three times what she wanted for lunch and she said to wait until after I fed myself and the boys, then as soon as I sat down she asked for hers. I would have know to get hers first regardless. Then I wouldn't have made her cry when I fussed at her for it. I would have made it a point to sit and watch her favorite tv shows with her, even if I wanted to sit in another room and watch something else.
I would have known to spend more time with my father. Instead of sitting at his hospital bedside reading silently, I would have found a book that might interest him and read aloud to him. I would have gone to his house every single Sunday during football season to cheer on the Redskins with him.
If I had known how draining it is to schedule and keep appointments straight, I would have taken over that task from them.
If I had known how draining is is to keep track of all of the medical bills, to compare them to the explanation of benefits from the insurance company, to fix mistakes that are inevitable, I would have offered to take over that task from them.
If I had known how draining it was to just get through the day, I would have prepared more meals for them; would have helped them with housework more; would have helped them with their bill paying; would have helped them more with the day to day tasks that the rest of the world takes for granted will get done.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have been a much better caregiver to them.
What can you take from this? Think of your family members and close friends who may be going through a rough time. You may have to think hard, because many people are going through things the rest of us don't see. Be there for them. Take a meal to them unexpectedly. Take them out for a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine. Visit with them; do a puzzle with them, play a board game or a game of cards with them. Just be with them. They will appreciate it. I know I do.
4:00pm(ish). We finally have blood return! My nurse and I were a little loud with our celebration. Finally, time to go home. Jimmy and I slowly make out way out and are on the road at 4:20.
6:20pm Home now. Typical Friday evening rush hour. 20 year old is at work until 8:30; 16 year old is asleep (because that's what teenagers do); Jimmy and I are too exhausted to even think about cooking anything, so off to Wawa for paninis he goes while I put the finishing touches on this blog post. As exhausting as the day was, the good news is that because I was able to fit all five appointments in one day, I only had to use one day of leave for work, instead of maybe two or three. So, there's that.
It's been a long day, for both me and my husband. I am exhausted, and I know he is, too. Care-giving is hard work. Sitting at the hospital all day with your loved one is tiring. Letting me lean on him (literally and figuratively) is tiring. Time for sleep now....