Monday, April 26, 2021

DAY 1 - My Trials & Tribulations

UPDATE: 4/27 edited for clarity, spelling.
UPDATE: 11:00 PM, below

PART I
LIFE HISTORY

Hello T&T readers. It's been awhile since I've posted.

I'm back to write about another trial. However, this is a trial of a different sort. It's my own trial.

Today I start a regimen of aggressive chemotherapy to try to save my life.

I've been diagnosed with metastatic urothelial carcinoma of the retroperitoneal lymph nodes. It is considered Stage 3 to 4. Since my cancer started in urothelial tissue, it is treated as bladder cancer. This type of cancer is rare in women. To this day, my doctors have not found an originating tumor.

The initial stage of my treatment will be two chemo drugs for six months. I will be on a 21 day cycle. On day one, I'll receive Cisplatin and Gemzar. On day eight, Gemzar again. Wait two weeks and start the cycle again. Depending on how I do, my oncologist may add radiation, if it's even possible.

For 13 years Trials & Tribulations reported on high-profile murder trials in Los Angeles County: Phil Spector, Conrad Murray, James Fayed, Cameron Brown, Kelly Soo Park, Michael Gargiulo, Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Gerhard Becker and Stephanie Lazarus. I had the opportunity to observe some amazing judges and follow the careers of talented prosecutors, public defenders and law enforcement officers, all dedicated public servants.

By following my life-long interest in true crime, I got the opportunity to meet several crime reporters and journalists I greatly admired: Steven Mikulan, Cirian McEvoy, Eric Leonard, Terri Keith, Miraim Hernandez, Pat LaLama, Greg Fisher, Josh Mankiewicz, Dominick Dunne, and Matthew McGough. One of the most rewarding aspects of my public service was hearing from the victim's loved ones how much my trial coverage meant to them. How much they appreciated the work that I did.

Three years ago my life changed and I slowly stepped away from my passion of attending high-profile trials. I still miss being inside a courtroom watching the legal process unfold. It was a joy that helped me escape from the realities of my life. The reality was, I was trapped in a horrible marriage.

Here's the abridged version of what happened over the past 36 months.

In March 2018 I informed my husband I wanted a divorce. In July, I filed to get a restraining order and have the LA County Sheriffs remove him from our home.

October 2018 I sold the house. The following month, my petition to divorce my husband of 17 years was granted. For a few months I was homeless, living in Extended Stay America while my real estate agent (Barbara Patchis) found me a home I could afford. If you need a real estate agent in Los Angeles, Barbara is fantastic.

In the beginning of December that year, I bought a mobile home in a senior park. Once I moved in, I formed new friendships with great neighbors in this little community. Over the next 12 months, I worked towards getting to know myself again, rebuilding my life after years of emotional abuse living with a brilliant man teetering on the edge of his own sanity.

While going through my divorce, I reached out and reconnected with a dear friend in Ohio I met in my 20's, my "bestie," Bobbie.  We had a painful ending to our friendship 24 years ago and she was hesitant at first to let me back into her life. But I'm so grateful she did. It is truly a gift to have her love and support at this time in my life.

In late February 2019, I received a text message on Facebook from a friend I hadn't heard from in over a year. But the message wasn't from her, it was from her nephew. The message was that my friend had died on February 14 in New York and that her brother, Richard, had traveled from his home in Ohio to attend her funeral. The nephew said Richard was devastated by the loss of his sister. And while in New York, he talked privately with his nephew about how much he missed me. The nephew's message said, "I'm sure a call from you would make his day."

And that's how I reconnected with "Ricky" the man I fell in love with in Ohio when I was 19 years old. In 1978 I left Ohio to come live with him in California. Ricky is why ended up in California.

In March  2019, Ricky flew from Ohio to California to see me and I fell in love once again. We had not seen each other in 39 years.

The sale of my home did not give me much of a savings to live on. I had to find a way to make a living. I did not have a lot of options. I could reach way back to my banking career, but I'd left that in the late '80's for the healing arts. For over 30 years I've been a "bodyworker".

I've had some amazing teachers in the art of therapeutic massage, trigger point therapy, post-surgical massage and Ida Rolf's core work, structural integration, which realigns the body with gravity. I had worked in chiropractic offices, beauty salons, and medically supervised exercise clubs. I've received referrals from psychiatrists, psychotherapists, chiropractors and plastic surgeons. Eight years after I got married, I semi-retired from that career to help manage my ex-husband's business. But getting a practice going again would take time that I didn't have. I needed something stable. Something I could build on, but still be in the healing arts field and helping others.

Over the next nine months I made a few trips to Ohio and Ricky came to see me in California.

I went to school to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I graduated from the program January 4, 2020. I passed my State of California Department of Health Exam on February 20. I found a job and started working at a sub-acute respiratory nursing facility in early March. I worked the second shift, 3-11:30pm.  It was hard work. I was the oldest CNA, working with people 30 years younger than me. I was hoping I could work for six months then maybe take a 4-5 day trip to Ohio.

Then the pandemic hit. The State of California shut down March 15, 2020. The last time I saw Ricky was February 4, 2020.

Nursing facilities across the country were hit hard with Covid-19. Where I worked, 95% of the patients were on oxygen and/or ventilators. The management of the facility was able to refuse to accept patients who had tested positive for Covid. However, my employer had a common problem that most hospitals and nursing facilities have and that is they don't have enough CNA's to take care of all the patients. And that's how I started working 1-2 double shifts a week, in other words, 16 hours straight.

In early July 2020, I came home exhausted after a double shift. When I went to the bathroom that morning, I had massive amounts of blood in my urine. I could feel several blood clots pass. 

To  be continued.......

UPDATE: 11:00 PM
PART II

FIRST DAY CHEMO TREATMENT

A couple hours before I was to leave for my appointment, I started worrying about what would be appropriate clothing for the first day of Chemo. Unfortunately, it's not pajamas. I was going to wear loose linen pants but it's a cold overcast morning. It's been overcast in Los Angeles for about 4-5 days now. It might even rain tonight, a rare occurrence in June. I decided on slightly loose jeans and a pink flannel shirt. Supportive friends on Facebook reading this early morning story told me to wear what I want. I'm sorry, I didn't want a photo of me in jammies on my blog.

My friend Alesia suggested I take a book, a large bottle of water and one of my soft panne blankets. The room got quite cold. I brought everything but a blanket. I should have listened to her. I will most definitely pack one for Day 8 and future days.

I had totally forgotten where I had set my large silver heart necklace Ricky gave me for my 66th Birthday -my favorite- so I wore the gold and diamond pendant he gave me that used to belong to his sister.

Day 1, Cycle 1 appointment was for 11:30 am. I arrive early and hung out in the waiting room.

I got called back to the treatment room at 11:55am. I don't think there's a need for me to come early next time. The RN told me to pick an available seat. It was a small room. There were about 7-8 comfortable looking chairs. They looked like recliners and were very comfy, but they were not recliners.

One side of the room had chairs with dividers between them. The chairs on the other side of the room did not. The RN asked me if I had a port. I replied, "No." I'm given a pillow with a new cover to rest my arms on. All the other patients that were there when I arrived or arrived after me had ports. The RN doesn't always use their ports. Ports are not always used for regularly scheduled Chemo. The Ports are saved for other things I suspect. I wonder in the future if they will put a port in me.

I thought I was going to get an orientation, or a what to expect lecture. I assumed too much. I asked the RN because I was not given any paperwork on it. She said she would give me the documentation to read soon. After I had glanced through the documents on the two Chemo drugs I would be getting, I saw that they were the exact same information from Chemocare.com I had read last night. She asked if I had any questions. I told her this was information I read yesterday. "I thought you hadn't been given anything," she replied. I told her that I had read all this on the web. The only difference was certain information was highlighted that I needed to pay attention to.

Ten minutes later, the RN is setting up my IV. I rolled up my sleeve thinking she would put the needle in the elbow of my arm. I was mistaken again. She used a very small needle into a vein just superior to the lateral side of my right thumb.

From the many autopsy drawings I've reviewed in court, human arms are always depicted with the palms turned up. In anatomy, the palms and what we might think of as the underside of the forearm are actually the anterior or "front side" of the body.

The first injection of my treatment is giving me Zolfran, an anti-nausea medication, a steroid and straight saline. I asked. It's not lactated ringers like I assumed. The RN said that the Zolfran and the steroid will be administered first then the Chemo drugs.

 
My injection site

I told the RN I would appreciate if she took my photo for my blog. She asked if I'd started a blog. I said, "No, I have a crime blog for 13 years where I covered high-profile murder trials in Los Angeles County and that's where I'm going to write about my journey." The RN was very interested in the fact that I previously was a journalist covering murder trials. I told her I would give her the link to my blog and she could read about them.

12:30pm, the Gemzar bag was hung on the IV pole and started. They only infuse one drug at a time. After awhile, my injection site started to get uncomfortable. Not painful really, just achey.

12:50pm, the Cisplatin -the more powerful Chemo was loaded next. My total treatment time for all the IV drugs would be about 2.5 hours.

I asked her about where in the cycle I should start to experience the side effects. She told me something that I wish I had known before I went out on a disability. For my first 21 day cycle, I should be okay. I probably won't experience any side effects. I will most likely start having symptoms on Day 22, when I start Day 1 of my second cycle.

I also learn that I will have to have blood work, blood drawn on the first Friday directly after Day 1. The blood work must be done on Friday or I cannot receive my Day 8 infusion on Monday. This Friday, I believe I'll be okay to take myself. Subsequent months I'll have to wait and see.

This is when I asked the RN to take my photo, (below). I didn't even notice there were birdies over my head until I looked at this photo.

Me in therapy chair

The photo at the top right of the blog is a photo I believe was taken in 2018. That is my natural color. As more gray showed up, I started to lighten my hair.

One of the first symptoms I noticed (but didn't realize was a symptom until much later) is my hair starting to thin and break off in 2019. My personal physician at the time told me it was a normal part of aging.

The Cisplatin was totally infused by 2:30pm. There still was some saline left in the saline bag. She removed the needle, applied some cotton and wrapped a stretchy wrap around it.

When I got home, I was quite tired since I stayed up too late last night writing my first blog post. I rested a bit and did some gardening in the front yard. I felt good. Here's to hopefully a few more good days before the drugs start the assault on my body.

The next post in this series can be found HERE.


Watch this series. There's more story to come.
Sprocket, aka Betsy

5 comments:

ritanita said...

Betsy, all my prayers are with you, along with my best healing vibes being aimed across the country for you.

ritanita

Ronni said...

It's been, and continues to be, a bumpy ride. Buckle up, hang in there, and keep us posted when you can. I'm glad you had a chance to organize life before this hit...

Justice for Fabio said...

Stay strong Betsy💪💪
I will keep you in my prayers. I look forward to your upcoming posts.
Cheers!!
Malu

Trench Reynolds said...

Stay strong. You're in my prayers.

Unknown said...

My Darling Girl,
I've read your blogs ever since you began writing them, and the writer in you has developed so beautifully! The maturity and confidence in your voice as a journalist is wonderful. You tell your own story but never make it sappy or indulgent, just honest. Good for you!
BTW - I'm glad you aren't working for the next 21 days. Use this time when you aren't feeling like crap to relax and enjoy your life. Jules