Friday, May 7, 2021

Day 6-10: My Trials & Tribulations

 The previous post can be found HERE.

I left off my story mentioning the CT Urogram.

Settling Into a New Job

I'm about five weeks into my new job. I still can't believe my good fortune. I drive all over Los Angeles County to see patients and help them with their ADL's (activities of daily living). Many people would absolutely hate the driving. I didn't mind it at all. It sort of reminded me of my motorcycle days when I rode my '68 BMW R60/2, or later my fast '83 GS750E Suzuki through the Malibu canyons. Or even earlier when I traveled cross country on my BMW in 4.5 days, by myself. Not exactly the same thing, I know. But for me, driving an hour or more to see a patient was not a negative. If I had a long drive home at the end of the day, I would call Ricky and he would keep me company until I got home.

The only thing I was struggling with was learning "the tablet". I'm old school. When I was an internal bank auditor, in the 70-80's, everything was paper. Everything. And my most recent employer as a CNA did not have electronic medical records. Everything was paper. They had not been automated. My experience with emerging tech and using different programs was very limited. I still get exasperated with my smart phone at times.

The tablet has everything. Your company email, the training programs you must complete in your first 90 days. It's where the monthly zoom meetings would be held because of Covid-19. It's where you log into your assigned appointments and document your work. The tablet was my daily frustration. In those first few weeks I was calling one of the RN's to help me get out of a jam when I forgot to "start" a visit or "log out" of a visit. I needed help navigating the program that was used to document our work hours and record it in the patient's medical record.

I was also trying to do the best I could not to screw up during my 90 day probation period. The first 90 days in any job is when they can get rid of you for minor screw ups. My main focus was to get through my first 90 days and get the many hours of online training done by the assigned deadlines.

The Urologist Calls
It's Monday October 13. I'm on a long drive from West Hollywood to Long Beach. It's to see my last patient who just entered the active dying process. Traffic is horrible. The freeways are jammed and Google has me on surface streets that are also jammed. I'm driving maybe 10-15 mph. It's going to take me an hour to get to the harbor area. My phone rings. There's no place for me to pull over at all. I can see it's the urologist calling. I answer the phone, greeting him by name. He was surprised that I knew who it was. I told him his name came up on my phone.

He said he was going through his files and he realized that he had never followed up with me after the CT Urogram. He tells me I have an 8 millimeter kidney stone in my left kidney. His next words were unusual, something like: And by the way there are some enlarged lymph nodes. It's probably nothing, these things usually are, however, it's recommended you get a PET scan in three months.

At the time, I didn't know what a PET scan was for, so I asked him. He said it was to get better photos. I then asked why three months. He then replied: To see if anything grows. I then asked, "What are they looking for?" He paused a moment and said: Cancer.

In that moment your world changes. Everything changes.

Blood Type and Illness
From my 20 plus years of reading and following the Blood Type Diet, I knew that there is quite a bit of scientific evidence in the medical literature that certain illnesses are more susceptible in some blood types than others. It doesn't mean that other blood types won't get that illness, it just means there is a higher prevalence of that illness in one blood type over another.

On Page 322 in Eat Right 4 Your Type (Revised & Updated Edition), Dr. D'Adamo writes:

"Does cancer find an inherently more fertile ground to grow and develop in the body of one blood type than in another? The answer is a definite yes.

There is undeniable evidence that persons with Type A or Type AB blood have an overall higher rate of cancer and poorer odds of survival than Type O and Type B."
I'm Blood Type O negative. I'm also a secretor, meaning I secrete my blood type antigen into other bodily tissues, giving my body a health advantage over non-secretors.

Like many people, I never thought I would get cancer. My father died from issues related to depression and financial failure. My mother and her sister both had Alzheimer's. I know I carry one genetic marker associated with Alzheimer's. This is the illness I was most concerned about developing. I am the first person in my immediate family to be diagnosed with cancer.

Moving Forward
I saw my patient and drove home. I was annoyed that because of the terrible traffic I wasn't able to pull over and take notes. I couldn't remember all that my urologist had said. Did he say 8 millimeter kidney stone or 8 centimeters? Comparing those sizes to a kidney, I realized he probably said millimeter. I called his office early the next day and was connected to him right away. That time I was able to take notes.

He said that his office would call me about setting up a shock wave lithotripsy to zap the kidney stone. It would be at an outpatient surgery center in Encino. I asked him if it was possible to set up the PET scan earlier than three months. It had already been six weeks since the CT scan.

Over a week went by and his office never called me. When the paper approval came through from my insurance, I called his office to book the lithotripsy. I got all the information on where the surgery center was and the prep I would need to go through. I also had to have a Covid-19 test no more than 7 days before the procedure. The lithotripsy was finally booked for November 12, 2020, early in the morning.

I was also trying to get the PET scan scheduled, which would be at a different place, a radiology center. I got the paper approval in the mail and that's when I learned that my urologist ordered a PET scan from my head to my hips. It would be for my entire torso. That realization was scary in and of itself. I called the radiology center to book my appointment. Yes they saw the approval, but the urologist's office did not include the billing code for contrast injection. They could not book the appointment until the urologist's office got that billing code approved.

Getting that additional billing code submitted and approved took several phone calls back and forth to the urologist's office over seven days. Monday November 9, the injection billing code finally showed up at the radiology center and I was able to book the appointment. Lucky for me, they had a late 6:30pm appointment on Wednesday, November 11, the day before my lithotripsy. I grabbed it.

In the meantime, I learned all I could about PET scans.

The PET Scan & Lithotripsy
Going for the PET scan, I felt like I was crossing over to a different life. A life of uncertainty.

I was told to check in for my appointment by 5:30pm. Once I was checked in, I was given a large cup of glucose to drink. Not long after that, I was taken to a room to change into a gown then put into a room with a recliner. An RN came in and inserted an IV and gave me a warming blanket. The IV would be for later, during the PET scan. I then had to relax for about an hour for the glucose to get all through my body.

The next step was getting on the scan table. I had to keep my arms over my head for the entire scan. And that was it. I was all done a little past 7:30pm.  After the scan, I asked how soon my doctor would get the images. The ladies at the front desk said my doctor should get the images in about two days. On Friday I called my doctor. He told me that he could not make heads or tails of the images. He told me that it usually takes a week for him to get the PET scan report. I had to wait.

Thursday, the lithotripsy procedure went very smoothly. I asked the anesthesiologist if I would get the same drug Dr. Conrad Murray gave Michael Jackson, propofol.  She said, "No, you would not be under enough with that drug. We need to make sure your body is completely still during the procedure." When I mentioned to her how my kidney stone was found, she commented that the blood in my urine back in July was likely caused by the stone and not the energy drink. I'm not convinced. I think the energy drink, probably in concert with the stone, triggered the massive bleed.

You have to remember that during all this, I felt fine. I didn't have any pain whatsoever. I know I was a bit more tired than usual and I had bouts of insomnia. But generally, I felt good.

Waiting Game & Prayer
That was the worst part, waiting. It's interesting, as I look back, how some memories are crystal clear and others are fuzzy. They have a vagueness about them, like an unfocused dream where nothing makes sense.

I don't remember the exact day I spoke to the urologist, but I believe it was near my birthday, Thanksgiving week. I didn't see him in his office. He called me on the phone. I didn't get to read the PET scan report. I don't think I even asked about it. All I remember him telling me is that he was referring me to an oncologist. Did that mean I definitely had cancer? I truly didn't know. 

What I felt was terrified of the unknown and the realities of my life. I lived alone. My family was on the east coast. How was I going to support myself if I could not work? I don't have lots and lots of girlfriends who live close by. I have a handful of girlfriends I've been lucky to have known for close to 30 years. Both Bobbie, who I met when I was 20, and Sandy, who I met in massage school, live out of state. I have three long-time girlfriends who are here in California but they all live 20 to 30 miles away in different directions. And one, Julienne is in a wheelchair.

I have had a daily ritual ever since the exceptional Elaine Giftos Wright came to my little home and transformed it with the art of Feng Shui. I had met Elaine almost 20 years ago when she applied her skills to my first house.

Elaine had me hang a wind chime in a corner of my bedroom, which corresponded to the knowledge area of my home. And she suggested a prayer for me to say when I rang my wind chime every morning.

I've just alerted the universe to send in more abundance and prosperity. And my mind is clear to make the most perfect choices for my life and my benefit.
When I was looking for a new job, I would also say a prayer, a plea to my mother, "Momma, help me find a new job." The new job became a reality about three months later. After the urologist said the word Cancer to me, my prayer to my mother changed. I would ring my wind chime real hard, tears streaming down my face and ask, "Momma, please help me get well." 

More to come....

Day 6-7
Each day, I continued to feel more normal. I was getting my appetite back. I was able to eat more and work in my garden. The thought of cooked veggies still was not appetizing, but I was able to get through some.

Day 8
My appointment for my second dose of Gemzar was at 1:30pm. This was going to be a much shorter appointment. Getting just the one drug will only take an hour.

Like the week before, my dear friends who live on my same street, took me to my appointment. I told them it would only be a little over an hour. Afterwards, we would all go grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. 

When I was called back to the tiny treatment area, the same chair with the bird photo above it was free. I also noticed for the first time, that the comfy chairs were recliners! The reason I couldn't get the chair to go back last time was because I hadn't pushed it away from the wall.

Not wanting to get cold again, I brought my favorite blankie with me. It's a double fleece and flannel blanket I made for myself. It's a fabric print by artist Debbie Mumm with kitties chasing mice on the flannel and the fleece.

Reclining for my second dose of chemo with my favorite blankie.

First I am given the steroid (dexamethasone) and anti-nausea (Zolfran) medications together. There would be no saline with this infusion. Once those drugs were done then the RN loaded the Gemzar into my IV. I was posting on Facebook my status in the chair. I wasn't paying attention to my IV site. The RN chastised me for not having my hand and arm straight out. Well, not really chastised, I just felt chastised.

By about 2:40pm the Gemzar was all done and I could go grocery shopping with friends. I did not have any side effects of the chemo drugs that day.

Day 9-10
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I continued to feel good. No side effects. I accomplished some more gardening and changed the nectar in the hummingbird feeders. I shopped for Mother's Day cards to send to friends. I cooked, and did laundry. I made plans to do a deep cleaning of my bedroom and master bath over the weekend. Both were very dusty. Little did I know that just around the bend, fate had a different path in front of me.

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

The next post in this series can be found HERE.