I should just pay rent to the hospital

Tuesday was a gorgeous day. I was working from home in the backyard under the patio umbrella. As my creative juices were flowing in front of my lap top I got a chill. More than a chill really, it felt like winter inside of my body. I chalked it up to sitting in the shade and threw on a sweatshirt. Finally I couldn’t take it and moved into the warm embrace of the sun. I let it soak into the fibers of my sweatshirt like a little oven. Eventually I just went inside and piled myself under blankets. A couple hours later I felt feverish so I took my temp. YUP…104 temperature. CRAP.

I knew what my fate was. I would have no choice but to check into Hotel de Women and Infants pretty much kicking and screaming.

Cory drove and stayed with me in the emergency room. Around 11pm I was admitted and moved to a room on the oncology floor. Prior to that they did a chest x-ray and drew more blood cultures. The end result is that I have another/still have the same (?) blood infection. I am neutropenic at the moment which means that I am low on white blood cells that would normally fight against bacteria and infection. This is common in cancer patients undergoing chemo. Our immune systems are just shot.

That said, if you are sick or even suspect you have a cold- GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME.

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This is currently on my hospital door with a box of super attractive bird flu masks

So I’m not going to dissect every  detail of my time here so far because it’s exhausting. Here are the cliff notes:

  • I will most definitely be here for a few days 😦
  • My port just stopped working yesterday. Can’t flush it, can’t get a blood return. Nothing. That said I’ve had to have a couple peripheral lines put it (like normal IV’s) and that sucks a lot. I’ve had more needles jammed into me in the last 48 hours than I can count.
  • Since my port was infected previously my doctors are erring on the side of caution and having it removed. It will happen sometime today but we’re at the mercy of whenever Rhode Island Hospital can do it so until then I must fast.
  • They have two interventions to give me a boost and make me a little stronger. First it an injection to bump up my white blood cells. The other I am having as we speak and that is a blood transfusion. My hemoglobin was low so that should help too.
  • Again, no port = tubes hanging from each arm uncomfortably. I’ve never missed my port more. I’m not afraid of needles but I certainly do not enjoy getting stuck with them multiple times a day.

    With all this tubing hanging from my arms I’m tempted to recreate the fake party scene from Home Alone:

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  • No chemo this week so we can deal with the infection first
  • Once the infection is gone they will be putting in a temporary PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter).  Eventually they will come out they will place a new port like the one I have now. Anyway, the PICC looks like this (photo cred: Happy Colon):

 

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So those are the facts, here are the feels:

My initial reaction was anger. I’m actually still pretty angry which isn’t my typical response to something like this. I have just had so many hurdles thrown my way in such  a short period of time, it’s exhausting. You are just always playing catch up to feel well. When will the day come that I can do that? If the last few months is any indicator it’s going to be an even longer road than I imagined.

I explained my frustration in these terms to a social worker on the floor. Most everything I do now has an asterisk next to it-

  • I can go back to work but I can only be physically there 4 days a week
  • I can take a shower but I have to spend 10 minutes taping a plastic bag over my port needle to keep it dry. (and DEFINITELY no swimming)
  • I can go to that barbecue but I can’t eat any of the food there

You get the point, everything is conditional- at least for right now.

I get complimented often on my positive attitude which I sincerely appreciate. It’s still in there somewhere! I’m just salty at the moment. For now I need to honor and acknowledge the pain/anger/frustration because those feelings are authentic and part of the process.

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Don’t worry George, it’s not the summer of Jess either.

Maybe there will be an autumn of Jess? Hope so.

 

 

Because nothing is easy

Because nothing is easy, my “wimpy” little bacterial infection actually landed me in the hospital for eight days and seven nights. My last entry was a week ago and that day I was SURE that I was going to be discharged the next day but because it’s me, I had to complicate things a bit.

A few factors that delayed discharge:

Vancomycin  (vanco) gave a mild skin reaction. Due to that the doctors had to play around with the rate in which it was administered and the dosage. With this drug you also need to draw blood just prior to the next dose to see exactly how much vanco is in you. It can’t be too much to too little. Pretty much every blood draw I had except for the last missed the mark on either end. In short there was a lot of tweaking that had to go on before they could send me home with the drug.

-Daptomycin (Dapto) is a much better antibiotic that can be used as a second line treatment if vanco is not working or an allergy exists. Switching to this drug took a few days because your blood cultures need to be sent to a lab with a sample of Dapto and they watch it to see if the bacteria is sensitive to the drug. The results took 48 hours to yield but luckily it came back in my favor and we could make the switch. With Dapto, I was required to do one infusion in the hospital to monitor me for any reaction. We did that yesterday and after that I was cleared to go home. I didn’t even think it was real that I was going home (this is how jaded I have become in regard to my own health).

-My port appears to be the source of the infection which means that we had to be aggressive and consistent with antibiotic that would flow through the central line. The goal is to save the port. I will have blood cultures again in a week and if the sample from the port is still coming up positive for bacteria then the port may need to be removed and replaced. I am very much hoping this isn’t the case and honestly don’t think it will be.

Right now I feel okay but not as well as I felt last week before going to the hospital. A week of antibiotics, antihistamines, and other necessary medications can kind of knock you down a little. The antibiotics have torn up my stomach so I’m slowly getting my appetite back. I do have TPN at home that I have returned to so at least I’ll get the appropriate calories and nutrients while I build up my food by mouth. In short I’m just really fatigued.

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That said, I’m grateful for the care I received at WIH. From the ER to 4East I was in the hands of people who know me, provide the best care, and care greatly about the work that they do. Despite how much longer I was inpatient than anticipated, we could find comfort through frustration that everyone was working as hard as they could to find a solution to the various challenges that arose.

Thank you as always to my parents and Cory who made many a long drive to be with me in Providence and help me keep my head on straight.

So I’m home now. Again, writing this from my back yard with the chirping birds and the abundant garden.  Thank goodness.

From here on out the plan is-

1.) Administer IV antibiotics through my port at home from now until June 30th

2.) Continue TPN until further notice

3.) Start chemo again June 30th after a check up with Dr. Robison. That day I will receive Taxol and Carboplatin in the infusion center in Providence as I would normally.

and most importantly…

4.) STAY OUT OF THE DAMN HOSPITAL!

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There’s no place like home (even if you’ve only seen it once before)

We are approaching one week since I have been discharged from the hospital. This is (sadly) shattering my record from the past month of yo-yo hospitalizations.

Initially, I thought it would be uncomfortable leaving the hospital and moving into the new place. I didn’t even say goodbye to my old apartment. Like magic, with the help of a lot of friend/elves, I was just moved. Luckily the new house is a great place to recover and slowly but surely Cory and I are making it into a home.

What a stress-free environment. It is this little house with a perfect back yard and a garden. There are constant sightings of vibrant cardinals, bees, and hummingbirds. This morning I took my yoga mat into the grass and did some makeshift gentle yoga/stretching to get my body moving (after a month of being nearly sedentary). A bright red cardinal was perched on the tree above me the entire time. I couldn’t possibly be more “one with nature” in this moment unless I transformed into Bear Grylls and was dumped out of a plane into the Amazon.

Overall, my experience home has been the right prescription emotionally. I love our little town, the house we’re renting is comfortable and coming together, and my roommate is pretty easy on the eyes ;).

Since I didn’t actually write about getting discharged, I’ll keep it brief and stick to the important bits. They took incredibly good care of me there and kept the NG tube in up until about 30 mins before I left to be as precautionary as possible. But at some point your guts are going to do what they’re going to do and Dr. Robison felt it was best to get one more round of chemo in the hospital then go home and be normal*.

*”Normal”- not to be confused with ACTUAL normal living, but operating in a way that makes you feel somewhat free and human. Let’s call it normal light.

Going home was the best gift and the correct decision at that point. Dr. Robison also knows me all too well and probably anticipated that I would try to go back to work too soon. Just like a surgery, the body needs time to heal and repair itself especially after the added trauma of septic shock. That said, until I’m medically cleared I will be home for a little while and fondly thinking of my friends at Bryant from afar.

Unlike other discharges from bowel obstructions I’ve had, this time I was sent home having not even advanced to clear liquids. The only thing by mouth that I had in the hospital were Dum Dum lollipops (thanks to Sheila and Shakay for supplying). No, this time we were going to to sllllooooowwwwwwwwww as molasses to prevent ending right back up in the ER yet again. For now I’m still on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) where I receive all of the calories and nutrients I need for the day over a 12 hour period right into the blood stream through my port. I’ve been supplementing this with tiny amounts (2-4 oz.) of watermelon Italian ice to reintroduce something into my system by mouth but that’s it.

Starting tomorrow, with the blessings of Sheila/my case manager/dietician, I am going to try small amounts of blended soups (like butternut squash) and pureed foods. Stocking up on baby food basically. I was advised to listen to my body and slowly reintroduce foods into my diet working up to solids (low in insoluble fiber). I miss real food but we are getting there slowly.

You can imagine how brutal it is when Cory (a very talented cook) is making dinner for himself. I awkwardly ask him to let me smell it and pretty regularly shove my nose in the direction of his food to at least pretend like I know what it tastes like.

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But Cory isn’t the only wizard in the kitchen. Watch the TPN master prep tonight’s dinner (with the help of some “muscle” to spike the bag). I made this video to take some of the mystery out of what is actually sustaining me and how I manage it (and cranked up the speed 15x as to not kill you with boredom).

What you’re watching:

  • Sterilizing pretty much everything with alcohol wipes
  • Injecting the TPN bag with additional vitamins and Zantac
  • Having Cory spike the bag because it’s not easy. You really need to jam it in there.
  • Hooking up the tubing to the bag and pump and priming the tubing to push out any air in the line.
  • Sterilizing the end of my already accessed port (the little tube hanging from my chest) and flushing it with saline.
  • Connecting the primed line to the port tubing and starting the pump. It’s all pre-programed so all I need to do is sit back and let dinner run through my bloodstream for the next 12 hours.

What you don’t see: 

  • The big white bag stays refrigerated but needs to be left out for about 2 hours prior to use.
  • I washed my hands thoroughly before starting the process, promise.

 

So what’s next?

Chemotherapy continues on Thursday bright and early in Providence. This is a Taxol only week so it shouldn’t be too bad. Oh by the way we are back on the weekly chemo regimen- every Thursday now. No breaks, no week off, no chemocation. We can’t afford to not be aggressive after all of this hospital business.

Put on your game faces folks.

As always I will keep you posted with a progress report. Thanks for continuing to send warm thoughts and wishes for improved health 🙂

I hope everyone is enjoying this gorgeous June weather and since I cannot- please eat double at barbecues and have some sort of boozy frozen drink on my behalf. (nom nom nom, in spirit).

 

Go straight to ICU, do not collect $200

The past few days have been nothing short of a frightening whirlwind for both myself and my loved ones. It isn’t until now that I even feel that I’m in a place to talk about it.

My last post was pretty positive. When I last left you I was discharged from the hospital, home, and looking forward to settling into normalcy outside the sterile white walls of the fourth floor at Women and Infants. I had taken the next day off from work purposely to give myself time to regroup before heading back to the office.

It’s a good thing I stayed home because everything took a serious left turn quickly.

I woke up Monday morning with pain in my abdomen, the kind of pain that I’ve felt time and time again with a bowel obstruction. As the pain increased to maximum intensity I ended up driving to the ER and checking into triage. From triage to where we are at present is where events are a little hazy for me but my family has been kind enough to fill me in. It’s not like I was totally knocked out or anything. I just remember in segments, like a scrapbook where the pages are out of chronological order.

It turns out the the bowel obstruction wasn’t totally resolved so we had that to deal with. WIH was kind enough to send me over the Rhode Island Hospital to have an NG tube placed. The purpose of the NG tube is to suction out any stomach contents/acid so that your intestines can actually rest. This time it inserted under fluoroscopy so they could see the hose being guided down into my stomach. This was to avoid last week’s debacle where the hose coiled over my hernia and didn’t make it into the stomach. I was technically awake for this but as I’ve written before, it’s a pretty traumatic and unpleasant procedure. They loaded me up with medication to make it more tolerable. That said, I just remember going there and then waking up back at Women and Infants.

I wish I could say that my situation improved from there but this is where it got scary. In the middle of the night I went pale, spiked a fever, my heart rate sped up, and blood pressure plummeted. I was given a blood transfusion because my hemoglobin was too low. I don’t remember much about this part but I do remember my room just flooded with nurses and doctors. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was in septic shock.

My understanding of septic shock is that it is a bacterial infection in the bloodstream. The cause of why I ended up with it is still unknown. They scanned me a few times to see if I had a bowel perforation but they were not able to detect any holes of the intestine. The doctors told me that it’s possible with all of the bowel obstructions, the walls of the intestine experience pressure and bacteria can get in. .

There were a few things that became challenging in the ICU. First there were a lot of “cooks in the kitchen”. There was hardly a moment where someone wasn’t in the room with us, examining, asking questions, administering medication, taking vitals. I didn’t sleep more than a few minutes at a time for three days. I felt delirious. We also didn’t have a source of the sepsis so periodically there would be a different doctor from a different team making a different suggestion. Everything from colonoscopies to stints to surgery. It got to the point where my family was like “you need to talk to our oncologist, period.” We weren’t about to do anything, especially invasive procedures, without Dr. Robison.

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So in a small nutshell that was my time in the ICU. It was scary and stressful and high pressure. My poor family. I was lucky to have my parents and Cory there right away. My brother Adam even flew out to be with us and slept in the chair next to me all night that first night in the ICU (although I use the term sleep loosely).

As of yesterday I was well enough to return to Women and Infants.Thank god. It’s so much quieter and calmer here. I have a nice room with a pretty view. A small silver lining within this big shitty mess.

I’m a lot more liberated today as I am not tethered to so much “stuff”. They took the catheter out, I’m not on oxygen anymore, and I’m no longer hooked up to the vitals monitor and blood pressure cuff. I do still have the “nose hose” and a second central line in my neck but I can move around more freely than before. I took a walk for the first time today down the hallway and was able to move about to the bathroom on my own. It was nice to have the scrap of freedom.

I have some goals for the next week:

1.) Improve/restore my lung capacity

2.) Get the nose hose out and eventually eat real food.

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TPN: Current breakfast, lunch, & dinner

3.) Take no less than 3 walks a day around the unit

4.) Hope to God I get discharged by Friday so that I can attend Saturday’s 2016 commencement at Bryant.This is the first class that I’ve advised all four years and many of these kids mean the absolute world to me. It would break my heart if I missed this day.

I’ll keep everyone posted as we continue to make progress. Thanks for sticking with me everyone ❤

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“You’re up for parole!”

“You’re up for parole!” my nurse exclaimed as she waived my discharge paperwork in the air. I was ready to twirl and prance out of that hospital room this afternoon when I found out that I could go home.

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Yesterday wasn’t too bad, just long and monotonous. I was thrilled when I got my first tray of clears after just being on an IV for a few days. The honeymoon period was quickly over after the 4th tray of the same chicken broth, juice, tea, and jello/”orange ice” arrived this morning.

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One of the doctors on rounds pointed to the tray of clears that had arrived for breakfast and said “you don’t want that, do you?” I gave an enthusiastic heck no and she gave me the green light for solid food. After a successful breakfast and lunch with no snags. I was able to go home.

As I’ve said before, bowel obstructions are not at all uncommon for people like myself that have had invasive abdominal surgeries, especially when the intestine has been resected. To date, I’ve had four obstructions since 2013 that have resulted in a hospitalization of no less than five days. It makes you wonder to what extent you can be preventative and how much you can really control.

So why is this continually happening? Well, we can’t be certain but we have some guesses. Two major reasons that bowel obstructions could occur (and no one reason is not that I’m just “full of shit” as my lovely nurse Sheila likes to say):

  • Tumor pressing on the intestine
  • Adhesions formed that cause the intestine to kink up

The most likely cause of obstruction for me is probably the adhesions because I have had two major, invasive, abdominal surgeries. Naturally there is going to be a ton of scarring. Unfortunately they cannot be seen on a CT scan so it’s hard to tell for sure. If we really got to a point where I was in the hospital every few weeks for obstructions, they could do surgery to remove the adhesions. That; however, would also lead to new adhesions that would form later on so it’s not the best solution unless totally necessary.

So that part is really out of my hands. What I do have control over is what I put in my body and the best course of action is a low residue diet. This means limiting the amount of insoluble fiber I’m eating and making food choices that will digest well and quickly.

Unfortunately this means no raw fruits or veggies, beans, seeds, nuts, hard cheeses, and whole grains. Even soft cooked cruciferous veggies like broccoli are really not good for my guts right now. In order to make sure that I am getting the nutrients I need to stay well and fight this disease it will be on me to find other ways to pack in those nutrients.

That means: Drinking my veggies through blended soups and green smoothies, packing in protein, and supplementing my diet with Ensure*.

*Sidenote- thanks to my loving parents that go above and beyond the call of duty always, I now have about a month’s supply of Ensure in every flavor.

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To all the employees that work for the company that makes Ensure, consider this job security.

Anyway, I really hope to stay out of the hospital. There are so many incredible things on the horizon in the next few months and I want to be out enjoying all of them fully.

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak to the high touch, loving, level of care that I received on 4 East at Women and Infants Hospital. With the exception of one nurse and one CNA, I had been taken care of at least once before by every other nurse and CNA assigned to me. They all remembered me and very specific details of my life. These people just have so much heart, I am lucky to be cared for by them. It matters so much when you are feeling pain/scared/frustrated/sick/vulnerable/all of the above.

Finally, I need to give a special thanks to Cory and my parents for making so many sacrifices this weekend to make sure I was not alone and in a good position to transition back to “normal life”. No mother should have to visit their daughter in the hospital on mother’s day. I love you guys more than I can even say.

Thank you to everyone else that called, texted, commented and left warm words of encouragement. I can imagine after over 3 years of this “I’m in the hospital again” bullcrap some would think “Ugh, again? Get it together Sultaire”. Every well wish and display of kindness means so much and has kept me going all these years. Thank you all ❤

 

 

 

 

Chicken Broth for Breakfast

It’s about 8:30am and the doctors haven’t rounded yet. I feel like rounding usually takes place a lot earlier but maybe on Saturdays they get a later start? I don’t know, I’m usually pretty foggy in the hospital so I haven’t kept tabs on average rounding time in the past.

I’m especially anxious to see the doctors because they are the ones to decide whether or not I can graduate to a clear liquid diet. I didn’t have any pain since yesterday morning and my guts had “good bowel sounds” which is promising. If all goes well, clear breakfast would consist of some tea, juice, jello, and chicken broth. It’s the breakfast of champions and, in my head, a Michelin Star meal after not eating anything since Wednesday morning. My limited “breakfast” Wednesday didn’t even stay with me if you catch my drift so really I haven’t had a meal since Tuesday evening. Ooph.

It’s like food and I are playing this cat and mouse game. When I’m able to eat, I have no appetite. When my guts are on the fritz and I’m not allowed to eat I can think of anything more desirable. I tortured myself all day yesterday watching hours of the Food Network and scrolling through Instagram accounts of gooey grilled cheeses and waffles and the like.

This is pretty much the inner workings of my brain right now:

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****BREAKING NEWS****

Because this is being written in real time and I’m not going back to re-write the first half of this entry. Doctor’s have rounded and I’ve been cleared for clears! There were even talks of “something more substantial” and unhooking me from my IV later in the day if breakfast goes well.

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(Don’t worry, I’ll take it slow)

Hurray for progress. Pretty much as long as I continue not to throw up and my guts behave, I may forsee going home soon (not today), but soon 🙂

Thank you for the continued encouragement through this silly and frustrating hiccup ❤

Cautiously Optimistic

Chemocation, oh sweet chemocation. You sure have been good to me.

Since holding the Taxol my hands have returned to their original size. My appetite is much improved and the consistent nausea is all but gone.

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I am grateful for this break to rebuild my body as it has been taken a slow beating over time.

Well folks, let the good times roll because we have decided to continue to hold Taxol and only pursue Avastin for the foreseeable future. I believe I touched on this a few weeks back when I mentioned that we would do a CT scan and “re-evaluate” come summertime.

Ultimately it seemed silly to go back on Taxol for one cycle knowing we may hold it again shortly after. So here is the new plan-

  • Avastin (the antibody) infusion once every three weeks
  • Check up with the oncologist every six weeks
  • CT Scan on May 13th

If the scan shows improvement or at least no new disease, we can stick with this plan. Otherwise, I have the option to go back on Taxol. In any case, there is really no harm in just seeing if Avastin could be enough to keep me well.

One might be asking, “if Taxol has been working, why would you voluntarily drop it?”

My answer lies in faith and trust. I have faith that Avastin (alongside nourishing food/exercise/holistic practices) could be enough to give me the quality of life we have been striving for and slowly achieving after all of this time. I have trust that should this plan reach a point where is must change, we have safety nets in place. As Mom so perfectly stated today, it is perfectly okay to be cautiously optimistic.

So with that, let’s get excited for what is to come. Hopefully improved health, a new home, and a fresh chapter.

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Chemocationing & Making MOVES

There are three major things that I want to talk about: one piece of news is “eh”, the other is good, and the last is fantastical. Let’s dive in in that order and get pumped up.

 

1.) CA-125

My CA-125 was tested this week and made about a 300 unit jump to the mid 700’s. Not surprising considering the inflammation that likely exists in my body post bowel obstruction. Also my hands have been pretty swollen recently so that never helps the numbers either.

 

Overall I’m not concerned right now. I’m going to start taking the steroid Decadron regularly and see if that helps.

 

2.) Chemocation!

Since I have become “Mr. Balloon hands” we decided that a little break from chemo could be beneficial. I did receive Avastin as scheduled today but I didn’t have to get Taxol. I’ll also have the next two weeks off from it as well. Woo hoo!!!

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and the best for last…

3.) Roommate

I am the most thrilled to share that as of June 1st Cory and I are going to be roommates! (He hates it when I call him that)

Let me rephrase- we are going to be venturing into a new and exciting chapter of our relationship as we just deposited on a house for rent in Pawcatuck, CT. I couldn’t be happier. The house is everything we wanted and more, it’s just 2 minutes down the road from downtown Westerly, 15 minutes from Misquamicut beach, and our landlord is incredibly kind and down to earth. The house is also a commutable distance to both of our jobs so aside from a longer drive, no job sacrifices had to be made.

Finding this house this week was especially timely because it is also our two year anniversary. I am grateful every single day for Sam Favata introducing us at that beer fest. I had no idea on that day I would find one of the greatest support systems on the planet. Remember- I was already very much cancer-fied when Cory met me and he still signed up for this wild journey in spite of it. We have faced a lot as a couple in dealing with this illness and the relationship hasn’t wavered.

I look forward to building a home life together which includes but is not limited to: Back yard BBQ’s, Cory cooking amazing food, eating said amazing food,  aggressively competitive board game nights and a lot more Nerf wars (I think we’re actually children).

 

That’s all for now! I’m always happy when I can share some positive updates. I hope everyone has a delightful weekend 🙂

 

 

Top 5 Tuesday: What’s in your bag?

For anyone that has seen and come to love the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack you would know that he would be proud of this addition to the blog since his character makes Top 5 lists throughout the film. Luckily I won’t be listing top 5 saddest break up songs or anything like that. This is a little more practical and cancer-esque.

Now I tend to shy away from dishing out “how to’s” because there is no instruction manual for cancer and everyone’s experience is uniquely theirs. But I can offer some nuggets that have come to help me personally over the years. If you find any of it useful, perfect! If not, find comfort that I still have a day job.

When you’re in chemo you have a lot of time on your hands and comfort isn’t always optimal. Here are my Top 5 must-haves packed for a chemo infusion.

1.) A designated chemo bag

This seems like a silly one but let’s face it, chemo brain is very real and without some level of consistency I will likely forget to bring something to treatment. I generally use one of those reusable cloth grocery bags. I’m glad they’re getting used somehow because I am the worst offender of owning them and forgetting to bring them with me to the grocery store. Sorry environment. I’m trying, really.

A reusable grocery bag or tote will be enough to fit a few necessities. Keep it in your car if you drive yourself to treatment or pre-packed in the same spot in your home.

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I think we can agree that I should upgrade from stop and shop bag to this gem. GASP. NEED.

2.) A soft/fuzzy blanket

As a blanket enthusiast I have many throws around my apartment but I have one specifically that I keep in my car so that I never forget to bring it with me to chemo. Why BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket)?

  • Hospital blankets are generally glorified burlap tarps. They don’t provide much warmth beyond the first few minutes out of the blanket warmer and the material doesn’t make for a cozy experience.
  • Emotionally it’s nice to have one blanket specifically for chemo so I am not making that association when I am trying to relax at home. That blanket serves one purpose, my other blankets are my home blankets.
  • Sometimes one of the pre-drugs for chemo (depending on your treatment) is Benadryl. If you are anything like me you’re cross eyed within a few minutes and ready for a solid chemo nap. When I’m napping I am seeking optimal comfort, especially if I’m being infused for a few hours at a stretch.
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This is what I’m 99% sure I look like post-Benadryl

3.) Entertainment

Boy is this necessary. My first stab at chemo had me there for 8-9 hour infusions. Now it’s more like 2-4 hours. You have a lot of time on your hands here. In the chemo units I have experienced there are usually televisions and maybe a few magazines hanging around. I would suggest packing one or more of these items for variety.

  • A good book. I prefer something that is going to make me chuckle. If you haven’t read anything by fellow blogger Jenny Lawson do it. You will undoubtedly be THAT person belly laughing in the chemo unit.
  • Cell phone with good battery life
  • Tablet or iPad if you have one. Good for movie watching/Netflix binging if the cable options aren’t great or answering work email if you’re still working and a true overachiever (just don’t answer email post-Benadryl…trust me. It makes for some weird outcomes)
  • Favorite magazines or crossword puzzles. Nice touch for your chemo bag for the sake of anyone volunteering to come with you for support. If you’re a chemo napper like me, your friend/loved one is going to need entertainment as much as you.

*Ok, ok so I know I cheated with #3 and listed 4 different things in a Top 5 list. You can write angry letters to the editor if need be. Spoiler Alert: I am also the editor.*

4.) Phone charger/Ipad or tablet Charger

I mean, if you’re there for a few hours killing time with non-stop Facebook and Insta-creeping you’re going to need to charge up.

5.) Sweater/Sweatshirt

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Maybe have a little bit of chill and don’t pack this one…

I’ve found that comfort and layers are key. The particular chemo drugs that I get make me immediately freezing then I wake up sweating bullets shortly after. Having an extra sweater to keep in your bag can help to manage that. Also if you’re low on magnesium and they add that to your IV, it tends to make people run a little warm

 

So there you have it, my top chemo staples for maximum enjoyment  okay-ness?

I purposely did not include water/snacks/meals because in my experience the infusion center has graciously provided that in all three hospitals that I have been in. If yours does not it never hurts to have a bottle of water to stay hydrated and a granola bar or fruit to keep your tum tum happy.

 

Cancer friends- what are your top chemo necessities? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.

 

 

 

Recovering as George

First, I must thank you for the outpouring of support over the past week while I spent four nights in the hospital resolving the obstruction in my small intestine. The words of encouragement mean more than you know especially when you feel like much is out of your realm of control.

I was discharged on Wednesday and have been trying, successfully I might add, to proceed with a high level of self-care. I pretty much needed to fight all of my natural instincts. So basically I’m operating on the “Constanza Principle”…

 

  • Instinct #1: I haven’t been at work in many days and I have to go back on Thursday or the world will explode
    • Opposite action: I was strongly encouraged and well supported by my supervisors and colleagues to return on Monday when I was feeling better. I was admittedly starting to feel anxious as my inbox piled up with questions that I couldn’t necessarily answer from home so I made a compromise with myself. I slept in on Thursday and at my leisure went to my office for an hour MAX, closed my office door, knocked out enough to feel less anxious, and went home.
  • Instinct #2: I am discharged which should mean that things are improving. There is nothing to talk about.
    • Opposite action: The night I was discharged one of the first things I did was email Dana, my social worker, at the hospital and ask for an appointment this week to “debrief”.
      • I will write more about this next week but one thing I have learned time and time again and not properly addressed is that when you are hospitalized you have experienced a trauma (anyone who truly understands what it’s like to have an NG tube placed while you’re awake can give me a chorus of “amen sister!”). Trauma’s are not all blood and gore- you are in a vulnerable position, you are not in control of what is happening to you, it is a trauma, period.
      • I went into my appointment not fully knowing what I wanted to talk about. Truly, I walked in there feeling pretty stable. As I anticipated there are issues that bubbled up that started with the hospitalization and weaved into other concerns both medical and non-medical. This appointment was the best gift that I gave myself this week. To express certain concerns out loud, to validate feelings, to have a good cry in a safe space where I don’t feel inclined to edit my thoughts- it was truly healing. I’m glad I nipped this in the bud.
  • Instict #3: Resting = Sitting in pajamas and binge watching TV
    • Opposite action: 
      • Ok fine I totally binge watched The Wire and old episodes of Veep on HBO. BUT I honored myself in other ways too!
      • I invested in my body by booking a massage at the Alayne White Spa. I didn’t truly know how many knots existed in my back until I got on that table. At one point I was face down and was so relaxed that I dosed off. I woke up to my mouth gaped open like an idiot and I was totally drooling on the floor through that little face hole. I’m 99.9% sure I didn’t drool on the massage therapist’s sneakers. Fingers crossed.
        • Funny aside: As I was on my way out post-massage I ran into Heather (infusion center nurse manager) and Nancy (4th floor oncology nurse). They were there for facials that they won at a silent auction. One would think that any reminder of the hospital the day after a hospitalization would conjure up negative feelings. I was just so happy to see these lovely faces outside of a medical setting I had to fight back happy-tears.
      • In addition to the massage I also treated myself to some time in one of the more peaceful venues in Providence, The Duck and Bunny. I enjoyed a quiet snack of crusty break drizzled with olive oil with Narragansett  Creamery ricotta and a pot of chamomile tea. It was calming and so good for the soul.
  • Instinct #4: I’m out of the hospital which means I’m capable of doing things for myself
    • Opposite action: Sucking it up and letting people offer their help because it just makes life easier
      • Mom and Dad cleaned up and did my laundry so I could come home to minimal work (seriously, gems). Also after arriving home after 15 minutes of me trying to convince them that I’d “figure out” something for lunch, I gave in and let them indulge me in a sandwich from Olga’s. I would have probably made a PBJ so they called my bluff.
      • Katie “Mamamamamabear” Carlson gave me a ride to Beth and Brendan’s house to dye easter eggs with her family. Sure, I could drive myself but it was very nice to have a ride. (p.s. I’m not very good at dying easter eggs #jewishkidproblems)

 

So there we go, trying desperately to practice self-care that I speak so highly of but don’t often practice.

Off to spend the weekend with my parents and back to work on Monday, hello sh-normalcy!