zen.org Communal Weblog

June 17, 2011

Take another little pic of my heart now, baby

Filed under: — brendan @ 19:54 IST

Last night was a doozy.  I didn’t get an awful lot of sleep.  One cause was the periodic bleep-bleeping of the pump seeing tiny air bubbles when it was pushing the chemo into my system.  (Despite what we’ve been told in TV and film, apparently a huge amount of air can enter your blood stream before it really causes a problem.  But this device wants to be careful.)

The bags of chemo fluids kept being loaded up every three hours, as well as  other small bags between each to flush the remainder in the IV tube.  If it wasn’t that, it was other things like pain in my legs, with each leg’s pain associated with the biopsy done previously on its respective side.  Or it was constantly waking up to pee, since my body has to get rid of the massive amount of liquid being put into it.

Too many reasons to be woken up.  A nap this afternoon helped recover some of it, but since I’ll be having these constant chemo fluids ongoing tonight until about 3 or 4 in the morning (each one holding a full liter of fluids with the dissolved Etoposide), sleep will probably be iffy tonight, too.  Maybe I’ll crash out Saturday morning before the afternoon brings the other batch of chemo—thankfully only 2 hours each day for 3 days, instead of this non-stop flow.

It goes past “11”

We’re currently on Bag #10, with another four to go.  Imagine you’ve got a 2-liter bottle of water; now take five of them, and pour them into your kitchen sink, one at a time.  This is how much liquid has been going into my veins since yesterday, with pee being the only way for most of it to escape.  They’re giving me protective medicines both for my bladder and my kidneys, since my whole body is in overdrive.  In particular, my heart.

Heart Echo

This afternoon a girl showed up pushing a fancy-looking laptop on a cart to do a heart echo (aka echocardiogram).  It was just like having an ultrasound to see your baby developing and hear their heart beating.  The live images on the “laptop” screen showed the valves of my heart working away.  As it was explained to me by great male Nurse D, these measurements are being done on mine to check my ejection fraction—making sure my heart is keeping up with all of the blood it’s supposed to keep moving, given the dramatic increase in content—not to mention the fact the increase is being sustained for a good 40-hour stretch, non-stop.

Movies and real life

In a blog comment, our friend Michael mentioned the made-for-TV film Wit, starring Emma Thompson.  It’s about a person undergoing treatment for cancer, and apparently she does an amazing job.  While I think others would find it worthwhile, I’m not going to jump at seeing it.  Roger Ebert puts into words a summary of my own reaction to the idea of watching it, and also states something Elana and I were discussing in a conversation recently:

I inserted the DVD in the machine, pressed “play,” and settled back to watch it. The first shot is a close-up of a man’s face, a doctor, who tells someone she has advanced ovarian cancer. The next shot is a close-up of the woman he is speaking to, saying “yes?” or “and?” I forget which. I turned off the TV. I realized I actually could not watch the movie.

I remembered it too clearly, perhaps, and dreaded re-living it. When I reviewed it, its situation was theoretical for me, and I responded to the honesty and emotion of the drama. Since then, I have had cancer, and had all too many hours, days and weeks of hospital routine robbing me of my dignity. Although people in my situation are always praised for their courage, actually courage has nothing to do with it. There is no choice.

Exactly.  It’s just life, and figuring out how to deal with what you’ve been given.  You push yourself through this experience by managing to get your mind around the idea: since you can’t change what’s happening, you may as well come to grips with the fact that it’s taking place and just ride the course.

That said, it’s not at all simple to hold on tight the whole time.  Elana’s gotten really good at catching me, though.

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