Exhaustion takes over

April 25 Today we went back to Moffitt to have an infusion port implanted before chemotherapy begins. My doctor had given me a flyer with a drawing showing an incision near the shoulder where the port would be inserted and a tube threaded from there up into my jugular vein and down to my heart. It totally spooked me. Enter, the nurse from hell. While telling the other nurses how she needed to leave as soon as possible, this lady poked a needle in my left arm and attached tubing. Soon she said the IV would not “advance,” whatever that means, so she took it out and stabbed another into my right arm. Meanwhile, a woman introduced herself to me as the technician who would do the procedure. A technician? Really? A tech, not a doctor, is going to run a tube into my jugular and then into my heart? At that point they decided I needed medication to calm me. Next thing I knew they were wheeling me through a labyrinth of hallways, finally stopping outside an operating room. Then, to my surprise, they told me to get up off the gurney, walk into the O.R., and climb up on the operating table. I felt like a reluctant human sacrifice.
As I lay there, several people crowded around attaching monitors and other electronic gizmos. They joked and laughed while the nurse again reminded them that she needed to leave ASAP. It was totally disconcerting. Why couldn’t they have put me out before bringing me into this house of horrors? I didn’t need to see the tray of surgical instruments being rolled up beside me. And I certainly didn’t need to witness what happened next: that same nurse declaring, once again, that my IV was not advancing and she would have to insert another one. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like screaming, “Can’t you find someone who actually knows how to do an IV instead of giving this bumbler a third stab at me?” Instead, I held my tongue and prayed, “Lord, please let it work this time.” And it did. Finally, medication flowed into my arm and a welcome woosiness replaced my apprehension. Sometime later I was wheeled back through the hallways to where John waited to squeeze my hand and whisper, “It’s all over. Port is in and you’re fine.” We spent the night in a Tampa hotel since we were due back at Moffitt at 8 a.m. I tossed and turned all night, trying desperately to find a position that didn’t hurt. The next morning, as I walked down the hospital hall, someone touched my arm from behind. The familiar nurse’s voice said, “How are you today? I worried about you all night. I’m so sorry about the IV problems yesterday.” The rest of the day was spent getting three tests, an electrocardiogram, a CT scan, and a bone scan, to establish a baseline of my health pre-chemotherapy. The CT required yet another IV plus drinking three glasses of a nasty sour drink. Then they squirted a stinging solution into my IV and rolled my claustrophobic body into a huge noisy machine. For the bone scan they squirted a radioactive tracer into my IV. Will I glow in the dark now? Finally, at 6 p.m. I stumbled back to the waiting room where John had spent the last two days, watching all I had to go through, knowing he could do nothing to help or change it. He slipped an arm around my shoulders and said, “Let’s get out of here.” I leaned into him and tears of sheer exhaustion trickled down my cheeks.

Editor’s note: Joyce Minor has been sharing her experience fighting breast cancer and her mastectomy in her column for several weeks. This is the latest installment.


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