I really don’t know where to start.
It was Sunday afternoon, I was day three into chemo, and I wasn’t feeling well. I had a fever, my cough was worsening, and I just… well, something just wasn’t right. By 6 o’clock I had spoken with the on-call doctor twice, my fever was up to 100.7, and we agreed that I ought to be seen at the hospital.
I was in so much pain from coughing. I could barely stand or walk, but Seth managed to get me into his truck and off to the ER. (We now know an ambulance would have been a wiser route.) The wait at the hospital was unbearable, and the actual ER experience was the worst I’ve bared. The nurses couldn’t access my port, but their antics in trying to do so rallied a crowd. Once they finally put a needle in me it took three tries to relieve my pain. I imagine that happened sometime around 11pm. And I suppose that’s when I started vomiting too.
For hours. I would pass out, wake up, vomit, and repeat. At some point I was admitted and transferred to a room upstairs. I had to have been sick for 5 or 6 hours, but only Seth would know for certain. The Dilaudid which controlled my pain also made me quite ill. Or maybe it was the chemo; we will never know.
The next thing I knew it was late Monday morning. I was starting to ‘come to,’ and I sent Seth home to take care of the bunnies and try to get a couple hours of sleep. It was the first overnight he ever had to spend with me at the hospital.
The doctors heard sounds in my chest consistent with pneumonia, so they started me on some heavy-duty antibiotics right away. They needed a CT scan, but since I have an allergy to the contrast dye, I had to be ‘prepped’ for 12 hours first. Nothing more would happen on Monday.
My scan was scheduled for 8am, and it went off without a hitch. And then, then I got the results. There were three things to discuss:
- I had pneumonia in my right lung. No big shocker here. I was on the antibiotics, and my fever was already improving.
- I had a pulmonary embolism in the lower lobe of my left lung. Wow… How did that get there?
- There is a small ‘spot’ on one of my vertebrae. Um…. What?
Seth was with Gracie at the vet. I knew he would be by shortly, and it really wasn’t news I wanted to deliver via text message. Plus, nothing was confirmed. This was just a red flag that there might be a problem. Left to my own devices, I reached for my phone. The message went to my ‘cancer penpal’ in Pittsburg: “They just told me that I might have a spot on my spine. 😦”
The march of the doctors began. I needed a bone scan, and the earliest available was Wednesday morning. Yet another day in the hospital. Each time I saw another doctor, I learned a little more. Finally my oncology nurse made her rounds, and I got the scoop from her. If it was cancer, the chemo drugs would stay the same, and I may need an additional injection too.
My bone scan was Wednesday morning. Yep, that confirmed things a bit. First, I had a fractured rib – probably from coughing. And there was definitely something in the spine. So more tests were ordered. An MRI and ultrasound of the legs. The MRI would give a better examination of the tissues in the back, and the ultrasound would make sure I didn’t have any other blood clots.
The ultrasound took 45 minutes, and I was in the MRI tube for an hour and a half. The good news: no blood clots. The bad news: “a focal lesion within the T8 vertebra, consistent with osseous metastatic disease.” More cancer.
My oncologist returns from vacation on Monday. Until I speak with him, I’m just trying to keep things in perspective. Maybe this is something we would have never seen unless I got a scan during this point in time. That is to say, maybe the chemo would have squashed it, and I would have never been the wiser. The radiology report didn’t measure the spot either, so maybe it’s very tiny, and I’ve started chemo just in time.
I have a lot to think about. I’m still very sick from, well, the reason I went to the hospital in the first place; on top of that, I feel like I’ve spent the last three days in the spin cycle of a washing machine.
More than anything, I need everyone else to stay calm right now. And if you are part of my mom, brother, or Seth’s support system, please be strong and brave for them. No matter what this means for me, I know it would be harder watching someone you love go through it.