October 16, 2010

Insomnia and building a bank of white blood cells

Okay, chemo side effect No.2 surfaced and stole my sleep last night keeping me awake until 6AM this morning.  No big deal; if my body was given freedom to move to its own clock, I would be quite the nocturnal animal.  Every one of my trips to exotic spots around the world to operate my radio finds me morphed to a nocturnal being almost immediately.  Unfortunately, this insomnia robbed me of my first good night sleep in a much needed new bed! 

I spent the night watching “The Nanny” reruns from the couch with my new buddy, the ugly butt-bag with the chemo pump.  No exactly a romantic moment…for either of us.  Finally I slipped into a coma for a couple hours probably scaring the heck out of my mother when she came though the living room to find a body sprawled on her couch, mouth wide open like a fly trap and growling out a sound like a wounded water buffalo.  Likely not smelling much differently, either.

Side effect No.1 continues to come up every time I take one of my mandatory twice a day drugs.  It is some sort of steroid. None of the nurses or doctors seemed surprised to see my face lite-up like a red light hanging over the doorway to a cheap brothel.  The red face is accompanied with some radiating heat similar to mild sunburn. 

Today, when I made my visit to Doc Q’s Huntington Beach office, I was told to get used to it.  Having heard “Get used to it” phrase uttered so many times in just two days by my new medical family, no further explanation was needed.  Shut up, suck it up, Cowboy up stud and GET USED TO IT, YOU BIG BABY pretty much covers all that is unspoken in those four words.

As mentioned above, I followed Nurse Mary to Doc Q’s Huntington Beach office to get a shot of some liquid magic that will give my bone marrow a wake-up call to go into mass production mode and knock out massive quantities of white blood cells.  The downside of that will be what was simply call "bone pain" as the bone marrow does its job. As the nurse prepped me for the shot, she told me this will be somewhere between mildly uncomfortable or severely painful over the next few days. My God, I am stunned on how there can be such a never ending string of surprised popped on me each day.  Maybe someday I will numb to this mentally bashing but I doubt it.

They tell me I need to bank up those white cells because in a few days this chemo I am taking is going to do some serious white blood cell murder while attacking the cancer. To keep track of the kill-off, I will have blood work-ups every week for the foreseeable future.  I am not sure what they do if the killing exceeds the limit of safe health but they seem to take this measurement quite seriously.

Unfortunately, a five minute appointment for a simple shot turned into a two and half hour visit to a recliner chair in this office’s Room of Tortures closely watched by Nurse Mary and a new Nurse Shirley.  Nurse Shirley is a tough character clearly in charge of this room…and now me.  Under that tough exterior, I quick found an incredibly compassionate nurse who made me feel like I was her most important patient in the world. 

Anyway, it seems her trained eyes saw trouble with my condition that even I didn’t see or feel.  She quickly hooked up a quart plastic bag full of water into a Y connector unseen by me that yesterday was installed on the tube leading to my chest catheter tube.  That water was being dripped into the same flow of chemo being feed directly into the jugular blood flow into my heart.  Other cancer warriors around me paid absolutely no apparent attention to my arrival and the activity surrounding me.  Twice I have seen this activity in the Rooms so clearly this is an unwritten code of behavior amongst the warriors; a code I shall not forget and will comply with.

Nurse Shirley was right. I felt a great deal better when I left two hours later to find my car being the only parking lot occupant other than those belonging to medical staff.  Thanks Shirley!  BTW, she sent me home with non-debatable instructions to sleep tonight using sedation medications, Tylenol PM, a hammer or any other method at my disposal.  But, sleep I must or else receive the Wrath of Shirley.

It should come as no surprise to you that I got my due justice by telling Nurse Shirley she was prettier than Nurse Mary full knowing she would proudly tell Nurse Mary that I said that. When confronted by Nurse Mary, I categorically denied saying anything of the sort.  I suggested in a pathetically weak voice that she should take this up with Nurse Shirley herself because, after all, I was a very sadly sick fellow needing to avoid stressful situations.  

I know all of this Nurse playful fun will lead to a bottle of bleach being poured into my heart at some point but, for now, it serves as fun diversion for me.  I am committed to trying to bring some cheer into the lives of these angels who care some much about the well being of us in their charge. It gives me quiet joy making these fine people laugh for a moment. 

By the way, I told Nurse Shirley about the straw drawing going on in the other office to select the loser who would have to take care of me over there next Tuesday.  She thought about it for about a nanosecond and told me she was glad it was them and not her.   Hmmm.