Arriving at Tulane Medical felt like I was being transported into a whole different universe. A very sterile, hepa treated universe. But the nurses that were there to greet me as I was being wheeled in from the ambulance ride did everything possible to make me feel like I wasn't just some cancerous specimen being handled.
Everyone was talking so fast about my platelet and blood counts. I felt like I was going to need a translator. I was exhausted and loopy from the morphine they had given me to ease up some of the abdominal pain that I was having. I wished I had opted to make Jon come with me, because suddenly I was feeling very outnumbered and scared. I also had to repress the extreme need to just cry out for my mother.
I don't care who you are or how old you get, when the shit hits the fan in regards to your health you want you momma. And I wanted mine BAD! But it was barely 5 am and my mom had just been given the news so there was no physical way for her to get to me that fast with her in GA and me here in LA.
I made Jon go to work and act as if life was normal. I didn't want the kids to know anything until we had a definite diagnosis. I didn't want anyone to know at first because I felt like if I said it aloud then it really would be true. Basically, I was taking the approach of if we don't discuss or acknowledge it's existance then it can't possibly be happening. Very four year old I think!
Karen, Jon's mother, came to be with me and god love her for doing it because I was a wreck. From the moment I was put in the room it was a flurry of blood test, cultures, xrays, poking, proding, tell me where it hurts, where did you get this bruise and that bruise and how long have you had that mark. Stick your tongue out. Put it back in. Does it hurt to swallow? Bat your eyes. Do you feel dizzy? Do you feel nauseated? My head was spinning with all the different directions they were handing out and all I could do inside myself was just cry. Leukemia. Leukemia....I just kept repeating it in my head hoping that it would either stick and begin to make sense or that I would realize what a ridiculous notion this was and the staff would realize the errors of their ways.....we'd all have a good laugh and I'd go back to resuming my life.
No such luck.
On top of all of that going on there was a young social worker that came in to go over paperwork for possible financial options, because as if being struck with leukemia wasn't enough...I am uninsured. It's painful just to write it, let alone think what the bill is going to look like when it comes. If I had to speculate at this moment (in my high dramatic form) I see a large refridgerator box in our future as a home.
Thinking like that right now will do me no good so I pushed it out of my head and answered her questions as best as could through the flurry of commotion in the room. They were hanging blood because they said I was in need of a transfussion and all I kept thinking was I just wanna go to sleep can ya just wake me when this is all over?
If only I had known that it was just the beginning of possibly one of the longest days of my life I may have opted to sleep in the ambulance ride over instead of making small talk with the paramedic to cure my anxieties. Way to screw up another plan Jessica!
Karen tried to get me settled in as much as possible and distracted me with conversations. I was nauseated and didn't want to eat. Thankfully they didn't push that fact. I was worried because they kept mentioning that I would have to have a Bone Marrow Biopsy and I'd heard those were no fun. I don't know what my issue was at this point of being stuck again. My god, I had and IV in each arm and had every blood test and culture known to man run on me. Some with big needles and some with little. I just tried to grin and bare it the best I could but there were tears and sobs that slipped out from moment to moment.
Since they were quick to start me on a blood transfusion I had to have a nurse with me at all times for the test that they needed to run. I was bundled up in a wheelchair and whisked away to have an EKG to make sure that my heart would be strong enough to handle the chemotherapy that they would be starting just as soon as possible.
My EKG went well and then it was time for xray. By the time we made it back up to my room all I wanted to do was nap, but there was the social worker again with her clipboard and questions. I felt like screaming, "hey lady...ummm, I think you should allow the newly diagnosed cancer patient at least 24hrs before you start diving into the financials" but I was too tired to even say that.
While having Karen there was a comfort, I began to wish I had Jon with me. The day progressed on in a blur of one lab or another.
Taking my vitals. Cursing that the fever was still hanging on or going up, but never down. I had to keep oxygen on which dried out my nose and made for horrible nose bleeds which were hard to stop because I had nothing to help act as a clotting agent in my system.
Everytime I tried to get a little rest there was something new to be poked at or prodded on or another doctor to parade in and speak so fast that I literally just sat there with the most idiotic look on my face and then when they walked out was like, "huh...I hope that wasn't too important because I have NO idea what they just said".
As morning turned to afternoon and then early evening it was time for Karen to pack up and head out. I hugged her and thanked her for being there with me. As soon as she left the surgeons swooped in and so did the doctors that would be handling my Bone Marrow Biopsy. It was a little scary, for obvious reasons...ya know like the PAIN! But what I found more scary is that they were practically racing to see who could get their stuff set up first so they could be the first to do their procedure.
I felt like saying, "hold up boys...there's plenty of me to go around". But when your about to have some midevil torture device shoved into your hip bone and another team will be working very close to your jugular vein, well...you keep those smart ass comments to yourself.
Bone marrow doctors won so they did their thing first. My nurse Michelle was a god send, because withouth her I think I would have hopped off the table and taken one of the doctors out. I get the whole "big pinch...burn, burn, and then you should feel numb". Got that. What I didn't realize is that they were gonna have to do it several times and each time they were trying to actually get it down deeper into the bone.
Can someone say OUCH?!?!?!
And in case you ever wondered what Lidocaine feels like when it's injected into your ass or any other part of your body....ummmm, it's like having a mixture of hot lava and acid shot into you. Once they proclaimed me good and numb, which I totally begged to differ with, they got to work on getting out a sample of the marrow and the bone.
They decided to give me a quick run down of how the whole procedure should go from start to finish. They would mark the area where they were going to extract from, which of course was the area that they had just numbed. Then they would insert this tool, that I refused to look at or acknowledge for fear of passing out. they said there would be a pop when it went through the marrow and then another pop when it got to the bone. Finally it would be time to take a deep breath, exhale....and they pull out the sample.
Ta da...no big deal!
It sounded like a really big pencil sharpener was being used. Like the tool was the pencil and my hip was the sharpener. The pain wasn't pain as much as it was extrememe pressure and I could tell that they were working hard to get the sample. Finally, I felt the first of the two pops, then the second one and finally it was time to take a deep breath and exhale so they could remove their specimen.
I'm not gonna lie to you...it hurt like HELL, but at the end I really felt bad for the doctor because he sounded as though he had worked hard to get that sample. I just kept asking, "are you okay back there". I would hear a chuckle and so I assumed he lived. After a few minutes he exclaimed that I had really healthy bones and that is what was making it so difficult. That made me feel a bit better...at least there was something left on this damn body of mine that hadn't failed....yet.
If there had to be a winner out of the bone marrow and central line fiasco, it totally went to the bone marrow guys, cause at least they didn't shove my head under a sheet and suffocate me. NOT COOL, NOT COOL at all!!
There was no rest for me, once they had that line in it was time to tackle the next thing which was a treatment where they would cycle out my blood, cleaning out the bad Leukemia cells, and then reintroduce clean blood back into my system. It required a huge machine, with two nurses that were with me throughout the procedure taking my vitals. It took a little over 7 hrs to complete and as soon as it was over all I wanted to do was sleep. No such luck.
They unhooked all the lines for the treatment they had just finished and then brought in my first bags of chemotherapy. I wasn't even a full 24hrs into diagnosis and I was starting chemo. Thankfully Jon decided NOT to listen to me and came down to the hospital to see me along with Mar and Stacy. It all just seemed so surreal sitting in this hospital bed, my husband, two of my best friends and me with Leukemia.
Never in a million years how I thought I wold be spending my Tuesday....