City of No Hope

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Breast Cancer
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Once we had all that insurance mess worked out, and John was approved to go with me, off we flew to the City of Hope in Duarte, CA.  I’m telling you, I have never been in such a depressing place. I had not lived in cancerland for so many years.  Wasn’t used to seeing bald pates and IV poles everywhere … the grayish cast to the skin … the sunkeness of the eyes.  I had been reading up on, studying, and employing all these natural, healing things and this place was full of people who were being destroyed not by their cancer, but by the treatments they were enduring.  The last I had seen of that was when I had my transplant  and that had been enough for me.  So right away, I vacillated between calling it City of No Hope and City of Despair.  Depended on the day, but either way was accurate as far as I was concerned.  Strangely, the only other person I know who has been there had the exact same impression.

I met with my gastro surgeon, a gyn cancer surgeon, and an oncologist.  We all decided they would go in with a scope to remove the entire ascending colon.  I wanted my ovaries removed while they were in there because, by this time, chemo had killed my ovaries (yeah, menopause at 40 with no estrogen supplementation is a real hoot) and they were only cancer traps, as far as I was concerned.  We all know that ovarian mess is deadly and sneaky and I had had about enough of both.  They agreed that, as long as they didn’t have to open me up, they would do that.

Then the day came for the surgery.  Let me tell you, I have had more than my fair share of surgeries, in many types of facilities, but this place took the cake.  Now, before I go further, let me tell you that once I was an inpatient, the care was incredible.  They took me back to pre-op and wouldn’t let my husband come back.  I am a freakin basket case before any surgery … prior to margarita time, that is, so I really need him.  They appeased me by saying they would send for him once they got me settled.  Back we went.

I had broken my left collarbone about a month before this (yeah, when it rains, it pours), so my left side was a bit compromised. Because of this, that would be the ideal side for the IV since I couldn’t use that side anyway.  But I had had lymph nodes removed from that left side, so they couldn’t stick a blood pressure cuff on that arm, much less stick a needle in it.  The reason for this is because they removed 10 nodes on that left side and those nodes are necessary to transport bad things out of your body.  Since that side was now compromised, the onus was now on me to be extra careful with it so as not to get lymphedema where the arm swells up like an elephant leg.  Once it happens, there’s no getting rid of it.  So they had to put the IV in the right arm … and that was bad.  If you’ve ever had a belly cut, you know that you have to rely on your arms right afterward to help you get in and out of bed.

Every time I’d had surgery before, they put the IV in my wrist or my hand so I could still use that arm.  Oh no, not this time. That nurse plunged a huge needle right smack into my elbow vein, rendering me totally helpless.  Now I couldn’t even bend my right arm.  The left side was already out of commission and now so was the right.  Nice.  OK then, where’s my cocktail and where’s my husband????  The guy comes in with the syringe and injected it for what seemed like forever and I sat and waited for that familiar sense of the walls melting, but it didn’t come.  I was way too awake.  I was way too anxious.  And my husband still wasn’t there.

Next thing I knew, they were starting to take me down the hall.  Now wait a freakin’ minute here.  WHERE’S MY HUSBANDDDDDDD?  I was just about to make them regret ever having met me when they finally brought him back with just enough time for me to kiss him goodbye.  Down the hall we went and I was still wide awake.  We got to the OR and they were getting things ready and now I’m getting anxious.  I told them I was way too awake and that I needed more drugs.  The little nurse, bless her heart, didn’t realize she was talking to someone who had experience with Versed longer than she had been alive.  She said, “Oh honey, you won’t remember any of this later.”  I snippily told her I would remember every minute of it.  And I still do.  Thank goodness that surgery went smoothly.  For them and for me … but guess what I woke up with?  My ovaries!  No, they didn’t have to open me up, but I still had my damn ovaries!


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