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Thursday, August 15, 2013

$#!% Just Got Real (Part 2)

Here is the second part of Tuesday

We left Target and were off to Cooper. We had to get pre-admission bloodwork to check my clotting factors before my surgery the following Wednesday. I liked getting my blood work at Cooper, because there was never a wait (or at least one longer than 5 minutes) and they got me on the first stick. My veins are terrible. After all of the chemo and i.v.s and PIC lines and broviacs, they're just donezo.
(PIC Lines and Broviacs are temporarily permanent IV lines. They go directly into your major arteries to administer chemo and meds faster. My blood had a severe clotting problem when I was dealing with my leukemia, so I would have to have them replaced constantly. This wreaked havoc on my veins, they had to reroute themselves and became very superficial. Therefore very hard to draw blood on me. I eventually had a port coming out of my stomach, because the line went directly into the artery in my groin. Honestly, I can't remember any of the terms or names. LOVE my chemo brain.)
E, who is one of my favorite phlebotomist's smiled when she saw me and we got to chatting.
"Weren't you just here a few days ago? Why do you have to come in so often?"
I was like...
"Yup that was me, get used to seeing a lot more of me. I've been re-diagnosed with cancer."
We kept chatting and as she was aiming to insert the needle I thought to myself
"Yea, I'm always in here because you guys are the only ones that can get me on the first stick."
I didn't say it out loud though because I didn't want to jinx it. Sure enough, the vein paused and if we had waited the blood would have hemolyzed. (Had too much oxygen so the sample wouldn't be viable.) She had that look of dammit, the one you see on people's faces right as the cops lights start flashing behind you. I told her not to worry and to re-stick me. It wasn't worth risking a bad sample. So she switched to my left arm and I showed her the vein that my friend J who is a nurse pointed out to me at the concert while we were talking about my bad veins. It worked. While the blood was flowing, somehow it came up that I was from Canada and
"OH thats why I remember you. I couldn't place you at first but you're the super sweet one. I knew there was something different about you, and it's because you're so nice. Hows school going?"
That honestly never gets old to hear. I love how Canadians have that reputation and thats why I'm also so proud to be one. When I was little my dad and I got in a fight at our Canadian cottage because he had put the Canadian Flag above the American one. We had been living in the states my whole life, so I identified as American. I was probably 11 or 12 at this point. I got mad and was like
"DAD we should have the American one higher because we're better!"
My dad then said to me
"Hunny, Its always better to be Canadian! We're way better, and you should be proud and realize how lucky you are to be Canadian!"
I rebelled by claiming "American Woman" as my theme song by Lenny Kravitz for the next few summers. However, I'll always remember that story because of how strongly I appreciate being Canadian now. I just don't appreciate their health care. That's only because I'm privileged enough to have private insurance, but this is a whole other debate, seriously HEATED debate, from personal negative experiences. (Here's my old cottage which I desperately miss with the proper flag!)

Oh and this one: I made out of Molson Canadian Beer Labels. It was decorating my hospital room during my transplant.
So back to E, my phlebotomist. I told her
"School is good, and now that I'm here doing treatment instead of working my tush off, I'll have a lot more time to dedicate to it."
It was nice that she remembered
"You're going to be the big event planner right?"
I said
"Yes! Hopefully. I'm taking my International Certification in Event and Wedding Planning. So something along those lines."
She then finished filling the viles of blood and we were off to our appointment.

We went to the building next door and my mom knows EVERYONE here. She used to work in this building but they wouldn't hold her job when I had leukemia the first time. My treatment was being done in Toronto and she didn't leave my side. I needed her by my side. She also worked for a .... hmmm B!%@#. Its the consensus among the whole place, so I don't care who sees it, if they see it on here. After a couple brief hello's we went to the office. It was very nice. Once again, a lot of women over the age of 50. It was becoming apparent how rare this was for a 25 year old, because I still hadn't seen anyone even remotely close to my age. I guess that's also a good thing, because I wouldn't wish this on anyone, especially someone close to my age.

We checked in and waited. The room was much hotter than the rest of the building. No body else seemed to mind but I was sweltering. I took off my sweater and scarf and still felt like an egg in a frying pan, sizzling away. The moments started to tick by. I was texting a friend back home about Camo lingerie and so I was at least amused.
"Hypothetically speaking, if you were to take me hunting, could I wear hot pink instead of Orange. Its just not my color"
His response was pretty good
"HAHAHAHA well not if you wanna obey the law lol. But it sounds kind of hot lol."
So I was at least amused in the office because this convo escalated into camo clothing options. The time was passing so slowly and I was getting extremely nauseous. My back was in pain but I just tried to ignore it. My mum finally said
"Courtney, just take the perc."
As I usually say when I do
"Ok fine, I guess its time for the percolator."
The clock continued to tick and as in true NJ fashion, we had to listen to some Jersey lady B!%(#ing about something. Another lady and her perfect weave had fallen asleep, and we were stuck with a god awful soap opera. A lady came around with her snack cart and I think I fell in love. She had the peanut butter crackers and I was sold. I was starting to feel ten times better. I had no idea that the pain in my back was so bad that it was manifesting as nausea and heat. About an hour had passed of waiting and my mum finally piped in. The doc was running late but on a positive note, it was because he was thorough and didn't rush us out.

Finally after the waiting room was almost empty it was my turn. I went in and got weighed and all my vitals done. I then went back out to the waiting room to wait AGAIN for the actual doctor. At least we were in Voorhees though and not in the city so we didn't have to worry about getting caught in Philly traffic. We finally got to head back to an exam room. I was told to
"I know I know, undress from the waist down and throw the orange sheet over my lady bits."
I had been through this a time or two. I kind of missed the oven mitts though. So, I undressed, crawled up, and waited.

Dr. W came in and looked so nice, but was very quiet and reserved. He reminded me a lot of one of my docs from CHOP. He went over my history and then did a pelvic exam.
"I've gotten more action this week then I have in the past year!"
This poor doc was clearly not one used to dealing with the likes of me. The pelvic was a longer process than expected but he was very thorough. He estimated that it was Stage 2B, and to determine if it hit stage 3, further testing would need to be done. Once again I was anally assaulted but it just gets to a point where nothing surprises you anymore. He said the cancer was mainly on my left side, I already knew this though. I could feel it, it was my body after all. Pelvics are so awkward, the doc stands there with his gloves on while a nurse loads him up with lube. I'm sure its like something a little more technical, but it basically does the same thing. Anyway...

He finished, and told me I could get dressed and we headed to his office. At this point in the day, I was EXHAUSTED. I hadn't been to sleep since 7ish the night before and had been at doctors offices all day.

In his office he talked about my lower back pain. He explained how because the pain was localized to one spot, that it is worry some and we should get a bone scan because its not something we should just pump pain meds into and ignore. That is was possible the PET scan missed something and there could be a metastasis or tumor there as well and it would be wise to rule it out. This was punch in the gut number one. It got scheduled for the next day.

The part that killed me was his explanation. My other docs had explained what was going on, but Dr. W really explained. He drew diagrams and really emphasized how serious this was. I was no longer concerned about my future sex life, because I wouldn't be able to have one if I wasn't alive. He went over where they will radiate but how the radiation could cause complications in my bone marrow maybe sparking my leukemia as well as other complications. This was gut punch number two. He went over risks and possibilities.

Something about his explanation hit me. $#!% just got real. I realized, for the first time that this was serious. This wasn't about me being funny on a blog. This wasn't about YAY I get to go back to the states and spend time with my mum and sis who I was missing. This wasn't about F#@%, this is screwing up my jobs, my school, my internship, my job interview and my personal training. This was OMG, I'm fighting for my life. Again.

I needed a minute and stepped out of the office and went out into the atrium. We were on the second floor and I leaned over the wooden balcony and looked over the building. Tears flooded my eyes, and this was something I just couldn't handle because normally I get quiet when I'm upset but I wasn't upset, I was scared. Really scared.

Emotions I recognized from battles past, "This is going to hurt", "there could potentially be complications and knowing me and my history, most likely." "I'm going to have to figure out how to put my OSAP on hold and my bills, what about the life I left behind, I can't work." Fear, Anxiety, Stress all balled into one flowed from my eyes like a creek in the middle of forest. As busy as the hospital was, I was there alone on that balcony. Fighting with my emotions, wanting them to disappear. Wishing for my blonde shield to protect me with a smile. Dr. W came out and broke me out of my own little world, he tapped me on the shoulder in the loving "I'm so sorry to bother you but I didn't want to just leave on bad terms kind of way." It was endearing, he told me "If you need anything please call me."

My mum and I went to the downstairs floor where we started making calls. We had so many questions. We got home and I called my best friend K. By this point, I had reverted back to being stoic and avoiding my emotions with humor. She calmed me down though. I talked it out with her and ended up laughing. All I wanted to do was sleep. My other friend H texted me "I am so sorry to hear this babe. I know it is essentially the exact opposite of what you wanted to hear. Please know that I love you, am thinking about you, and would do anything for you. All we can do is take this one step at a time. A second opinion is just that until tests come back." She was the voice of reason in a parade of screams.

The rest of that night was a blur, I talked to my dad, and fell asleep. I woke up and went downstairs a few hours later to get some food. My mum was just about to jump in the shower but heard me and came down. I made a salad and when I went to get the cheese saw it was moldy. I was crushed. I was exhausted and hungry and wanted this specific salad. I had gotten something like it at Jimmy Guacos in Peterborough and was craving it. For some reason all I have wanted the last few days has been salsa. Not store bought, in a jar crappy stuff, but the real stuff. My mum and I hopped in the car, went to wawa, got my cheese and came back and it was delicious. Chopped lettuce, guacamole, salsa, grilled chicken, black olives, pico de gallo, sour cream, chedder cheese, and lots of green hot sauce. It was delicious, exactly what I wanted. I came back up to bed, and my mum could tell my stress level was through the roof. I took a Xanax and was out. We had to be up super early for my bone scan the next day.

It's not the results that are stressing me out, its the not knowing. I just want to get started with treatment. I'm sick and tired of hearing "We need more information" or "We need to do more tests" and then having to wait for them. Once we have a game plan and know what we're dealing with I'll be ok. My biopsy on the lymph nodes is next wednesday so 6 days away. I'm hoping in 8 days I'll know. I'll know what kind of radiation we're doing, where we're doing it on my body, and at what hospital. I'll be able to research the side effects to know what to expect and then I'll be ready for chemo. We're close but not there yet. I had a moment of weakness but I'm back. I'm ready to do this.

I crawled in bed, and grabbed Dex. I was out.


  1. Was truly moved by this post and your unbreakable spirit Courtney. Just a word of warning to the cancer about to be kicked to the obviously doesn't know who it's dealing with so the sooner it's gone the better. Prayers and positive thoughts that it's sooner vs later. Sincerely, Andy