I was forced to return to the hospital on Sunday do to a sudden fever. Thanks to my math teacher friends, I now know what that is in Celcius. With a 37.7 fever and low white cells, it was necessary to stay overnight. This was the worst news to me. A hospital stay means having to sleep in a small foreign bed, being woken up by nurses all of the time, and worse the IV. I HATE IVs. In fact, I am starting to kick myself about not getting a port put in earlier in this processes. It would have saved me a lot of pain. Even though the British Hospital is like a luxury hotel, it is still a hospital with mainly Spanish-speaking staff. So on top of everything, I have to concentrate really hard to make sure I understand what is being told to me and then translate it to Mom.
When we arrived in the emergency room, they took me into this tiny little room where they had taken me when I first came in with second degree burns back in March. (Damn, this has been an unlucky year). I call this the room of pain because this is where they first did triage on my burns and I was in the worst pain of my life (so I thought). This is also the room where my poor friend got a first-hand glimpse to all of my lady parts as she pet my head while I groaned in agony. Love you, Katie. But throughout my entire burn experience. I did not cry in that little room of pain.
Different circumstance. Different person accompanying me. Different kind of pain. Same fucking room. This circumstance was a side-effect of my cancer treatment not a freak accident. And this time my mom was the one petting my head as I cried it all out. (At least I was clothed). And although the IV did hurt like a bitch (and still does), this pain was internal. It just all seemed so unfair. I am 31 years old and have not had a fever since I was a child. Even when I get normal sick, I don’t get a fever. I am 31 years old and stuck in a tiny hospital room while my friends get to go on living their lives playing in the sun or eating dinner out with friends. I am 31 years old and had planned to go to a carnival night but instead was being poked and prodded for tests. So yeah, I lost it. I cried. Which is not something I do in public, especially in front of strangers. And to top all of it off, the room had this one florescent light that would not stop trying to stay lit! It would blink on and off at random intervals but never stay completely lit or dark. It was a metaphor for my body and my day.
By the time I finally got into a private room, I had myself under control. And the room was pretty awesome. We enjoyed exploring all of the fun little amenities that the British hospital provides, including electric blackout shades and a safe.
Dinner was served. Dinner was bland because I am on a weirdly strict diet with low white cells. No gourmet menu for me. Mom had to help me cut my chicken because my IV was in my right hand and hurt. But the sugar free ice cream was divine. I have been craving ice cream (which is weird because I usually don’t like it), and I finally got some. Antibiotics were administered – Meropenem and Dipirona through IV and Fluconazol and Ranitidina through pills.
Mom left for the evening. I watched the Golden Globes in Spanish. Then the fun began.
I could not stay asleep to save my life. There was this weird dull ache in my lower back and butt bone. Plus my IV arm hurt and was on the side I usually sleep on. I should interject here and explain that I had to sit and contemplate which hand to place the IV. My left is my weak hand. It is always the one that hurts from chemo because the veins are not as strong. But my right is my hand where I will have my next chemo. Then comes vein decisions. Which one is the least likely to be damaged for chemo? Which one has the longest recuperation time? All of these decisions have to be thought through before committing to an IV when you have cancer. By the time the nurses came in at 7am to give me more antibiotics and take my blood and temperature, I had maybe slept 3 hours. I woke up to a rainy day but a surprisingly nice view of the Uruguayan flag waving in the plaza. I love flags! They are kind of an obsession of mine.
Mom came back with a change of clothes and contacts. A shower has never felt so good. The nurse came in to tell us that the doctor had the afternoon shift so we were in for the long hall. We watched a little Spanish TV but my pain was starting to increase. So I called for some drugs. I was given two IVs of 100g each of Ketoprofeno, which is basically ibuprofen.
The day was spent watching the BBC, puzzles, completing the paper doll thing Mom brought me, reinventing a paint chip poetry game that had stupid rules, and reading.
It was also spent time pacing because the back/butt pain was much easier to handle when walking. The doctor finally arrived at 3ish and told us the good but bad news. First, my white cells used to be at 14. They were up to 160. We needed them to be at 1000 before I could even think about going home. Second, I needed another Neupogen shot which means chemo must be postponed so the PET must be postponed. Third, the results of the tests about infection were not back yet. Fourth, my pain was due to the Neupogen shot, which is known for its common side effect of bone pain. (Awesome) And she was going to recommend Paracedermol for the pain. So my cells were slowly going up, but I wasn’t going home any time soon. And my chemo schedule that I had so carefully planned was all kinds of messed up. I was bummed but more able to deal with this news. It was kind of an apathetic same-shit-as-always feeling.
Mom went home with my sweet friend who came to pick her up so she could grab entertainment and clothes. She was going to spend the night this time. I sat and read. Then I got to call my “second” mama, Darryl and talk to her about all of this. She had breast cancer many years ago and her son had Hodgkins Lymphoma about 10 years ago. Needless to say, they have both been rocks for me. And glimpses of reality. Darryl had already warned me about the possibly of not having chemo. Maybe that is why I was able to take the news a little better. It was lovely to see her and Rod and the call made it all a bit easier. Then the sunset was perfectly on point!
Around 7:30pm the bone pain took a nasty turn. I was pacing around the room breathing like a woman in labor. Because that was the sensation. Massive contractions resonated in my butt bones. It felt like I was getting my bone biopsy again and again and again right in the back of my pelvic bone. This was all a LITERAL pain in my ass. I was pacing and breathing. And finally, I listened to my mom and called a nurse. She gave me a pill. Thirty minutes later I have tried every position to get comfortable and just can’t. The pain was like a drum, consistent and forceful. Every time it hurt, all of the muscles in my body contracted to take the pain. We called the nurses again, but this time it was too late. I was in full blown level 9 pain. I tried so hard to breathe through it, to not tense up my muscles or lift my head from the pillow. I had tears flowing down my face out of my control and I am trying to talk myself through. You have this. You will get through this. You faced second degree burn pain, a little bone pain was nothing. Oh, man. It was off the charts bad. Even the nurses were not sure what to do. They don’t have narcos here like they do in the states. So, I had one nurse holding my hand, another taking my temperature because I was shivering with a fever by this point. Mom was rubbing my back and breathing with me. I swear, had a baby popped out, I would not have been surprised. It felt like my bones were exploding, rebuilding, and exploding again. And the pain was ricocheting all throughout my body. I could feel it in my legs, arms, fingers. It was bad. Finally, FINALLY fifteen minutes later I was lying still. My pain was at a five, twinging but manageable. I was mindlessly watching a BBC episode about Syrian stone masons. And I was pleading with my body that I didn’t have to pee because I feared getting up would start the whole thing over again.
One more dose of antibiotics and my fever was back down again. I could move a little without pain. I finished watching Flashdance in Spanish and then fell asleep. Around 3am, the pain started again, but this time I had learned my lesson and demanded the drugs before it got out of control. I woke up very lethargic and sore all over. My body feels like it has run a marathon. On the up side, my white cells are above 1000 – 1700 to be exact. I imagine these little cells with hard hats going on strike. Then going on a binger. Waking up with severe headaches. Getting their union rep to guarantee a promise that they will be taken care of and deciding ok, time to get back to work. With them back in action, I am hoping I get the all good to go home.