Monday, March 17, 2014

Lea Ann and the Trail Back, Part 4

Before I start the main part of this entry, I wanted to introduce you to my wife, Lea Ann.  She has been talked about enough here that I thought it only fair and appropriate. Of course I got her permission first, I'm not silly or stupid... well sometimes I am... but then again...  Oh.  Um.  Never mind.  :)  Anyhow, she is a big part of my journey and has gone through this entire roller coaster ride, too.  She is as much a warrior as I will ever be. When I say she is the better half of me, I mean it. She is my Angel Baby and ain't nobody can tell me different! A woman that is strong of heart, mind, body and soul... What did I do to get so lucky?

This is Lea Ann, taken in June, 2013.
Gorgeous isn't she?  (Yes! I am biased!  :)   )

Today started as the last several have.  Nurse shift change, vitals check, dressing check and change, light conversation and a few chuckles. I'm finding that I use humor a lot more than I thought I would at this point against the worry and fear. I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but it does for me. I suppose sometimes it may come off as misplaced or maybe even tacky at times, but I can't help it. It's my shield. Nothing is ever said that is hurtful or anything to anyone (I do tend to jab at myself pretty hard, but not anyone else), just trying put up a strong front... One of those masks that we all wear I suppose. If I can get a laugh out of the situation then it can never beat me. So far it seems to work. At least I have not gotten into trouble or taken to task over it.  Toward the end of the check-over the nurse says that they will be taking out the central line IV that is in the neck and the PICC line that is in the wrist. This concerns me a little. The IVs have become my fast friends. They help me to feel better when in pain and help in getting a good night's sleep. So I mention that. She smiles and assures me that it will be OK. We're still keeping the IV in the other arm for that kind of stuff. And on the plus side, it will help me get rid of maybe two or three pieces of equipment around the bed. Great! We can cancel the Broadway choreographer auditions that were being set up to help with "The Medical Equipment and Tubes Toilet Dance."  I mean come on... When it takes you longer to get ready to go to the bathroom than it does to actually go... That's just incredibly wrong.  This is definitely another step forward in recovery. I'll take those steps all day long. The nurse leaves for a little while. I'm a little nervous over the IV removal, but it will be fine.  I have a backup in the other arm like she said. Why am I worried about IV removal anyway? That's nothing compared to what I have already been through. The nurse comes back in a bit later with Lea Ann behind her. She has done her due diligence and knows what is happening. She's smiling too. She knows this is a good a thing. That strengthens me and my worry dissolves quickly. Out come the IVs in the neck and wrist. Those are some damn long tubes for an IV. I'm impressed. The nurse leaves again and Lea Ann and I have a couple minutes to talk.  She looks a lot more rested and seems to feel better. She had some time with the boys last night and the dogs (I can relate to that.  I'm a HUGE dog guy). She also got to sleep in a real, honest-to-God and comfortable bed, too. Though she mentions that it's not the same without me in it.  That time will come, baby. I promise.

Now its time for the parade of doctors. ICU doc comes it to check on things in general.  He seems happy with the progress and leaves. Next comes the respiratory doc and one of his assistants. He's now teaching future doctors how to freeze a stethoscope before using it on a patient. Ice cold again. I have no idea how I ever breathed out.  He still hears some crackling in there. He notices the breathing therapy tools I got the other day and asks if I have been using them three or four or five times or more a day. Um... Sure. Maybe not quite that much, but yes. Had he looked at them closely enough he might have seen they were already starting to gather dust. Lea Ann just rolls her eyes and makes a mental note to talk to me about that later. He asks about the nebulizer treatments, and I say I have had two or three of them.  He is prescribing them twice a day. He is treating me as I am a COPD patient until that lung opens back up more. That's why the therapy tools are important. I am a prime candidate to get pneumonia if I don't do that. In a couple of days he will do another ultrasound, but it does sound a little better.  A good thing. He leaves. Next in is the surgeon and his assistant. He is still amazed at how well and how quickly I am healing. He checks his handiwork, confers privately with his assistant for a minute or two, then comes back over and announces to us that a couple of those drains will most likely come out soon. Maybe tomorrow. Not all of them, and they may stay in a little longer as they are closely monitoring the output an all. That will drive the decision of when and how many. I actually have eight tubes in my ribs right now. Four in each side. Some of them are hooked to these little IV looking bags that fill up. I call them my hand-grenades. Why? Because I have no idea what they are or what they do other than hold drainage. And honestly I never asked. Four of those hoses feed into three of those grenades. The other four hoses go... wherever they go. I never really paid attention. I'm just glad they are getting closer to coming out. He has also prescribed Heparin shots for me to be given in the stomach a few times a day if I remember right. That might sound painful, but it really wasn't. I was still numb through most of the mid section so I never felt a thing. I also have to start wearing these leg...things. Wrap them around your entire leg, Velcro them shut, put them on an air pump, and then pump air in and out of them. Especially when I am sleeping. This will help keep the possibility of clots down (along with the Heparin shots). Only bad thing about those leg things is that they are ungodly hot. Otherwise it felt kind of good. Kind of massage-like. He finishes up and they leave. Soon the Oncologist comes in. She sits down to discuss the after surgery therapies. First and foremost, they believe they got all the cancer out. A VERY big plus... However (I hate that word at times like this)... I hear that and immediately tense up. Something bad is coming next... She says, "To make double sure we got it all, and to kill off any of the cancer that may be left, we are prescribing six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation." The chemo will only be once a week and they will be using Cisplatin and 5FU at first with additions later on if they are needed based on tests and blood work, etc. The radiation treatments will be every day, Monday through Friday for the six-week span. Doesn't sound so bad to me, but I worry about the therapies. I have seen, as we all have, people losing their hair and taste buds and getting sick as hell and all.  I'd really rather not go through all that if I can get around it. I ask the doctor about it or if there is any way to not have those types of reactions. She says every person is different and every reaction is different, so she makes no guarantees. She also explains that after I have healed enough from this surgery I will have to come back in for an outpatient procedure to have a power port put in my chest. A power port? What are they doing, turning me into a Transformer? I won't run on regular gas anymore but on electricity?  Will I get better gas mileage? Ha ha... No this is to allow them access to easily infuse the chemotherapy as well as easy access to blood draws. It can also be used for other IVs too if needed. Ok. When will this be "installed?"  It'll be after I have been discharged and have been home and have gotten a bit stronger.  So a little while yet. Maybe a two or three weeks away. She wants to start the therapies in early March.  Right now it is early February. OK, so I have a little time before the next surgery.  Another good thing. She reiterates they truly believe they got it all out, but it is better to be safe than sorry.  I agree and tell her that if they radiate me enough, maybe I could become a nightlight in our bedroom. I'm sure she has heard that a million times, but she chuckles anyway then excuses herself. We're making progress.  Slow and steady...and that is how it SHOULD be.  This is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady is a lot more stable and feels better than rushing things and running into other issues. Give me slow and steady all the time. I'm down with that.

The rest of that day is rather uneventful.  Smelly nebulizer treatments, more periodic checks by the nurses. They say at this rate I will be out on the regular floor in no time. I suppose that's good, but that worries me too a little... way back in the back of my brain there is a seed of worry about that. Not sure why, but I can feel it. I'll bury it for now. Its probably nothing. And yet another day that I did not have to get up and walk. Like I said before, I am NOT one that is good on following therapies. In this case they just never came and got me to walk, so I just did not mention it. However, Lea Ann was noticing it...

That's all for this post.  Please come back for the next one!


Michael Kenney said...

Brian, I just found your blog and burned through your story up to this point. Incredibly informational and I'm loving your sense of humor through all of this. I especially enjoyed your post right after you came to from surgery, my you are a bad patient - trying to remove your wrist restraints. I had a good chuckle from that and can only imagine how frustrating that must have been. I look forward to reading the rest of your story and hearing how you're doing these days.

Warm regards,

Brian Brown said...

Hello Michael! Thank you for the compliment on the blog. I'm glad you are enjoying it. Hopefully it gives a little insight here and there and maybe a little chuckle occasionally too! And for the record, I am NOT a bad patient... OK maybe a little. LOL Restraints and I have never been the best of enemies, let alone friends. :)

Karen Jordan said...

I just got finished reading your entire blog in no time. What a journey. Wow. I'm speechless as to how much is involved. Your wife is so strong. I only hope I can be as strong as her. You are so lucky they caught it early even though you still had to go through all you did. My bf just found out he has EC in mid February. He has had 17 days of radiation Monday-Friday. He is scheduled for the port tomorrow. His mass measured about 2 inches when he had the PET scan. I pray with all my heart that it is not too late for him. He is in so much pain.He hates this and so do I. Sorry I said that but I'm scared. I am so happy you are "c" free. I don't even like saying that dreadful word. I look forward to reading more about your journey. Thank you for sharing. God Bless you and your family.

Brian Brown said...

Hi Karen! I am glad you are enjoying the blog.I hope that in some way it might let your guy know how things may go and maybe some of what to expect. Here's hoping and praying for a good outcome for him too! I can understand not wanting to say the "C" word... A lot in the community use the initials FEC, The EC is the the Esophageal C word... The F stands for itself :) Keep me informed about hat happens!