Sunday, March 13, 2016

Of Bone Pain and Port Ache ...

Or perhaps bone ache and port pain.

The dreaded day three came and brought with it some annoying but not excruciating bone ache from the Neulasta shot.  Now, when bone ache is due to your bone marrow being kick-started into making more cells, you'd think that the biggest bones would be the ones that ache, right?  I expected to have sore legs - especially thighs - but instead I noticed it the most in my upper arms, my sternum (making breathing fun), and my skull.  I've been told that our skulls have a lot of bone marrow, so that part makes sense.  It sucks, but it makes sense.

If you're getting ready to take that shot for the first time, I do highly recommend the Claritin.  I have a feeling my aches would have been much worse without it.  Take one Claritin the day before, one the day of the shot, and one the day after.  I also carried one with me on Monday and Tuesday, just in case I felt the ache too much.  I didn't.  So, while everyone is different, expect some bone ache and especially remember that you're likely to feel it in the sternum.  Knowing that this was likely causing my uncomfortableness in that area saved me from freaking out and thinking I was having heart issues. 

My big question going into this first post-chemo week was when my worst day would hit.  I'd say it was indeed Sunday.  I headed back into work on Monday and did end up needing to take a nausea pill within about a 1/2 hour of being there but ... eh ... I chalk that up to more things than the chemotherapy.  I was anxious to see how I would feel, which then did not make me feel well. 
Vicious circle there, folks.  I still felt a bit off Tuesday but woke on Wednesday feeling better ... just still winded.

Seriously.  Winded is my best description. 

A walk to my coffee place and back left me struggling to talk and walk at the same time.  Now, it was never that I could not take a deep breath, it was more that I did not unconsciously do so - I was stuck more in shallow breathing mode.  Internally, I chalked that up to a combination of the Neulasta shot sternum shock, chemotherapy, and continued recovery from the placement of my port. 

Externally, I called my doctor on Wednesday to make sure it was all normal.  Dr. V promptly asked me to stop in to get my vitals checked and a blood count.  Oxygen was great, vitals all good, and the blood count had my white blood cells near the top of the normal range with lots of wee newbies being created - yay!  It's all good, right? 

Not necessarily.  She was still concerned about the possibility of a blood clot in my lungs so I got to trot on back to the hospital that night for a CT scan.  I found myself back in the same place I first dangled free on January 13th during my first breast MRI.  Oooh, fun times.  But this time, I thought I was simply being slid into the dome of claustrophobia and out again. Nope. One of the first things that the technician mentioned was "IV" and I abruptly forgot whatever else she'd been saying.  It should have, but hadn't, occurred to me that they would be injecting me with dye or contrast or some other substance to make my innards easier to see but since no one had said that to me yet, I'd been blissfully unaware. 

An IV?  I swear I could feel my veins shrinking. 

And then I remembered my port.  MY PORT!!  My power port!  Can that be used?  Why yes, yes, it can.  I pulled my port ID card out of my wallet.  [I totally have a port ID card.] She confirmed that they could use my port, and I asked for the freezing/numbing spray that had been used on me during my first chemotherapy session.  If you recall, accessing the port can be as painful as an IV, but they can use the freezing spray if needed the first time and thereafter you can use a prescribed numbing cream.

I have that cream.  I knew the its exact location.  In my home.

So I asked for the freezing spray.  "Oh, no, we don't have that here."

Another memory dump occurred.  Huh?  But ... but ... now what.  There was the possibility that they could find a vein and actually start an IV with little pain because I've been blessed with that before so I held my arm out to her and said, "Let's see about a regular IV then."

Pretty sure my veins heard that and immediately dove for cover. [Dived? Dove? Honestly, I'm too tired right now to look.  Educate me, people.]  She did not find any she thought promising.

So I was back to the port. 

You know, I've found going through this that my emotions are all over the place.  Much of the time, I'm just focused on what comes next and/or something completely unrelated to cancer.  But I'll admit that my emotions are nearer the surface these days than usual.  By this time, I was already on the table that would slide into the machine.  The idea that they were going to access my port sans numbing agent, which I'd been told would hurt, was just another straw on an overburdened camel.  Poor animal.  I think I've gone through several of them these past couple months.  So I was feeling rather low and, honestly, weak when she returned to let me know that somehow ... go figure ... in a hospital the size of Butterworth, they had found some of the freezing spray.

Hallelujah! Annnnnd UP the emotions go again.

So I looked away, they sprayed, and a nurse accessed my port in a relatively painless way. 

Nurse to Tech:  "Hmmmm.  I'm not getting anything.  "Really?"  "Yeah, I'm all the way in, all the way to the back, but I'm not getting a return."  *more movement within my port*  "Hmmm.  Yeah, nothing.  Hey, is _______ around?" 

The other nurse was indeed "around" and joined the other two, one of whom was now pressing on the outline of my port, which is still covered with steri-strips from the placement.  "It's a bit hard to see it through the strips."  PUSH .... "Oh, yeah, there it is - see - I was right in placement, I don't know why ...."  PUSH .... "Okay, I'll hold down while you access it."

More freezing spray.  PUSH.  Pressure, pressure, pressure, and another access, finally with a return.

From there, I put my arms over my head, followed the breathing instructions by the dome of claustrophobia, and in no time felt a rush a heat from the dye, and was done. 
Note:  The dye spreads warmed through your body quickly and you WILL feel like you just pissed yourself.  You didn't.  Well, hopefully, you didn't.  I didn't.

So I woke up Wednesday with a healing but still bruised port placement site. 

Then I woke up Thursday with a healing but WHOA-that-hurts bruised port placement site. 

BUT I have no clots. No clots in me!

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