On the first of every month my grandmother always said “Rabbits!” for luck when she woke up. I forgot to say “Rabbits” yesterday. That may account for my most unusual and LONG day at the infusion clinic for my fifth Erbitux/Camptosar treatment on June first.
My appointment was for 8:45 AM and since they ask you to be there fifteen minutes early, we arrived at 8:30. I signed in, paid my co-pay and was called back to the lab to be weighed, have my temperature taken and my blood pressure recorded. My temp was below normal and my blood pressure was slightly low, but neither seemed to be a problem. Getting blood through the port for the blood test, however, was a major problem. The phlebotomist, after several attempts in which she had me raise my arm or turn my head, was unable to get my port to draw, so she sent me over to the oncology nurses to see if they could get it to work. They sat me in one of the recliners and tipped it all the way back so I was nearly standing on my head. Nothing seemed to work. The phlebotomist, meanwhile, took blood from my arm so as not to hold things up any more than was needed. They then injected what the nurse referred to as a liquid plumber to break up any obstruction in the catheter and I was put in a cold room to give it time to work. Did I mention that the temp in the building is kept just slightly above the temperature in a meat cooler? I was beginning to wonder if my blood had frozen solid and that’s why they couldn’t get it to come out.
After about an hour in the exam room the doctor came in, apologizing for all the delays. Seems they are in the process of converting all the paper patient files to an electronic format, so instead of bringing in my usual thick green folder, she was carrying a little mini computer. Evidently there is a steep learning curve and computer people were constantly bustling about and everything was delayed, even getting the orders for the infusions.
I told the doctor about the skin reaction I had over the weekend, which was a LOT worse than the previous outbreak and caused intense itching and burning, leaving me with bright red skin, big welts all over my neck and flaking, dry skin that was peeling off. I got it under control with some Aveeno products and was amazed at how well they worked on calming the rash and redness down and softening my skin. The doctor said she thought I was probably having a reaction to the doxycycline. She had asked me before prescribing it if I had an allergy to tetracycline, and I told her I had no idea, since I had taken so few drugs in my life. Turns out I may have an allergy or a sensitivity to it after all. We’ll see how it goes this time without the doxycycline. She said I’ll have my sixth treatment in two weeks and then another scan the week after that to see how the drugs are working. I told her that between my thinning hair and scaly flaking skin I thought I was transmogrifying into a hybrid cross between Lizard Lady and Gollum, so they had better be working just to make all this worthwhile! Meanwhile the nurses tried a few more times to get blood to draw, to no avail. I was told they would send someone to take me to radiology to see if the port and catheter have shifted or become obstructed and needed to be removed and replaced. I kept my fingers crossed that the problem was a minor, easily corrected one.
I went back to the waiting room to… yes, wait. So I waited and waited for the wheelchair person to show up. Finally, after making a few calls and determining that everybody was tied up for emergencies, one of the receptionists from the oncology department wheeled me over. That was quite a trip, down hallways, around corners, through the walkway connecting the clinic to the main hospital, then down more hallways. It was a regular maze and I would never have found my way over there on my own, even if I had been able to walk that far without collapsing!
Once I was up on the radiology table and the plates were placed under me, the doctor moved the machine into position, assuring me that the arm would come very close to me but wouldn’t actually touch me. Then he had me hold my breath while the machine did its thing. It was kind of neat to actually see the port in place and how long the catheter was. The radiologist was able to draw blood with no problem, there was no obstruction or kinking and nothing had shifted, so they don’t know what the actual problem was. I was wheeled back out and waited once more for the valet service to take me back. I thought, since it was already past 1:00 and my infusion has been taking between four and five hours, that they might reschedule, but they decided to go ahead and told me I should be finished up by 4:30. The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful. Well, except for the trips to the rest room that became extremely frequent once the infusions began, prompting the nurse to move me to a chair just outside the bathroom door so I wouldn’t have to drag my pole and infusion bags so far.
Mr. G left at one point to go home and let the dogs out. We were worried they might have accidents all over the house since they hadn’t been out in quite a while. He said they were most anxious to get out, too, and made a mad dash to the back door when he got home.
He came back and spent another hour in the waiting room. Finally I was finished and we arrived home at around 5:15 PM, nine hours after we’d left. I was hungry and exhausted, but fell asleep before I got a chance to eat. Mr, G made me a sandwich and I ate a little when I woke up at 7:30 before falling asleep again. I slept on and off all night and am finally beginning to feel almost normal, or as normal as I usually feel after an infusion. You can rest assured that on the first of July, I will wake up saying “Rabbits!” to avoid another occurrence like the fifth on the first!