I’ve often written that any doctor’s appointment after which I am allowed to go home is a good one. This past Sunday I got a call from my oncologist’s office to come in that morning (a regular work day here) to pick up my TAS-102. My blood test results had come back and with my tumor markers continuing their relentless climb, it was apparent the treatment I had been receiving wasn’t quite doing the trick. Time to change horses and try the newly approved Japanese medicine about which I have written before.
As it happens, I hadn’t been feeling great over the previous week and, as we were leaving the hospital, I remarked that yet again I felt under the weather. Tammy suggested that, “Since we’re here, why don’t we pop in to the oncology day care unit to check your temperature, as I’d hate to go all the way home only to have to come back again.”
Well, she was right. It turns out I had a low grade fever, but it was enough to give me some serious shakes and to suggest to the nurses that I may have an infection. That’s not something one wants when undergoing chemotherapy. And, my oncologist had just pointed out during our meeting, she is always concerned about the bile duct stent that was put in a couple months ago becoming infected.
So, once again, I found myself the guest of Hadassah Hospital. Unfortunately, there was no room in the Oncology Ward, so I was punted to Internal Medicine which is housed in what can best be described as an old Soviet-style environment with not much personal space and nurses who are harried. That’s not to say they aren’t (for the most part) really caring, attentive and great at what they do. But based on my experience, they ain’t no Oncology Ward and they certainly ain’t no Surgical Ward.
And all that isn’t to say there weren’t a couple of moments of levity. When speaking to the infectious disease specialist, he admitted he wasn’t sure what the cause of my fever was, as he couldn’t pinpoint where it was. My liver functions all came back just great (i.e. the stent was perfectly fine), and he was at a loss. He explained that he thought he had it figured out: my gallbladder. Great, except upon close inspection of my chart, one would see I no longer have a gallbladder.
On day two, one of the nurses came in with what looked like a very long Q-tip to take some sort of culture. She explained she needed to test for staph infection, and I assumed that long proboscis was to go down my throat (something I don’t handle well). Then she looked at me apologetically and said, “You need to stick this in your tusik.” (Side note: even the most senior of medical professionals here resort to “tusik, pee pee and kaki.” It just tickles me.) Anyway, I thought for a minute and reminded the nurse that I have an ileostomy and my tusik is no longer connected to my intestines. She looked flummoxed, so I suggested we just stick the stick into my bag and get a sample that way. Reason #37 that I love my ileostomy!
Yesterday, I was discharged in the morning and home by noon. At about 2pm, Tammy gets a call on her cell phone from a nurse (with whom we had not yet had any interaction), asking us where we were. When Tammy explained that we were discharged, the nurse started yelling, as if we simply walked out. Turns out that the oncologist who discharged me never informed the nurses in Internal Medicine that he had done so. Like it’s our job to make sure everyone else does their jobs?
Laying in bed yesterday after coming home (and while Tammy was being yelled at), I had time to reflect on how, once again, I am incredibly lucky. There are so many reasons why and any list I make starts with my family and close friends who always, without fail, take care of me.
But yesterday I was moved to tears thinking about what a blessing it is to be able to leave the hospital upright and under my own power. Even more so after having been admitted. Granted, I’d have preferred to have left on Sunday but, even so, my stay was relatively brief, relatively without incident, and absolutely not as bad as it could have been. While it’s no fun to have massive amounts of antibiotics coursing through my veins, it all could have been a whole lot worse.
So now the plan is to finish up my antibiotics this week and on Sunday start the TAS-102. It’s a course of pills taken morning and night for five consecutive days then two days off. Then repeat the process once, followed by two weeks off, during which there will be more test, etc. and so on.
It’s good to have a plan.