You make cancer sound like a camping trip!

“…a bit uncomfortable, but still a good time.”

Spring in front of my building

A friend said that to me after I described my trip to the hospital last Wednesday for some hydration. Maybe not a good time, but fascinating, nonetheless.  My drive to the hospital that morning was a moment of pure joy.  Since I hadn’t driven in three weeks, the experience was extra special.  I blasted classical music and helped the conductor do his job.  The spring flowers and flowering trees were in full bloom in front of a background of fresh green, all viewed through my polarizing sunglasses.  It was truly beautiful.  But my time at the hospital, and the feeling that I had been poisoned by rubbing alcohol, made the equally beautiful return drive not so joyful.

Cancer in the time of Covid-19, Part 3

  • Lots of spaces are available in the hospital parking lot, because visitors are no longer allowed.  At all.
  • The wipes are gone!  Remember the whole gloves and wipes story?  I thought I had the routine down, but no – the hospital seems to be hording wipes.
  • My temperature was taken under my armpit since they never want patients to lower their masks.
  • Nurses are being “cross-trained” to prepare for a possible surge of Covid-19 cases.  Since nurses in the oncology wing may need to go to the main hospital to deal with the virus, many of them are learning new tasks.  Because of that, I got to hear my nurse explain to her trainee all the steps needed to access my port. 

Accessing the Port

After my port was surgically placed last February, I was told that if I had to go to a hospital and someone saw it, they would want to use it,  but that I have to be assured they know what they were doing.  It is a 15-minute procedure and must be done correctly.  Why?  Because it is essentially a “central line” to my heart.  Any contamination could be very serious.  I knew all that (except I hadn’t heard the phrase “central line” used in this context before) but listening to my nurse train her colleague on the importance of each step was very interesting. 

This is what I remember:  sterilize the table, open the outer layer of the kit to access the two pairs of sterile gloves, put on one pair to open the rest of the kit and carefully place all the parts on a large sterile pad, switch to the other pair for the rest of the work, use pressure while swabbing the skin with three separate swabs of alcohol (no wonder my skin looks and feels raw each time), use all your fingers to stabilize the triangular port and ask the patient to hold their breath,  aim for the center with the three quarter inch needle, sometimes it’s necessary to use a one inch needle but patients really don’t like that (hmmm, I wonder why!), squeeze the sides until you hear the snap, never flush into the line to clear it since there may still be heparin present from last time, instead, withdraw blood to make sure the line is clear, twist ten times with an alcohol wipe every time you attach a new part, etc.  I thought it was all very interesting!

mission accomplished

But I swear that I was breathing out rubbing alcohol.  And since I wasn’t supposed to remove my mask, I felt like I was just recycling it all morning.  Even though a large bag of saline solution dripped into my blood was supposed to make me feel better, I ended up feeling worse.  That night I kept smelling it.  Imagination or not, it was gross.  I was ambivalent about going in the first place, and after this experience, I probably won’t do it again.  I’ll just have to manage on my own.

Holy Week

I finally feel myself shedding tears over the personal losses my family has suffered recently.  Today is Saturday, the day in the Christian calendar between loss and a new beginning.  It feels as if the whole world finds itself in that limbo right now.  But hope can be found.  On the horizon.  Somewhere. 

Two colleagues are stopping by today to deliver food and groceries.  And Easter dinner tomorrow. Thank you all for your continued support.  If I can support you in any way, without leaving my virus-free cocoon, please let me know.

6 thoughts on “You make cancer sound like a camping trip!

  1. In the midst of Chaos and the trauma you are dealing with you are gaining wonderful practice at the skill of writing. Your imagery and send so presents are wonderful.


  2. Must have been bizarre to have so many changes in preparation of treatment. You are a real trooper! Also liked the Holy Saturday description as the bridge between the end and beginning.


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