Treatment: A Couple Of Scares

Am I Dead Yet?

How about this one for a funny thing that happened on the way to oblivion?

I went in this morning for my pre-chemotherapy blood labs. My third and last c. session is tomorrow and even though it’s going to make me sick as a dog, I’m looking forward to it because I never want to have to get platinumed-up again. I’m going to ring that goddamned bell off the goddamned wall, I tell you.

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Anyway, the nurses aide was taking my vitals while the nurse prepped for my blood draw. It seemed to be taking the digital blood pressure machine a long time to get a reading on me. After what seemed endless minutes, the machine started sounding a mad alarm. They two of them checked the readout and my blood pressure stood at a distinctly touchy 120/11.

That’s right — one-twenty over eleven. In other words, I was either dead or seconds away from giving my valedictory. Natch, I freaked. The first — and only thought — that came to mind was my genetically eff-yooed heart had finally quit as a result of all the nuking and poisoning going on the last five weeks. The big pump had stopped, only my mind didn’t know it yet. Soon, I’d be tumbling through some kind of twilight zone-ish psychedelic spiral while blinded by a piercing light.

Only both the aide and the nurse started laughing.

“Well, that’s a new one,” the nurse said.

“I’ve never seen that before,” the aide added.

“Yeah, at least not in this type of situation.”

The situation, I immediately understood, was not one wherein I would be turning rigory or mortisy in the next few minutes.

“Let’s try it again,” the nurse said. Again, she tee-heed.

So the aide did and my BP turned out this time to be a more robust 118/59.


Ain’t No Stopping

And that turned out to be my second sudden death scare of the past 16 hours. Last night, I started taking my anti-nausea pills in advance of my final chemotherapy session tomorrow. The pill, though, got caught in my throat just behind my fiery-red uvula and in my inner pharynx, the walls of which are papered in a blazing carmine with razor blades.

I panicked. I began to choke. And gag. And hork. I lost my breath. My diaphragm spasmed uncontrollably.

Tears poured from my eyes. The skin on my face turned scorching. No matter what, none of these reactions would stop. This little drama went on for a good ten minutes before I started banging on a table and screaming — as feebly as I could — “Help!”

The Loved One and Joey My Brother, who both were napping, came bounding into the room. And there wasn’t a damned thing either could do for me, making The Loved One, at least, all the more panicky than even I.

She peppered me with inquiries:

  • “Should we call an ambulance?”
  • “Do you want me to pound your back?”
  • “Let’s call the hospital!”
  • “Can you breathe?”

I neither had answers nor could I have communicated them if I did.

Somehow, someway, the crisis passed.

Once I regained a modicum of equilibrium, I was able to offer some observations:

  • I was sure I was going to die.
  • Overall, I was fairly sure I didn’t want to die.
  • For a moment or two, I did want to die.
  • This pain in my throat is worse than any I’ve ever felt in that locale in my life.
  • Responding to TLO’s suggestion that maybe I should ask for a week’s break before resuming radiation, I slammed my hand on the table and said, “Hell no!”
  • I will finish this treatment regimen if it kills me.
  • If I don’t finish this thing up Monday, March 21st — the date of my final radiation session — I’ll become despondent.
  • My whole emotional underpinning the last few weeks has been based on looking forward to the 21st.
  • No. I will not stop now.
  • This even though Dr.Wu told me in the morning that he usually gives patients a little break at sometime during the regimen.
  • Only he really doesn’t like to because the radiation works better when it is done without interruption. He told me I’ve been handling the side-effects like a champ. “You’re a tough guy,” he said.
  • How can I ask for a break now?
  • There’s a goddamned plastic hose running into my belly.
  • I saw another man come in for his first radiation treatment in the morning and it made me cry.
  • I haven’t eaten in a little less than a month.
  • I haven’t had a good big delicious glass of water in the same span.

No matter. I’m shooting the moon. I’ve got a bell to ring tomorrow afternoon and another Monday morning. Then I’m outta here. Fuck you, cancer.

To that end, Dr. Wu showed me some MRI images of my neck yesterday. My Olive Pit™, the main one, has been reduced to the point where it just may be only a little fleck of scar tissue. I could have kissed him.


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