I see the concern in my oncologist’s eyes as he listens to me barely able to squeak out the answers to his questions. My daughter told me that last she came to chemo with me that he has a terrible poker face. She’s right.
I had asked him if it was time for a stronger antibiotic to kick this pneumonia out for good. It was kickin my butt and I’d been feeling weaker and weaker as the days went on. Although I had been running a low grade fever on and off for the last few weeks, I didn’t happen to have one now so he was suspicious. And he didn’t want to give me more antibiotics if they wouldn’t help me.
In the end, after listening to my wheezing and coughing, he told me we would do the chemo today and then he was sending me to the ER after.
Lucky for me, the hospital is RIGHT NEXT to the clinic. In fact, they are joined by a serious of tunnels and hallways so I could leave my car there and simply walk over.
If I could walk that far. One of the chemo nurses ended up wheeling me over in a wheelchair when chemo was done. That was about 4:30. I texted my father who had just driven in from KY to spend the weekend with me to let him know what was going on. Thankfully, I left a key under the mat for him just in case chemo went long so at least he wasn’t stuck in his car waiting for me. I told him to settle in and that I would let him know when I was finally seen.
For someone having trouble breathing, wearing a face mask is not pleasant. But the flu is an epidemic right now and that ER waiting room was full of coughing people. I found a little corner and settled in. I will spare you details of the ER waiting game. Suffice it to say that I did not get home until 2 am.
By the time I was finally called back, my boyfriend has finished work, picked up my father and took him out for dinner. It was a small room with an “easy chair” in it but at least it was quiet and all mine. Several different nurses/tech/docs came in and out to take vitals and blood work. The chemo ward had left my port accessed but apparently one of the blood tests they were doing to check for various infections I may have needed to be drawn from two different locations so despite the port, I got stabbed in the crook of my arm anyway. He had a light touch so it wasn’t bad.
At some point, my dad was brought back to the room. They had finished dinner and came to hang with me. They had said there was only room for one so Simon waited in the lobby. It turns out that the room I was in had a second door that opened to the lobby so we snuck him in anyway. Once Simon was back with us no one told him to leave.
While waiting for someone to get me to take me for a chest x-ray, a respiratory person came in to give me a nebulizer breathing treatment. That was interesting. It didn’t taste great, and it made me cough a bit. But the nurse who listened to my lungs at the beginning of the treatment and said that everything sounded clear, told me she could now hear wheezing. The treatment was designed to help break up the mucus inside so I could cough it out.
They also swabbed my nose to check for the flu. THAT was unpleasant! I think they actually got some brain matter on the swab!
Someone came with a wheelchair to take me to X-ray. It was quick and easy. As long as I could sit quietly and not talk, I was pretty ok. Unfortunately, every darn person who walked in the room wanted to me tell them why I was there. I wish I just recorded myself the first time.
I was finally brought to a real room with a bed in the ER. I did not see this a good sign. I was hoping they would just tell me I had the flu and send me home, or confirm the pneumonia and give me that antibiotic. But I was told that the only reason I didn’t get a “real room” before was that there were none open. At least now I had an uncomfy skinny hospital to lie on and someone brought me a wonderful warmed blanket. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open but was no where NEAR being able to sleep. So the three of sat around watching TV while we waited for the next step.
I had another two breathing treatments in the room. They really did help and my chest began to feel less tight. Someone came in to tell me that the Xray DID show issues, but that couldn’t differentiate between the cancer stuff and potential Pneumonia stuff. It all shows up as opaque whiteness. So they wanted to give me a CT scan to get a better idea what the deal was.
This did not come as any surprise to me. In fact, my onco had told me he would need one before prescribing any more antibiotics but if HE had set it up it would not have gotten done till next week. He knew the ER would give me all the tests I needed that night. Plus, they could give me some immediate breathing relief.
It was after 10:30 pm by that time, so we sent my dad home so he could get some sleep. I was told that they could NOT use my port for the contrast dye because they did not know with what size/kind of needle it had been accessed with. So guess what? Another stick in the crook of my arm. This time, it hurt so bad that I cried out and immediately teared up. I HATE when that happens.
The CT scan (my third now with a month) went quickly. Although I had a coughing fit while lying in the machine, the tech said it was all good and they got good images. I was wheeled back to the room to wait for the results.
Simon and I napped a little while we waited. I was SO ready for someone to come in to tell me that pneumonia was worse, take all these ports and needles out of me and send me home to my own comfy bed with an uber antibiotic. Soon the constant nose drip, the sore throat, the constant coughing and mucus would stop and I would finally be able to get a decent night’s sleep so I could get my immune system in shape to help the Keytruda I will be getting next week.
Instead, when the ER doc finally came in to talk to me, the news I got was that I did NOT have pneumonia any more. I did not have the flu. My breathing problems were coming from the lungs mets. In fact, half my right lung is filled with fluid (called pleural effusion) and is partially collapsed. Of course I was devastated.
BUT. At least now we have a handle on the situation and know how to move forward. They finally unpincushioned me and sent me home. The breathing treatments had eased my discomfort and I knew I was going straight to bed. Still, I didn’t sleep any better that night. The ER doc called at 3 AM!!! to check on me. She kept asking if I was ok and comfortable and that I should come back if I wasn’t. Leave my comfy couch to go back there? HELL NO!!
The next morning, Miss Google Queen looked up any home treatments I might try to help until I was able to get an appt with a lung specialist. My onco had told me he would get me set up with someone when he sent me to the ER. We both knew I would need this at some point anyway.
I found the usual anti-inflammatory herbs and such to help keep the fluid down, but the best thing I found was a simple breathing exercise. Take as deep a breath as I can – hold it for 10 seconds (NOT easy since it immediately me want to cough!) and THEN cough it out. Sure enough, doing this makes me actually cough up bits of the fluid. They suggest doing this 10 times a row every hour till symptoms ease. READ HERE
I could tell it works as I am coughing up little bits each time. But man! This coughing is taking a toll on me. It wears me out big time. And now my right side hurts – I’m sure where the fluid is being forced out. So I’m not sure if this pain is good or bad. Still – doing this exercise cleared things out well enough that I was actually able to get a bit of sleep last night. Woohoo.
So many friends and family are checking on me -thank you. It’s a bit surreal to be well aware of the fact that I may not make it through this. That it is likely. Every time someone else says they want to come visit I know why. I want to say no, no. I’m fine. But this weekend made me realize that it is SO much harder to do things on my own.
I’m sure things will get better once I see the lung doc. I get my second Keytruda treatment next week and now I know that there is no pneumonia getting in the way. I will spend the time doing everything I can to build up my immune system.
Please keep those prayers coming!
I get to be a couch potato!