This morning, I was the first patient this morning at the Santa Barbara Cancer Center. Bright and early.
I was nervous, really, really nervous.
At the reception desk, I was given a pink questionnaire (at least it’s my favorite color!) asking me about any symptoms I am currently experiencing. Apparently I will have to do this before every chemotherapy infusion.
Then I was escorted to the Treatment Room. It is a beautiful, spacious and calm place (one of the reasons we chose the Santa Barbara Cancer Center). Sitting in a chemotherapy administration room means that I’m officially into the next phase next of FBC.
Three nurses introduced themselves. All were very welcoming and kind. I even had my pick of chairs. Whoo-Hoo!
The nurses already knew that I’m a nurse. This type of knowledge goes a long way. There is an inherent professional connection, communication and respect for one of your “own”, especially when illness and caring are involved.
We discussed accessing my port-a-cath. Accessing a port-a-cath means putting a large needle into the port-a-cath. Connected to the needle is an intravenous (IV) line through which chemotherapy and other medications can be administered.
I told them that have an extremely LOW tolerance for pain, i.e., even the lightest touch hurts. I requested both lidocaine and EMLA cream. EMLA Cream is the relieving pain of normal intact skin and numbing skin to pain from injections and other medical procedures. EMLA Cream is a local anesthetic. It works by blocking nerves from transmitting painful impulses to the brain. They didn’t have any there. To get EMLA cream, you need a doctor’s prescription and it takes and hour to work. F-Bomb.
OK, well, how about a little injectionable lidocaine to numb the area. Nope. They didn’t have that either. WTF? I almost broke into tears, but instead, out came the F-bomb (outloud). I reiterated exactly how low my tolerance for pain is and they promised to do it as fast as possible. Really? Really?
Let me explain briefly how a port-a-cath is accessed (www.childrens-mercy.org):
- Accessing the port:
- Supplies Needed: Appropriate sized Huber needle, Persist or Betadine swabs, 10cc syringe of Normal Saline, 5 cc syringe with 100 unit/ml Heparin, sterile gloves
- Locate the port septum by palpation
- Put on sterile gloves
- Prime needle tubing with saline and leave syringe attached
- Cleanse skin 5 inches out from center of the port using the antimicrobial swabs. Use a circular motion and work outward
- Placing the needle
- Relocate the port septum (center) between two fingers, pulling the skin taut.
- Firmly (as in STAB!) the needle at a 90 degree angle through the skin into the port septum until it hits the bottom of the port chamber.
All I can say is that accessing my port-a-cath was a disaster and hurt like a F-Bomb.
ALARM! ALARM! ALARM! OWIE! OWIE! OWIE!
Holy heavens. Tears instantly poured down my cheeks. I wanted to throw up. It was AWFUL. Not only that, but the nurse didn’t hit the bulls-eye and had to pull it out and do it AGAIN.
The poor nurse was mortified and completely apologetic. It was awful all the way around.
She FINALLY hit the center of the port and was able to get fluids to go through. Yeah!
Before chemo can be administered, however, blood must be drawn back through a syringe connected to the intravenous (IV) line. This ensures that the line is in the right place.
If you look at the syringe in the image above, pulling back on the syringe should bring blood out of the vein. Well, that didn’t work initially either. So, she gave me two small bags of normal saline (salt water) to see fluids running through the IV for a short period of time could get the holy grail of blood to pull back in the syringe.
Well, FINALLY it worked. Yipppeee! Now we are ready to roll!
In the meantime, she also gave me (per my request) intravenous Benadryl (to offset side effects, with the added bonus of making me sleepy) as well as Ativan (an anti-anxiety medication).
After I was given these two drugs, the steroid Dexamethasone was administered through my IV. ”Dex” as it’s commonly referred, helps prevent nausea and can increase appetite. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can produce sleepless nights and anger issues, commonly referred to as “‘Roid Rage.” I’m not kidding. Let’s just say that the F-bomb has been dropped A LOT today! …A LOT
Then, my doctor came into the room to tell me that there has been a “snafu.” WTF? (‘Roid Rage was beginning to take effect). Yesterday, in preparation for today’s chemotherapy, I was supposed to have taken Dexamethasone. Really? Really? Hmmm….why didn’t I, the patient, know this?
A long story short, they were NOT able to give chemotherapy today (because I had not had a dose of Dex the day before chemotherapy). I’m not kidding.
This is a classic example of a patient falling through the cracks. Patient = me.
So, tomorrow morning at 8:30, I will go back to the Cancer Center to try it again. Get back on the horse, as they say (but this time I’ll have EMLA and anti-emetics in my saddle)!
Well, I had to look LONG AND HARD for a SL’s (silver linings) today (especially consider the ever mounting ‘Roid Rage), but was able to find several:
- I was able to get out all of the initial worries and anxiety about going to a cancer center to receive chemotherapy.
- For the first time in my professional career, an Oncologist apologized (and truthfully, it wasn’t his fault, however, as “the decider” he took responsibility). This gave me even more respect for him.
- I now have EMLA cream to place on my port-a-cath before tomorrow’s stick.
- I took a long nap to offset the effects of the Benadryl and the Ativan.
Now, I’m just holding the highest hope that the ‘Roid Rage stays at bay. The last thing that I want to add to this situation is being grumpy. That is so not how I roll!
Wishing you all a day filled with SL’s!