Chemo Session Six: Major Fatigue and a Tubing Malfunction (May 20, 2014)

Round six of chemotherapy, was the most exhausting dose of treatment I have gone through yet. Extreme fatigue had taken over my body before the session was half way through. All I thought about was resting, sleep, my cushiony queen size bed. Wanting to crawl out of my own skin from the feeling treatment left me with, I decided to sleep during today’s session. Usually it takes at least a few hours, sometimes a day before I feel run down. But on this day, it hit me hard before I ever left the hospital.

My mother had accompanied me for treatment, as she (thankfully) always does. There was no way I was driving, no way she would let me even ponder the thought of it. I fell asleep in the car on our ride home, only a short fifteen to twenty minute drive. I didn’t say a word upon waking. My bed was calling out to me; those plush pillows, that cloud of a bed, my snuggleriffic comforter. Yes, I just made that word up. But hey, my comforter is pretty sweet.

Off to bed I went to bed; a zombie slowly slumping along, not nearly quick enough, toward my temporary resting place. It was close to 3 p.m. by the time we arrived home. My son would be getting off the bus soon and my daughter would need to be picked up from preschool. I was in no condition to do either.

My mom came into my room–where I was already wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, sheets and throw pillows. “Do you want me to call out of work today kiddo? I can get Dom off the bus for you and pick up Izzy. Your father is on his way over to take Dom to baseball practice. I can take Iz to the park and let you get some rest. You have to let me know if you need me to stay home.”

For a moment I thought about saying no to her. My mother is self supporting, with a mortgage to pay and other typical household expenses. I’d prefer it if she didn’t have to miss a single day of work because of me. Maybe it’s just the feeling of maintaining control over something in my life. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling totally powerless at times, in terms of treatment and care. Maybe it just comes down to pride, that feeling as a single mom that I can take on the world. I can do it all and without help from anyone. Well, even Wonder Woman has an off day from time to time. On this day, after a very very brief hesitation, I welcomed the help from my parents. I needed them and my body needed rest.

I slept from about 3 p.m. until nearly 8 p.m., woke up for a few hours then went right back to bed until seven the next morning. Its incredible what listening to your body will do when it tries telling you something. I was ready to take on the day and it was only seven a.m. I began packing up my son’s snack for school, letting both of my children sleep in a bit while I got their things together.

That’s when I noticed something wet on my arm, just a few drops of clear liquid. Looking down at the counter, there were a few drops more. I had finished packing up Dom’s snack prior to seeing the droplets. I had also just washed my hands. I figured water had splattered on the counter, grabbing a paper towel I quickly wiped up the spill and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Looking down, reaching for the toothpaste out of my toiletries drawer, I spotted red droplets on the counter. One or two more had fallen on the floor, tracking back into the kitchen. My shirt was also slightly soiled. My pump, shit! The red droplets were blood, my blood, leaking out from somewhere.

I did a quick check of my chemo pump and the tubing that connects to it via the IV needle in my port. The tubing had come apart. The flipping tubing was separated which meant that blood and chemo chemicals were leaking out. All over the bathroom…and me.

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After the initial in house chemotherapy treatment, I’m given a forty-eight-hour take home pump. It fits into a black fanny pack type of bag that I can either drape over my shoulder like a purse or wear about my waist like an actual fanny pack. At the base of the pump, which is kept secured inside of the black fanny pack, is a cartridge for the chemotherapy chemicals. Extending from the cartridge is a long line of tubing. The tubing itself isn’t that thick around, the diameter being maybe one centimeter. At the end of that tubing is a screw top that fits into the screw top portion of another line of tubing. That second line of tubing runs from the needle that gets inserted into my port.

Basically, I have a port implanted under my skin. The nurse inserts a needle into that port which has a short line of tubing attached to it. That short line of tubing is then attached to a much longer line of tubing that connects to my take home pump. The separation occurred because these two lines of tubing that connect, became unscrewed somehow. My nurse had even wrapped tape around the screw caps once they were fastened to ensure the tubing would be leak free, but for whatever reason it wasn’t.

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Taking a quick breather, I gathered my thoughts, getting focused. What do I do now? Stop the leak, okay. I clamped off both lines of the chemo tubes, then wrapped paper towels around the ends that had been leaking. Okay, got that taken care of. Crap, the bus will be here soon and I haven’t even woken up my son yet.

Time to wake up my mom! She was such a trooper that morning. Jumping out of bed; she woke up both of my children, made them breakfast, then helped me gather the rest of their things for school. I frantically raced about the house, calling the oncology department to find out what to do next. Fortunately the infusion suite where I go for chemo was open. The nurse on the phone told me to come in as soon as I could to let them take a look at everything.

My son did end up missing the bus that morning. My mom and I dropped him off at school, my daughter to preschool and our last sot was the hospital. The nurses of the infusion suite were as baffled as I was that the tubing had separated. Fortunately I didn’t need the needle to be replaced, just the tubing and the bag of chemo.

I ended up having to wear my chemo pack a few hours longer than expected that week. The time I lost, where there was no chemo flowing, had to be made up for. You have to ready for anything when it comes to chemo. Not only the side effects but the rare occurrence of a malfunctioning piece of equipment. You learn to take each treatment it as it comes. Deal with it in stride and take one day at a a time.

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