Tag Archives: Amazing Nurses

Arrivederci!

There’s something about the giant, sterile, surgical light that hovers above you in the surgery room. Whether it’s minor surgery or major, it doesn’t matter. Seeing that lamp sent me into a panic.

I was fine when I checked in to have my port removed. Fine sitting there as the nurse came and checked my vital signs and then escorted me into the room where minor surgery is performed. My surgeon, “Dr. D”, went about preparing what he needed to open me up and literally cut out my chemotherapy port-a-cath.

Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a "post port removal" selfie :)
Immediately after my port was removed. Trying to fight back tears of joy long enough to take a “post port removal” selfie ūüôā

I started breathing heavy, hot tears flushed down my face…and I had just laid back onto the surgical bed. The nurse took my hand as Dr. D started prepping my skin, adding the dressing to the area that isolated the spot where he needed to remove good old “Penny”. He hadn’t even applied local anesthetic and I was quickly losing my composure.

Thank goodness my surgeon is the smartass that he is. The first needle was nothing. I’ve had blood draws taken that were far worse. I didn’t know he was going to inject about four or five more (possibly more, I lost count after the fourth injection).

It felt like someone was digging around, underneath my skin, with a miniature hot poker. Dr. D says to the nurse “Would you call that a whine or a whimper?” And when I wasn’t laughing he told me it was time to start manning up! Believe it or not, his sarcasm put me at ease.

Dr. D isn’t the type of doctor to coddle his patients. Tough love maybe but it’s the kind of attitude I grew up with and the reason why I probably got through my cancer treatments with such an optimistic attitude. It’s the “suck it up buttercup” mentality that allowed me to say “Okay, I’ve got cancer, what do I have to do to kick its’ ass ad move on with my life?”

He got me to calm down, that and a combination of the local anesthetic kicking in. I started taking slow, deep breaths and made small talk about my munchkins with the nurse.

I was done about ten minutes after Dr. D opened up the port site.

245b6a3786bfe4aaf8a939164f3d1bf5On the way out, the nurse asked me if I wanted to give a single finger salute. I said “What? No, I really like Dr. D” After bursting into laughter, she said “I didn’t mean to Dr. D, I was talking about your port!”

I looked over toward my surgeon and saw it there on the counter next to him. In a little plastic, specimen collection jar was my chemotherapy port.

That part of my life, for the most part,is over now.

A new journey begins…

Gratitude Day 10: Chemo Graduation Day!!! (9/17/2014)

 

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(Above: My twelfth and FINAL chemotherapy treatment! These are five of the nurses who were responsible for my care during treatments. Absolutely love these women! More like a second family to me than anything else)
(Below: My mother was holding back tears in this photo. It was such an emotional day for all of us; the nurses, my mother and myself.)
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The day before yesterday was my twelfth and final chemotherapy session. On the way to the hospital, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It was one of those divine timing kind of things. The song was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and the Supremes. The song took me back to my childhood. I thought¬†of the loved ones I’ve lost, imagining they were there with me. Angels by my side, protecting and encouraging me.

The nurses grew accustom to my goofy shenanigans over the last seven plus months. My first day of chemo, one of them pulled back the curtain to my little infusion cubicle to find my mother and I taking “chemo selfies.” In the very beginning, there were all kinds of jokes about the IV pole that held up the¬†chemo bag & other meds. “The only pole you’ll ever need to dance with,” and so many others. I even got my sister in on it a few times, not the dancing, just the joking.

One day I noticed how the base of the IV pole branched out like spider legs, with eight wheels, one at each end of the metal extensions. After that I thought, I am so using this thing as a skateboard! Luckily, I didn’t want to be a bad influence on the other patients¬†or I would have followed through with it.

When I pulled out a graduation cap, yesterday, and a huge sign to hold up during photos–the nurses weren’t the least bit surprised. “You know me ladies! Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go out with a bang!” We all laughed as we tried not to cry. After photos, I couldn’t hold back the tears for long. I hugged each of the nurses. Every¬†single hug released more tears from both me and the nurses. These women¬†wrapped their arms around me with such compassion and hope. They were there for me, taking care of me for nearly eight months now. My heroic, healthcare, champions.

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Nearly eight months of chemo, finally reached completion. The euphoria I felt upon returning home that day, indescribable. I felt cleansed of all negativity. Triumphant, that I never gave up on myself or my will to survive. I came so close to quitting around my six and seventh sessions. When I reached treatment number ten, I knew I had to press on. I gave it everything I had, to keep the crazy train moving forward until I reached Grand Sanity Station.

There’s no way I could have gotten through this without the emotional support I received from friends, family, total strangers and my healthcare team. I mean, I’m sure I would have found some way to get through this process.

All I know, is that between maintaining a positive attitude and having this massive emotional-safety-net to hold me up, I got through it. I’ve managed to kick 2014’s ass between being a full-time single mother, part-time student and a cancer patient. I did it all with a heart full of gratitude and a belly full of laughter.

Of course there were tears shed here and there, I’m only human after all. On the drive home from the hospital, I did¬†my best not to cry in front of my mom. When I cry, she cries and vice versa. I was just so elated, ecstatic, joyful to be done with chemotherapy treatments. So indescribably grateful to the Universe that I made it this far, that it was finally over.

My mother looked at me and said, “You know Amber, it’s okay to cry. For someone who’s been through as much as you have, I don’t think you’ve cried enough.”

Such a surreal experience, like living through a lucid dream. Even though I had symptoms of a “dis-eased” body, went through chemotherapy and major surgery–the fact that I had cancer still doesn’t truly resonate with me. I had cancer? It doesn’t even feel right saying it. Throughout this entire process, I’ve held the visualization of my body being whole. I’ve seen myself as a healthy individual, with a strong body and a sharp mind.

Even on the days that I felt like poo, yes I said poo. (When you find yourself spelling out cuss words…in front of other adults…with no children present…sure sign of being a parent!) Even on those days when I felt like never getting out of bed, I still saw myself with an image of wholeness and full health. I visualized how good it would feel to not have to take a week off from the gym, twice a month, because of chemo. Or the energy I would have to keep up with my children, everyday, not just the weeks that I didn’t go through treatment. I imagined all the free time I would have when I no longer needed to have so many trips to¬†the hospital. I practiced gratitude and thanked the Universe for healing my body, for putting the right people on my path to uplift my spirit.

Chemo is done now but I still have the¬†road to recovery to embark upon. For the next two to three years, I have to go in every three months for routine blood work. My surgeon, who removed the tumor, has me scheduled every three months as well–for the next 18 months. There’s also the oncologist, GI specialist and my primary care physician who I’ll have to follow up with for the next two to three years.

As with all endings, come new beginnings. Finishing chemo¬†feels like a period of great change. I’m entering survivorship now but it’s so much more than that. This isn’t just the beginning of a new chapter; it’s a brand¬†new book altogether. My spirit, my soul, has been transformed. This end only marks the beautiful beginning of the best years of my life and the lives of my children. In the words of Old Blue Eyes, “The best is yet to come and babe won’t that be fine?”