Morphine PCA – Patient Controlled Analgesia

Every time I wake up in pain from surgery I still manage to behave like a greedy kid in a candy store. Pushing the PCA button is the only thing that I can focus on.  A PCA is basically morphine that is electronically controlled via an infusion pump intravenously.  The dose is predetermined by the doctor so the patient can not overdose, I figured I’d be in safe hands.   I’ve had a few surgeries now so waking up in recovery with that little hand held button is my version of a security blanket.  There is something to be said for the self administration of drugs although some things are best left unsaid.  By pushing the PCA you are immediately fast tracked out of the pain queue, bypass the call bell and do not have to wait for a nurse to turn up while your waiting in post surgery hellish pain.  Apparently Im quite amusing post surgery, or so my husband reminds me.  I’m reduced to a mess of high pitched sing song sentences interspersed with a few painful yelps.

When the PCA is ready to administer another dose a little green light illuminates and its a race for me to press it.  I hate pain and I mean hate it, I think I have extra sensitive nerve endings because I don’t seem to tolerate physical pain very well at all.  When it comes to emotional pain I’ve done a few rounds and have taken a few emotional beatings without so much as flinching.

I was all over that PCA button, I was at it for days.  The nurses would check in on me every few hours and ask if I had, wait for it… ‘opened my bowels’.  I wasn’t eating anything so this probably explained why my colon was sheepish.

My gorgeous nutritionist friend came to visit me armed with a jar of 48 hour bone broth infused with various bones and of course chicken feet, a organic kale green juice with ginger and turmeric and some other super duper foods.  I was high as a kite on my PCA and so happy to have a visitor that would listen to my dribble.  I started on the green juice and shortly after backed it up with the intense bone broth.  One thing is for sure morphine can make you nauseous and thats just what happened, I heaved violently and creatively redecorated room 803.  I was a mess, although not my first experience with messy.

I do remember a pre-cancer debaucherous night out when I somehow managed to spill red wine up my skirt and ended up with wine soaked knickers.  This was the same night that I was at an uber cool bar in Paddington, wearing a simple cotton dress with a long slit down the middle of the back.  In a moment of inebriated genius I snatched a black magic marker from the bar tenders hand, spun my dress around and drew on my rather relaxed stomach a very nice set of abs. I now had a rockin’ six pack.

The next morning I woke up with a throbbing head ache, no PCA and killer abs.

Note to self: Don’t drink and draw.  It took several showers to scrub that off.

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Then I discovered Google Scholar

Admittedly it’s been about 20 years since I left University and haven’t really done any study or research since then.  I’m guessing that looking up how to bake an easy chocolate cake recipe on the internet isn’t exactly research.  Like most of us, we don’t talk Oncologist speak, its a completely different language that is full of huge words that sound to me mostly harsh and terminal.  Once I heard the words Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma I knew that I was way out of my language league.  I had studied Fine Art at University and I was more used to discussing the exstistential elements of art and its context. Onco speak was so daunting and final, there is no room for contemplation or personal interpretation.

The day I discovered Google Scholar I got my game on.  The note pad was ready, the pencils were sharpened, the ginger and turmeric tea was at hand.  I was in my PJ’s and I was ready to kick some scholary arse. I found myself reading research paper after research paper trying desperately to interpret language that was beyond me. The funny thing is I managed in my own inept way to scour across papers and seemingly made some sense out of it all. It was more gut feeling than intellect. I spread myself around the sites like a greedy cookie monster. One site wasn’t enough, multiple pages and research articles opened all at once, cross checking info on my iPad and iPhone simultaneously. I needed more devices.

Knowledge was king and I was hungry for more.  Im not so sure I was ingesting the right amount of quality nutrients but I was getting something. This was junk food for the mind. I felt inspired and motivated. That was the day that I swore off sugar as an evil product made by huge multinationals who were out to make big bucks and poison us at the same time. I discovered articles on assassinated professors who had come close to simple cancer cures that couldn’t be patented, there was so much to read, the concept of cancer as a business was starting to seem very real to me. That is when I declared that I would stick to an alkaline diet. I was going to kill this fungus inside me, no more sugar, no more acid causing foods or drinks, I was going to be the king of my own domain and re set my path to healing.  I was knee deep in conspiracy theories, this was so much fun. I was on the edge of my sofa. Chemotherapy was going to kill me, surgery was going to spread the cancer further, radiation would give me new cancers, holy shit I was l wadding through a pool of hot steaming crap and I couldn’t see a way of getting out of it.

Anyone who knows me knows all too well that I’m a rebel at heart, I like to question, I don’t like being told what to do.  This was going to get interesting, I was ready to fight every oncologist and pummel them with my questions and theories, I was armed with little knowledge and god knows this can be most dangerous.

I took my note book with me to my Medical Oncologist appointment (the chemo doctor) and fired away.  Will the Chemotherapy cause new cancers? Will it damage my organs? Is this the worlds best practice for treatment? How many of your patients have declined treatments and what was there outcome? What is a hidden cancer? Do you know if the cancer has spread or are you guessing? Is it in my big toe as well as my breast? Why don’t we remove the cancerous breast first? I went on and on. Suffice to say that this $565 appointment wasn’t going too well.  The Doctor had her back up, I was that pain in the arse patient that thinks they know everything and was questioning her extensive knowledge, expertise and experience.  She was ‘patient’ at first but soon realised that I was resisting treatment and perhaps resisting the idea that me, yes me, had Breast Cancer.

Patient: adjective. Able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. “be patient, your time will come” synonyms: forbearing, uncomplaining, tolerant, long-suffering, resigned, stoical.

I walked out of that appointment humming Bowie’s classic 1974 track:

Do do do do do do do do, Rebel rebel, you’ve torn your dress, rebel rebel your face is a mess

D DAY – Diagnosis Day and the nipple pickle.

It’s D DAY and I’m jumpy. Excitement isn’t the first thing that would rate highly on a feelings check but that is how I felt.  Its a different level of excitement, not the I just sat behind the wheel of a new car excitement, more of a bodily sensation. My limbs are uncontrollably jumpy, some nervous twitches and I’m blurting out sentences that sound so incredibly surreal and stupid.  I am very aware of my breathing, my heart heavy and strong, boomp boomp, boomp boomp. This was not the same waiting room outside the Principals office in 8th Grade this was much much worse. I was desperately trying to draw upon some kind of inner clairvoyance to give me a heads up, asking myself, so do I have cancer or not? Am I going to walk out of here unscathed or is my world going to implode?

My husband and I are finally called in, pleasantries are exchanged and the Oncologist gets down to business straight away.  Words, words, and more words.  This is taking way too long to explain were my first thoughts.  Okay, starting to feel very odd, a rush of heat and sweaty armpits.  Why is he going on and on?  He is talking so much. Bam, he says it, It’s a malignant tumour- You have Breast Cancer and we have to perform a lumpectomy next week and you will loose your nipple. Whoa, back up. Did you say loose the nipple?

Looking back now, boy did I cry over that nipple. A week after Diagnosis Day I celebrated my birthday lunch with girlfriends and at varying stages of drunken mess I’d let out sobs over the nipple cripple. I was so distressed about loosing that damn nipple, I cried my guts out and made some pretty loud sobbing sounds. It wasn’t all sadness and tears, there were plenty glasses of champagne, natural wine, I think I ate a plant, we hugged the waiter and I tried to get into the boot of my friends car as I thought it would be more fun to get to the next drinking venue. Luckily I have good friends who managed to talk me out of it. Yes I do have that photo of me in the boot, no I’m never up loading it.

Loosing the nipple brought back fond school memories of me throwing the pickle from my Big Mac above my head with careless abandon to watch it get stuck to the ceiling.  I couldn’t stop imagining my Oncologist doing the exact same thing with my nipple.

Getting rubbed up the wrong way.

When word got out to the wider community that I had Breast Cancer I began to develop a mild form of agoraphobia, it wasn’t so much that I was scared of leaving the house, I was more scared of bumping into people that I knew. Other people had become a constant reminder to myself of the impending uphill slog of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and more surgeries. Whoa this was more shit than I could stack.  I was trying to focus on one aspect of the treatment at a time, the questions and advice from well wishers was too confronting for me, I was having trouble digesting what felt like impending doom.

The kicker for me was the arm rub from well wishing acquaintances.  These were very lovely people in their own right, however I had never before crossed into the physical domain with these people. My instincts became very sharp, I could pick  out a potential arm rubber in a crowd, I could see them eye me off and then walk towards me with the same determination of killing a cockroach.  I just knew what was coming next.  The outstretched arm would be cocked ready to close in on my shoulder at any given moment… The arm rub a seemingly compassionate gesture, which of course it was would go on for what felt like forever to me.  I was so aware of being rubbed like a little sick dog that my brain couldn’t focus on much else. Words would become muffled, just the warm and unwanted touch of a stranger was at the forefront of my mind.

I used to cringe, first it was the “Ohh I heard about the news”, or worse I would have to endure the stories of So and So had breast cancer and she is now fine…blah blah blah.

In hindsight I now realise that these arm rubbers had the warmest intentions and were genuinely trying to connect with me.  I was just too scared to accept what was happening to me. Umm I’m pretty sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, however, I told someone that if they continued to rub my arm any harder a Genie would pop out of my arse.

Breast Cancer Sucks, sometimes harder.

Getting my long curly wild black hair shaved off was my way of trying to assume control over a situation that was frankly pretty f#%$@* up.  This whole mess of a Breast Cancer diagnosis was like a kick in the privates, although for me, more like a kick in the tit.  So by taking the higher ground and basically getting in there first with the hair clippers before it started to fall out in clumps was my way of assuming control.  I booked the appointment.  I was determined to tackle this hair loss thing head first, with no hesitations. I was getting myself physically and mentally ready for the next 6 months of chemotherapy.

Im guessing if your reading this, you have had some personal experience with Breast Cancer or know someone who has. I just want to share some of my experiences, feelings and thoughts that have been on my mind. You may be able to relate to some of it or other times think that I’m completely bonkers. Breast Cancer sucks but sometimes other parts of life may seem to suck even harder!

After having a biopsy in November of 2014 I had no idea what lay ahead of me, I was diagnosed with an aggressive malignant tumor in my left breast.

Admittedly I hadn’t been sleeping well since I found that little pea sized lump just under my nipple.  For some reason my boob was hurting, and I mean real aches and sharp stabbing pains, this pain is apparently pretty rare.

So I did what I thought was the right thing to do and went to my GP for a check up. I joked with my husband on the morning of the Doctors appointment that I was going to flash my tits and let the doctor ‘cop a feel’. This was exciting!

Anyway, I had an ultrasound and was more annoyed that the ultrasound technician was pushing so hard on the tender area of my breast where the lump was than anything else. ( I’m a bit of a woose when it comes to pain).  Things began to get a little heated up when the ultrasound technician left the room and returned a few minutes later with the radiologist.  Ok, I was beginning to think that this might be serious, or maybe this person just lacked experience, hence the heavy handed ultrasound technique that was really annoying me.

Its a ingrown hair reports the Radiologist!

Cool, I’m off the hook I thought, although the only weird thing is that I don’t have hairy tits!