Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Vein Lady

It's been over a week since I last wrote, and I blame that entirely on the fact that I'm now feeling so much better over the past few days that I've been well enough to do all sorts of other things instead. My arm is still annoyingly hopeless, simple things like buttering bread results in the whole kitchen being buttered too. Everything takes longer, but it's still a whole load better, and a whole lot less painful than even a few days ago, so we're moving in the right direction. However, I have absolutely no stamina, my energy levels are running at zero, and I'm totally exhausted the whole time, but it's still good to feel more normal. 

I'm now waiting for the Cancer Hospital Theme Park to let me know which ride I'm to go on next, and when. 

Last week I saw the vein lady - did she keep looking in the mirror? - someone asked me. No she didn't. She was utterly lovely, warm, knowledgeable, sympathetic and understanding about my needle phobia, and spent an hour talking me through all the options. As well as an extreme needle phobia, I also have lousy veins, the type they need to go excavating deep deep down to try and locate, twisting the needle through chunks of my flesh as they try to drain my blood. Hey, you noticed that? I can write about it without cringing too much and having a panic attack! OK, so my eyes are closed but I'm a pretty good touch typer. That is how good the vein lady was, I can just about face it.

Not only do I have lousy veins, but since those lymph nodes were removed they can't ever try to use my right arm for vein access unless it was life or death. Chemotherapy damages veins, their toxicity is such that they can only use the same vein about twice for chemo, when I'll need to have 8 or so batches. That would mean that they would have to find veins in all sorts of other places; feet, knees, hips, etc. No thanks, I'm not doing that. 

So the vein lady suggested a "device" instead. Three to chose from, but I've opted for a "Portacath". This is a little round bit of plastic that sits inside a really thick, strong, hardy vein just below my neck. They'll be a little raised bump protruding out of the skin - I'm regarding it as a "mini-boob" to replace the one they're taking away. There's a round  disk of what looks like the best middle bit of a Jammy Dodger facing up, which can be stabbed 2.000 times. It means they'll have to stab through my skin every time, but the vein lady is organising warehouse quantities of magic cream just for me as well as a sedative beforehand every time. Two reasons I went for this one - there is nothing sticking out, so my lovely son T will have nothing to pull at, which he loves to do. The other reason? It's the only one of the 3 devices where they have to put it in with a general anaesthetic! Result! There's no way in a million years that a needle-phobic like me would sit passively patient and co-operative while they dug around in large veins to insert something, then thread it all the way towards my heart. It's not a perfect solution, nothing is, but it's a pretty award-winning compromise, if such a thing existed.

However, this now means that I may have the mastectomy at the same time as the portacath being fitted, which would mean delaying the chemo until 4 - 6 weeks later. Lots of worry there, then. I was so pleased that the cancer hadn't spread last week, but it seems a bit like tempting fate to give it another several weeks to keep trying. However, I also feel quite squeamish that the cancer is still firmly locked away having a party in my right breast, whatever they didn't get the first time round has probably grown and spread to fill the void by now. 

I'm also fairly certain that I'm going to ask them to take away the left boob too. As a friend put it, boobs don't really work in ones. I never made it as a page three girl in my youth, so I very much doubt that if I only have one they will ever give me a slot on page one-and-a-half. My decision is mostly because I'm very frightened of the cancer recurring. My chances of it doing so are fairly through the roof - two primary cancers, both starting to spread already, found at the same time - recurrence is very likely indeed. Already, since diagnosis they have found two separate "areas of interest" on the left side in addition to the definite tumour. For the rest of my days I will live with the fear of recurrence, and face frequent mammograms and biopsies to boot. If I ever get past this cancer saga, I won't want to be looking over my shoulder all the time.

So the cancer team have to decide how to kick start the next phase - with a mastectomy first or chemo. My job is to sit at home, looking beautiful, waiting for the phone to ring. Meanwhile, I'm loving every minute of these unexpected stolen few days of very happy relative wellness. 

I'm falling asleep as I write, so I'll finish it here, but I'm buzzing with so much to say that I'll be back with the next one very very soon.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Yvonne

    first time reading your amazing blog after receiving your email - don't know how you do it, you are an example to us all. I think you would have been useful to have around during the Blitz to keep everyone's chin up! Had a mild scare myself last month which led to a few nights in hospital but turned out to be a false alarm - probably! But nothing approaching what you are going through. will try to phone you later today - much love M