Day 8 or Bust: Thursday, August 13, 2009

WARNING: Yesterday was a long day and so this is a long entry. Enjoy, I think?!?

Writing feverishly to try to meet MPR's 9 a.m. coffee/blog-reading deadline but I think I'm going to fail. Miserably. Here goes:

So, Day 8 was a bust. A total bust. For those of you who don't know yet, I didn't end up having my Day 8 treatment yesterday. I'm not kidding. Trust me, I wouldn't joke about this. I don't and fortunately never will know what it's like to experience false labor, although I've heard the dreadful stories from my mother and close friend, but I think what I experienced yesterday is the ovarian cancer patient's equivalent. Can you imagine pumping yourself full of a bunch of steroids, which make it nearly impossible to sleep, the night before a planned treatment while wrapping your mind around subjecting yourself to another course of dreadful drugs that leave you bloated, nauseous, and experiencing shooting pains throughout the following week, only to be told that your goddamn white count is non-existent and that you simply cannot receive treatment? This, after about four or five hours of lying around in an uncomfortable hospital bed watching the Food Network (amen for Giada, Ina, Michael, and Bobby...)? False labor of sorts, no?

When I last left you I was going to pop into the shower and then pack up to go to the hospital. What I didn't share is that my mom and I had a small errand to do before going to the hospital. I had to stop by INOVA's Blood Donor Service office, which is about a half mile from the hospital in the same medical building as Dr. E's office, in order to have MORE blood work drawn for further genetic testing (at press time we're still waiting for a final conclusion on my bad genes...more later). Unfortunately, my veins weren't in a good mood yesterday morning so it took two needles and three med techs to get some blood out of them. And since traffic to Gallows Rd. was a bitch (will the roadwork by the exit ramp ever end?!?) and since my mother insists on driving in the far right lane so that she doesn't have to "stress out" to switch lanes close to the exit, we were cutting things very close to get to the hospital by my 9:45 a.m. deadline. (Note: I'm convinced if I videotaped my mother's and my treatment car trips/conversations and posted them on YouTube that we'd be come overnight internet sensations. Seriously. The bickering. The bitching. The sarcasm. The stories. It would sell in a big way.) You see, I have a two-hour window to get to my oncology unit bed from the time I'm called in. You'd think that would be easy since the hospital is only 20-30 minutes away depending on traffic but it generally proves challenging when factoring in time for a last-minute shower, packing up a loaner dog, picking up a mother, fitting in some last minute blood work or other errands, etc. etc.

So, I rolled up to the hospital entrance at about 9:43 a.m. I hit registration at just about 9:45 a.m. and once again, asked my clerk to call up to the oncology unit so that they knew Elvis, that would be me, was in the building and to hold my bed while I took care of the b.s. paperwork I have to do everytime I'm admitted. Registration went quickly and soon a high school volunteer (always brings back memories of my candy-striping days at INOVA Alexandria...Christina, how many darn baby caps did we make during all of those hours at the hospital?) appeared to escort my mother and me up to the oncology unit.

Upon entering the unit, I was greeted by another excellent nursing team, Sue and Amanda. Amanda is Sue's nurse extern for the summer. They were both FABULOUS and FUN and further proof that oncology nurses are the smartest, hardest working nurses of them all. (Hmmm...interior design or oncology nursing? What should my next career be? I'll ponder that one later I guess.) Anyway, we went through the usual drill: reviewed current medications, timeline for the day, etc. etc. Sue left shortly to finish my paperwork and promised to be back soon to numb my port access sites. She was back shortly but she had a surprise:

It seems that the hospital's pharmacists wanted to get new blood work from me (again, people?!?) in case my WBC and RBC levels had crashed since it was done on Monday afternoon. I was completely annoyed by this extra step, which would hold up the treatment process, and said aloud, "Are you kidding me? Who crashes that much in 36 hours? Okay, whatever."

Guess who crashes that much in 36 hours? Moi. Poor Sue. She was so afraid to come in to tell me that I wouldn't be receiving treatment afterall that she made Amanda accompany her to break the news a couple hours after the blood was drawn. Am I really that scary? I suppose that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...or a cancer patient denied. Anyway, Sue had just gotten off the phone with Dr. E's office when she came in to show me the results (ummm...yeah, so a normal WBC level is AT LEAST over 2,000 but ideally they like it to be around 3,500 or above for treatment; mine was/is 460) and the verdict was in from Dr. E: No Day 8 treatment for the Jenster.

I didn't remember this when I was flipping out about being denied treatment yesterday because I was in the "treatment zone" but I had been warned at the outset about the possibility of my counts dropping too low to receive the Day 8 treatment. Jan, in Dr. E's office, had explained that if this were to happen that I would just skip the Day 8 treatment, remain on the same schedule, and that they would make the appropriate adjustments to the next cycle's Day 1 and 2 drug levels (in my case, a 10% reduction of each drug) so that I might have better luck in receiving my Day 8 treatment during the next round.

So, after my meltdown with Sue, Amanda, Jan (via phone), and Edith (she is the oncology clinical specialist at INOVA and seems to take particular interest in her "IP girls," as she likes to refer to us), I wrapped my brain around a new thought: That it is okay that I didn't receive my Day 8 treatment. And that not having this treatment doesn't mean that I'm weakening my changes of beating this once and for all. Fortunately, Edith did a little fact-checking yesterday and told me late in the afternoon when I was waiting for my Neupogen shot (to boost that damn WBC) and my ride home from my parents, that NONE of her IP ladies have had a recurrence since they started doing this in 2006 -- even those who had missed some of their Day 8 treatments. Thank you, Edith. You are a gem of a clinician and a human being and I appreciate your reassuring tales from the oncology world.

My parents collected me just after 4 p.m. I went back to their house with them to see my loaner dog. We (that would be River and me) went on a walk together, which felt so good after lying around in a useless hospital bed for nearly six or seven hours. We returned after about 20 minutes or so and then it was time to load up in the car again to join my parents for one of their weekly rituals.

What do you do when your Day 8 treatment is a total bust? You bust on out in your militant lesbian/concentration camp victim/Eastern European marathoner/cancer patient hairstyle and hit Lobster Night at Shooter McGee's with your parents. I wish you all could see the scene in this West End restaurant at about 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday nights. If you're ever bored, looking for some good people watching, and have a hankering for a yummy lobster, please go check it out. I'll try to describe it as best I can but I will not do it justice: First of all, the interior is reminiscent of the Regal Beagle (come on, you remember it from Three's Company, don't you?) but darker and busier. The bar is filled with every washed up, single 50-something, who has a slight drinking problem (as is evidenced by the bloodshot eyes and rosacia that many of them sport) and is looking to feel just a little less pain after another long day in their dead-end Alexandria office job. As for the restaurant, it is filled with every blue-haired person this side of the River and inside the Beltway who is looking for a good deal on a good lobster. Again, I'm not doing it justice but I hope you now have some sense of the sad yet somehow wildly entertaining scene that surrounds me when I join my parents for this almost-weekly ritual of theirs.

My 1 1/2 pound lobster totally hit the spot! Truth be told, between the veggie pizza and pasta my mom delivered to me for lunch, the fruit smoothie she got me for dessert following the garlicy pizza and pasta, and the lobster I ate for dinner, I ate more food yesterday than I had eaten in the past seven. And it felt good. (And I know many of you are cheering in your chairs right now!) The highlight of my parent's and my dinner conversation was a discussion about River's humping problem (the problem being that he does it to anyone or anything constantly!) during which my mother lamented, "I mean we really need to work on this because I'm worried he's going to lose friends!" Huh? I mean, I love the dog too, Mom, but friends? Really? When did dogs get friends? I mean, sure they have playmates at the dog park whose private parts they like to smell and lick repeatedly but the social bonds of friendship? I think not. What she was referring to is that she isn't willing to have family friends' dogs over to play with him because she gets so annoyed with the constant humping. We all got a good laugh out of her deep concern for River's social life and I told them I was going to check into a dog training session to deal with the humping and the fact that he insists on sleeping in my bed with me. On the one hand, I love it but I think it's affecting my sleep, which just won't do.

River and I went on ANOTHER walk when we got home from dinner. I walked past a fellow T.C. alumni's condo while we were out. He, who happens to be a longtime paraplegic with a highly-stylized condo, was entertaining on his patio and looked so happy with his guests. I smiled, observing the scene. It reminded me of this simple statement, which I try to remind myself when things get crazy like they were earlier in the day: Just. Be. Happy. For. Today.

So, that sums up yesterday for you. Just another chapter in the book, right? I have nothing concrete on my agenda for today, which feels great. And the good news of no Day 8 treatment is that I will continue to feel good until my next cycle of treatment, which isn't until August 26. AND I WILL BE READY TO PARTY ON THE 22nd!


  1. Ugh, can't believe it was a bust after all that, but at least you are back to your old self today....and THAT is worth something! xo Elena

  2. Sorry to hear about missing Day 8, but everything happens for a reason, so I'll be hoping it was so you can enjoy your 33rd celebration.

    And thanks for the Memories of Shooter's. . .needless to say, on Monday 1/2 price burger nights, if my father had us that is where we would be. And the sad or maybe entertaining thing is that in 25 years, I don't think the seen has changed at all. It's a different prespective now that I am 'older,' but oh the same crew (which I would most definitely include my father in those spot on descriptions).

    And tell your mom that Oliver managed to hump his mother whenever we have guests and now we just pass it off as entertainment. . .We can alwasy bring Oliver up for a 'playdate' with River.

  3. "You bust on out in your militant lesbian/concentration camp victim/Eastern European marathoner/cancer patient hairstyle and hit lobster night at Shooter McGees with your parents." Roaring with laughter! Chemo does not seem to have deprived you of your sense of humor. Seriously that line was hilarious! So right on too... Shooter's IS the Regal Beagle Also, I love hearing about River in all this.... dogs are the real deal,


  4. I'm so sorry you didn't get treatment - sounds like you are bouncing right back as usual. I am really, really glad that River is around - Luca ALWAYS makes me feel better. A lick from a cute dog is just the thing you need sometimes :)

  5. I am glad you got reassurances from Edith -- she seems to know just the right things to say (unlike the nurse who came into your room the last time i was there and commented on how so many of the women on the floor had short hair -- hello, it's the oncology floor!!!). Anyway, I laughed out loud at least twice at your description of your mother's driving and concern about River's friends. Lucy will continue to be his friend, but she will only take so much ;-) Love you!

  6. I've gotta see this lobster night at Shooter McGee's! I think you should post your review of Shooter's to Yelp. Glad you are feeling like yourself.
    See you soon!