Last Good Days of Spring Break

My pose screams I am afraid of heights haha.

Last two days before my kids go back to school on spring break and my daughter went on a sleepover with her friend yesterday. I and my son went to Estes Park instead with Paul and his kids. Over 7,500  feet elevation, I thought I would get a headache and short of breath from the high altitude but I didn’t. My blood count must be at least close to normal. That’s always a good thing. I walked with the same pace as my group and climbed this set of rock sign with not much fear–okay, a lot, as I was a little fearful of heights haha. “It does not help that I have my Dansko shoes on,” that was my defense. I could not find my hiking boots that will match my pants. I did not have any threads on the sole of my shoes. No threads = no traction.

We saw some deer by the side of the road. They feed on the grass along the highway.  Eyes on the ground with round black “balls”, then the deer, then the ground…we followed them trying to get close enough to take good pictures. One of them looked at us once in a while. A few steps at a time while stopping to graze in between, they all walked away until they began crossing the street. We stopped following them for the fear that they might get hit by the cars passing by.

The kids had fun anyway. We also walked by the beautiful and tiny downtown. We visited some shops but didn’t buy anything. I almost bought some summer dresses but backed out. I can buy some from home that is cheaper. Besides, the bills on my desk remind me not to spend much, especially the two thousand dollar bill from the hospital for the two-day “room and lodging” from my last hospitalization. Remember the neutropenic fever? That stay cost a total of $19,000. Ouch. My insurance only paid seventeen.

We did have some ice cream at Haley’s homemade ice cream parlor. I had a big  scoop of butter pecan ice cream. YUM. I also had a few bites of Paul’s blackberry ice cream. For our supper, we ate at good old Mc Donalds. Paul and I wanted to try one of the local restaurants around. How about some elk meat? But one of the kids did not feel like being (food) adventurous. For dessert, we had some taffies from one of the stores. The banana flavor became my favorite–so rich in flavor. The watermelon, I did not care as much–too sour and not so watermelon-y.

This day was one of my better days until my next chemo on Thursday.

Shameless in Hospital

Last December after bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction Copyright 2012


My last hospitalization, I notice my discomfort when interns, my oncologist, and internal medicine doctors asked to see my breasts. I knew, as I was there with fever, they wanted to know the cause of my infection. Maybe I had open wounds, maybe my incisions were swollen. Whatever. I knew my incisions looked okay, and who were they, anyway? They were not my plastic surgeon.

I remember Paul complaining to me last December how I flashed all girlfriends and female coworkers walking in the hospital room to show my newly reconstructed breasts. Someone walked in — I raised my top. Ha-ha. I asked first, of course, if my visitors wanted to see.
“…But you never waited for their response,” Paul said, “and I dread leaving your bedside for the fear that you will show your boobs to any male who happens to walk in.”
I thought it’s  funny that he was actually worried. But that was then, this is now. I feel uneasy showing my chest. Shameless, I am not anymore.

Why I Don’t Believe My Oncologist

So I asked about nausea and vomiting side effects of chemo, before she started me on it, and my oncologist says...

I like my oncologist, but sometimes I don’t believe her.

You know, I stayed in the hospital recently for pneumonia, the sixth day after I received my very first chemo. What happened was, I called the clinic the day I had a temperature of 100.4 degrees but I had been feeling not right, too warm, although not febrile the past  few days. (Because I had been taking Tylenol for bone pain, my fever was probably camouflaged by antipyretic causing my temperature to read falsely low). Anyway,  the oncology triage nurse over the phone advised me to go to the Emergency Department. Promptly, I dragged myself to the mercy of the ER staff.

Right away, they decided they need to keep me in the oncology unit. Apparently, the lab phoned in my ANC count and neutrophil. They were both critically low, too low, I have neutropenia. My lactate was also high (sign of infection), my potassium is low, my temp was even higher (102), my breathing was too fast (32), and my heart rate was racing  120’s to 130’s per minute.

Since then, they put me in reverse isolation. Staff donned on mask to protect me from catching anything. With the white blood count low among other things, I had very poor immune system, I couldn’t afford any more infection in the air. Everybody had to wash hands well (shouldn’t they do it anyhow for anybody?) before getting in my room.

Overnight, with treatment, my blood count improved and I graduated from isolation. Still febrile (100.2), I felt a little better.

“Oh, you are too healthy to stay in the hospital. You are just fine,” my oncologist said before she put her stethoscope against my back and chest.

“OK, but how do we forget this from happening? This can’t happen to me every time I have chemo, being confined for neutropenic fever and all.”

“Well, hopefully this is the first and last.”

That response did not satisfy me. I just stared at her.

“Well, maybe we will put you on prophylactic antibiotics for pneumonia each time you go for chemo…”she added in hesitation.

Later on, my internal medicine doctor walked in my room.

“We need you to stay at least one more day to wait on your blood cultures result…Is that OK?…We just want to make sure…”

“I am fine with that,” I said.

Can you guess which doctor made me feel better?

The Heparin Sting

The shot a wanna get away from--heparin. - - by 71Carina

I’ve seen patients who did not mind this shot at all–the heparin shot. Most don’t like it basing on my eight years experience as a nurse.

I had my share of this heparin shot as being hospitalized twice recently. They give this to most patients to prevent blood clots as a prophylaxis because most patients are at risk being immobilized or partially immobilized.

It always caused me pain but  my last night of hospital stay, it put tears in my eyes. I cried like a baby.

“You must have hit a nerve. It hurts too much,” I cried as I wiped my tears.

“I’m sorry,” my young oncology nurse said. I could see it in her eyes that she means it.

“You wouldn’t know. There is very little nerve in the fat tissue. You won’t know if you’ll hit a nerve.”

I wanted to rub my abdominal area where she stuck me, but I know I shouldn’t. It would leave a big bruise. “Just don’t give it to me again, and tell the day nurse too, OK?”

And that was my last dose of painful heparin shot. No more. I don’t need it anyway. I was not immobile. I walked multiple times a day in my room, and in the halls with a mask on. Enough.

Leaving the Hospital for Pneumonia

A conversation between Paul and I.


Guess who went with me to the party last Saturday anyway?

Paul did, dragging his feet. So I went out last Saturday, very briefly. It is a rare occasion that I go to a Filipino-American dinner with authentic Philippine dishes cooked by others. I am not sure when will the next party be.We did stay very briefly, though, just to eat. Eat and go, that is all we did. And then we headed back to my warm and safe hole called home.

My poor kids who were at home without a mother for a few days while I stayed

A quick photo after dinner.

in the hospital came along too. They, too, needed a break from the house. It was a weekend anyway. I admit, I can’t live in a bubble and shut down the world around me pretending it does not exist. I do limit my going out though. Yesterday, I did not go anywhere. But going out last Saturday uplifted my spirits and put a big smile on my face, not mentioning it filled my hungry belly that was yearning for yummy food outside of hospital food. I was telling a friend the other day, I knew I stayed long enough in the hospital because I could actually recommend a fellow patient what not to order and what to order from the hospital menu.

I hope I don’t regret escaping from the house… I haven’t had a fever for days!