I was just wondering what I could blog about, since it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Now that my life is more or less back to normal, there’s just not as much fodder for posts. This is a good thing, because it means my health isn’t full of breaking-news updates, but a bad thing because I really like writing and many of you kind souls have said you really like reading my posts. So I was pondering this while doing something seemingly insignificant but actually quite momentous over the weekend. I put away all my medical supplies.
There’s been quite a collection on my bathroom counter since August. Way back in late July & early August, while I had home health care for the IV antibiotics, I amassed a huge pile of supplies. Everything from wound vac stuff (remember Sucky?) to heparin flushes to alcohol wipes to gauze pads. And a bunch of other stuff in between. I hated every piece of medical paraphernalia from the moment it entered my home. I know I should be grateful for it all, and for the comprehensive health insurance that paid for everything. And I am. I truly am grateful, and think a lot about how much more stressful this whole mess would be without insurance. But I still hated all the supplies.
I hated the supplies because they reminded me, in a very tangible way, of how perilous my health was. No one ever talked out loud about how dangerous this infection business really is, but you’d have to be be pretty dense to not get it. I certainly didn’t need a reminder to know that my situation was serious — I lived it every second of every day. Even now, 2-plus months after all that mess, it still scares me, just a little bit. I still look over my shoulder and don’t entirely trust the good health I’ve been enjoying lately.
So this weekend I got cocky and decided it was time to pack away the supplies. I no longer needed the saline and gauze to clean a wound, or the antimicrobial silver dressing to put inside the wound, or the antibiotic cream and tape. My skin can finally breathe now that it’s not encased in plastic dressing and tape. I’ve been lax in taking my temperature every day, and only do it every other day. I still have the syringes and teeny little vials of B12 liquid that gets injected in my arm once a month. And I still have a stash of pain pills, which I don’t need but I like knowing they’re around, just in case. But for the last several weeks, I haven’t needed to get into those supplies.
Once that nasty wound finally healed, there was little need for the plethora of stuff, but I was so used to having it on my bathroom counter, it all really seemed to belong there. It became a fixture, I suppose. Until this weekend. When I got cocky, again. Last time I got cocky, I decided I didn’t need the probiotic anymore, even though I’m still on two antibiotics twice a day. That lasted exactly 2 days. But several weeks had passed without incident, so I guess I got bold and decided it was time for the supplies to go.
Silly, silly girl. When will I ever learn? I’d been feeling not quite right for the last several days. Nothing I can really pinpoint, but something seemed off. So when I saw Dr S today he immediately noticed a reddish-purpleish spot on my right side that seemed pretty puffy. I think his exact words were, What the hell is that??? Never a good sign. So he poked around for several tense minutes and sure enough that spot felt different than the surrounding tissue. He squished it pretty good and said there’s fluid in there.
I won’t repeat the litany of curse words that went through my head at that exact moment, but suffice to say it would make a former Marine or tattoo artist or school lunch lady proud. That was some professional cussing going on in my head. The quality of the cussing almost distracted me from the inevitable: Dr S moved away from the exam table (which is like a second home to me) and headed for his supplies. He never says much but we’ve been down this road before, or as Payton’s speech teacher Ms. Pointer would say, this is not our first rodeo.
No, sadly, Dr S and I have been rodeoing together long enough that I know that when he heads for the supplies, he is going to come back with a sharp object in his hand and a very determined set to his jaw. He did not disappoint me.
He sliced me right open, and sure enough the fluid came rushing out. Not as dramatic as the “black gold, Texas tea” segment on the opening scene of The Beverly Hillbillies but it did bring that little blast from the past to mind.
Long story short, we don’t know what’s going on. It’s probably nothing serious (repeat that phrase 1,000 times for good measure). He cultured it, so maybe we’ll know something by the end of this week. Or maybe not, because one thing I’ve learned in this long, rotten education is that you don’t always get an answer right away, and you don’t always get the answer you want. Fingers crossed that we’re not talking about an infection here. I shudder to think about the prospect of another infection, or a variation on the one I already had, especially since I’ve been on 2 oral antibiotics for something like 12 weeks. Yes, you read that right: 12 weeks. Nearly 100 days of twice-daily abx. If I’m not covered then I may just have to give up, tell the bacteria to come & get me. Have at it.
I’m not ready to start waving the white flag just yet. But I will get the supplies out of the bathroom closet and put them back on the counter, where they belong. At least for now.
So I’m getting groceries, minding my own business and trying to get on with my so-called normal life (as normal as life can be after breast cancer but before reconstruction), and I see a pamphlet titled “10 Tips for Getting a Mammogram.” This ought to be good.
Tip #1: “Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and should be done every year for as long as a woman in in good health.” And if you’re not in good health? More often? Less often? That kind of construction bugs me.
Tip #5: “Try not to schedule a mammogram when your breasts are likely to be tender, as they may be just before or during your period. This will help lessen the discomfort.” Really? They think that’s going to help? I say try to schedule a mammogram after slamming 3 grande margaritas to help lessen the discomfort. But then I remember that I have neither breasts nor periods anymore, so I guess I can go straight to the margaritas.
Tip #8: “Only you and the technologist who positions your breasts will be present for the mammogram. Most technologists are women.” Most technologists are women? Now I’m really curious about the ones who are men. What percentage? Do women complain about having a male do their mammo? Is there a support group for male mammo techs? Are they cute?
Tip #9: “The entire procedure should take about 20 minutes. Your breasts will be compressed between 2 plastic plates. The compression may be painful, but should only last a few seconds.” I could make a smarty-pants comment about how long the pain of a mastectomy lasts but I’m not even going to go there. I will tell you it’s more than a few seconds.