Thank you for the kind concern many of you showed in the comments on last Wednesday's post and in emails, wondering where I was on Friday and Saturday when the usual posts did not show up. I sure do appreciate your concern. On the other hand, if you emailed and I have not/do not respond, I came home to more than 900 emails on top of all the medical record-keeping, medications and follow-up that need attention not to mention the blog work. I hope you understand.
Here is what happened.
In my little red PT Cruiser, I made my usual way to the lab early Wednesday morning for my weekly blood letting to check various levels including hemoglobin which tells us if and how much the anemia is improving. Or not.
Having done my part to help keep the clinic vampires nourished, I got a haircut and went to lunch with my terrific stylist. When I returned home, there were about six messages from the medical center each with a similar message: Get to the emergency room, your hemoglobin numbers are dangerously low, we need to transfuse you now.”
But I've done this frequently enough now that it is almost routine. Usually, they pump the blood into me and I go home. This time, nooooo. After three or four months of this, it was time, they told me, to address and correct the underlying cause: repair the location of the bleed that is causing my numbers to tank.
That turned into four days. Because I had not intended to stay over night let alone three nights, I had not brought my laptop so was without an internet connection. Hence, no blog updates.
An endoscopy was performed during which, they say, I suddenly vomited blood that also gushed from my nose. (Amazingly, doctors and nurses and technicians, etc. pay big bucks to study medicine only to regularly encounter such messiness. Me? I was asleep. If they hadn't told me, I would have no idea it had happened.)
As I mentioned once in a past post, the internal bleed is the result of the Whipple procedure surgery for pancreatic cancer. Sometimes it manifests as a loose connection where a hose is attached in a new place. In this case, they believe, a vein has narrowed so blood cannot flow properly causing it, the blood, to go to the wrong places. Hence, my low hemoglobin counts and anemia.
They had left it alone until now, I was told, because sometimes they repair themselves.
But not for me. Too bad.
After two or three days of consults among more doctors than I could count – I met at least 25 new medical people – it has been determined that an interventional radiologist (have you ever heard of that medical speciality? I hadn't) and his team will go into my Whipple-rearranged torso, find the damaged vein and insert a stent – not dissimilar to a heart stent – to keep the vein open and working.
This will happen very soon, within a couple of weeks. Unlike the Whipple, from which I have a scar running from just below my heart to my nether regions, this will involve two small holes through my skin each of which will be covered afterwards with a Bandaid, and I will be able to go home the same day.
As with any kind of surgery, there are risks. Infection, in this case, or a clot later at the location of the stent but the the incidence of those is low, they say.
That's the bad news which is not really so bad under the circumstances; they also considered cutting me open down the middle again.
The good news – actually two pieces of good news - is that a CT scan following the endoscopy showed, as another had six or seven weeks ago, no evidence of cancer.
In addition, the interventional radiologist told me that he and the team are taking on this procedure with the same kind of consideration and attention as if I were a patient who had never had cancer.
I cannot get enough of hearing words like these.
Most of the time I was in the hospital was a waiting game – to find out what they would decide to do. Except for two small meals, I wasn't allowed to eat in case they decided on surgery right away and I learned exactly what the relatively new portmanteau word, “hangry” means.
This may sound odd, but this all is a great relief because it is not cancer. It is the result of the surgery meant to rid me of cancer, a mechanical issue, not a disease problem. That is a good thing.
And here's a lovely sad/sweet story the nurses told me about another patient on my ward. A woman who is terminally ill got married while I was there. Earlier in the day, I had seen piles of paper chains (remember those from our childhoods?) that the nurses were making to decorate the patient's room.
Someone brought flowers. A friend of one of the doctors, a professional photographer, donated his services and the woman was married to her fiance in her room among relatives and friends along with the doctors and nurses caring for her.
You're supposed to cry at weddings and I did, bittersweet tears even though I was in my room and didn't hear about it until it was over.
So that's the story of why I was missing for a few days. I'm back now to my regular schedule.