Yesterday started out like any regular Monday. Unfortunately it ended with me in tears, throwing a no-holds-barred temper tantrum in the doctor´s office. Despite my passionate and sorrowful pleas, here I am, back at Clinica Alemana, pissed off and swollen-eyed, wishing I was at school, or really anywhere that they doesn´t serve you sickeningly sweet peach nectar “juice” with plain, salty rolls for breakfast. Perhaps you are confused. I guess I should start at the beginning….
After school on Monday I headed to the clinic because the doctor was going to take off more of my surgery bandages. I haven´t been able to get my upper body wet for two weeks now, so I was looking forward to being able to wash my hair standing up. Alas, when he began to take off the bandages, he noticed that the bottom and side of the left breast was really red, which I´m guessing, from the doctor´s reaction, is not normal. It was a little sore to the touch, but I felt fine, and I certainly didn´t have a fever or any of the other usual signs of infection. First Dr. Schwember removed the stitches from the scars around the nipple, which was an unpleasant process. Then he proceeded to scrape off the thick layer of scab that had formed over the surgery site. (Also, not the most fun activity I´ve ever taken part in….) After replacing the gauze over the fresh wounds, he said I needed to do an ultrasound of the breast to see if there was liquid still left in surgery site. If there was, he was going to have them puncture the wound and extract the liquid. “That sounds like JUST the thing I want to do on my Monday evening,” I thought to myself. ¨That will be soooo much more relaxing than the mani-pedi I scheduled with Shannon.”
The doctor also mentioned I would have to use my Chilean patience, since the mammogram department was fully booked for the evening and they weren´t going to be able to squeeze me in easily. I immediately crossed my pedicure appointment off my list of to-dos, knowing I was in for a long wait. When the nurses on the mammogram floor told me that I should go grab a “café-cita” and that they would call me when they were ready, I knew that the wait was going to be at least an hour and a half. I was correct. Later that evening, I strolled back to the mammogram center and the crowd had thinned out for the most part. I was not happy to be back there, being that the last time I was there I discovered a large tumor in my breast. I kept looking around at the other patients, trying to figure out who else had received bad news that day. I spotted a woman in a black shirt with red eyes, clutching some engaging pamphlet titled ¨Get to Know More About Breast Cancer¨. Yep- there she is, I thought, wanting to go up and hug her. Instead, I just gave her a knowing half-smile and left her alone in her misery.
They finally permitted me to enter the ultrasound room, where the doctor was nice and gently rolled the ball around on my wound. He declared that there was only a thin layer of liquid trapped inside and that they probably wouldn´t have to puncture it to extract the liquid. He told me to sit still while he called Dr. Schwember to confirm. When he came back, he said that even though there wasn´t much liquid, the doctor still wanted to take a sample of it to the lab to find out what kind of germs were inside. At this point, I began to lose control of my emotions. I was super annoyed, first of all. “Why would I need to extract the liquid if there isn´t really much to begin with???”I questioned. I went outside to consult with Jon and the tears began to fall. I did not want a large needle going anywhere near my breast that night, or any night for that matter! I felt as if the doctors were simply trying to torture me, and hadn´t I been through enough already?? Jon convinced me that I needed to have the procedure done, so I dried my tears and tried to act like a 32- year-old woman instead of a blubbering baby. I slowly took off my shirt again and dutifully positioned myself on the same table where I had had my biopsy a year ago. They rolled me on my side and out came the anesthesia needle, followed almost immediately by the long, skinny needle that was going to hunt around in my breast until it found the liquid trapped inside. Although it didn´t hurt too much because most of my nerves in that breast are shot, I could definitely feel the pressure of the needle poking this way and that as I watched them search for liquid on the ultrasound screen. The doctor kept moving the needle and saying to his assistant, ¨There, did you get some?¨ She kept replying ¨No¨. This must have gone on for what seemed like 10 agonizing minutes. Finally I asked if we could stop, and the doctor said, ¨Why? Does this hurt?¨ It was all I could do to stop myself from responding, because all I really wanted to do was leap off the table, pull the needle from my body, and jab it over and over again into his breast and see if he liked it. Thankfully, I simply clenched my jaw and let the wave of anger pass over me instead. Miraculously, the nurse was able to extract some of the liquid (about 2 or 3 mm worth) so that they would have something to take to the lab.
Off we went to the lab, which was pretty much empty. I was in one of the worst moods I´ve had in awhile and when my phone rang twice while I was trying to fill out the paperwork, I decided to ignore it. Jon couldn´t answer because I knew it was in Spanish and he would have to give me the phone anyway. The third time, we answered, and it was Dr. Schwember´s office wondering where I was. I was supposed to go back and see him after I took the samples to the lab. I told the nurse I was on my way, just delivering some samples, and marched back upstairs. I certainly was in no mood to face Dr. Schwember- the man who had ordered the puncture procedure to take place, even though the ultrasound technician had told me it was not necessary. All I wanted to do was go home and forget all about the evening.
Unfortunately, Dr. Schwember greeted me with the news that even though we won´t have the lab results for the next few days, I need to be admitted into the hospital that night for antibiotic treatment. I guess I hadn´t really thought all of this through and certainly didn´t expect to be hospitalized. Like I said, I felt FINE. I told him, “No, sorry, I can´t. I have to work,” and swung my purse on my shoulder to get ready to leave. He said, “Look, Elizabeth, you´ve had chemotherapy, radiation, and two surgeries on that breast. We have to be really cautious about this infection.” “No S##$!!!,” I thought. “I know that I´ve had chemo, and radiation, and surgeries… That is precisely why you should leave me the F#$! alone and let me go on with my life, especially when I feel perfectly normal.” He let me cry for a little bit and then began writing the order for hospitalization. I asked him how long I would need to be there, and he replied, nonchalantly, “Probably five days or so.”
“FIVE DAYS!!!!” I screamed in Spanish while banging my fists on the desk in disbelief. “No! I refuse! I can´t go to the hospital for five days! I have a job. I´m a teacher! I have students! I have dogs that need to be fed! This is ridiculous!”
Yep… I totally lost it. “There goes any shot of me getting a job for next year,” I thought. I wanted to scream and cry and throw things, and I´m pretty sure I did. I was done being patient and dutifully following doctor´s orders, all the while silently enduring embarrassing and invasive medical procedures. I no longer wanted to play the brave cancer patient role by staying positive and optimistic. Instead I was intent on letting everyone in that hospital know that “Elizabeth Swift Timms was THROUGH with being nice!”
Well… as I´m sure all you parents out there know, crying and screaming about how unfair life can be, doesn´t really help one make mature decisions. So after I went home to gather my stuff and call my boss and write up my lesson plans for the next few days and inform my family and hug my dogs and pack up my movies, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be in the hospital for a few days. I was probably going to miss Thanksgiving. People were probably going to think this was all cancer´s fault and that it was a bad idea for me to start working again… when in fact, I got a freak infection from a surgery that I had a less than 2% chance of getting. And P.S. I STILL FEEL FINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I passed the night sleeplessly since the antibiotic they gave me caused me to break out in a heat rash and violently scratch my scalp for an hour until I decided I couldn´t take it anymore and called the nurses in. Yep- I´m allergic to the antibiotics. Great! And this morning the doctor came in and offered to give me pills for my “anxiety” and looked at me like I was a freak-show. “How is your mood today?” he asked. “Fine,” I replied, since I didn´t know what else to say. “I can tell you´re not fine. I can give you pills for that.” And I violently shook my head “No” and tears fell from my eyes again. I just wish someone at this hospital would look at my charts, see all that I have been through, and treat me like a human being who has been through a LOT this year and maybe, just maybe, treat me with an ounce of sympathy. Just because I am pissed off and don´t want to be back in the hospital after I just got out a week ago, doesn´t mean I have a psychological problem. It just means, that for right now, right this second, I can´t take any more… and you should be able to understand that. Harumph!!! I am attaching an article sent to me by a friend that I can really relate to on days when my mood is low (like today). I highly recommend reading it.