Sunday, September 23, 2007

Any Given Wednesday III

The final installment of this three part series is the simplest. Every time I go to the hospital, before anything else can be done, they must send blood samples to the lab to make sure my levels of white, red, and purple blood cells, magnesium, potassium, myassium, protein, preteen, calcium, ABC, XYZ, CRS, etc are all either good or "expected under the circumstances". This photo flipbook show them accessing my portacath, taking blood and then administering the intravenous chemotherapy into the same port.

This is a Port-a-Cath or as we lovingly call it, a port. There is one just like it implanted in my chest as I type. It grosses me out still sometimes to think about its plastic invasiveness, but it's really quite a convenient little gadget. There are two pin-cushion pads where a special needle has lots of room for error. We all have our horror stories about difficulty finding veins in our arms and hands to access for blood collection/donation, right? Well, when my veins were just about to walk out of the factory in protest, the union renegotiated their contracts and got them vacation time. Technology was brought in via a surgical procedure last spring to implant this mechanism. The tube winds around my collar bone giving it special access to all that fresh blood pumping out of mi corazon- and front row seats to deliver all the poison throughout the body as well.

This is Kecia removing the bandage I had put on at home. When I remember, I put a topical anesthetic cream on the port one hour before show time. Everybody's different, but this seems to help me avoid a good deal of the pain.

I think I've blogged about nature's gift of outward perspective before, but it applies to my port as well as to my general looks over the past year and a half. It's really such a great feature of being human that we can't look at ourselves, save by aid of mirror. Therefore, my self-consciousness about being bald, enfeebled or even having strange lumpy protrusions in my chest has been limited. There are some fashions I will not sport (strapless tops shout: Stare at my weird pectoral tumor!) but mostly the summer found me donning tank-tops and bikinis just like everybody else. Few people mention the port and so I forget about it.

She's using alcohol to clean the site.

That's the fancy needle. Considering it's length, it's remarkable that the pain is insubstantial and the success rate of first-time access nearly 100%.

My nurse verifies a blood return, or, makes sure that the port is functioning well both in and out. She'll take several vials of blood, flush the tubes inward with saline and heparin (an anti-coagulant), and then pinch the tubes shut while we wait for my results from the lab. This waiting period is usually the bulk of the time I spend at the hospital each week- approximately two hours. During this time, I usually eat something from either the hospital cafeteria or the food court. I always plan to study or work, but rarely actually do. Hospital time gets sucked into the black hole of all wasted hours plotted with the best intentions.

I think there has only been one time when I was too sick to get my weekly chemo and it hasn't happened for a looooong time, thank goodness. So, next, the nurse will suit up in a thick protective gown and pull on special heavy-duty gloves. Can you imagine? The crap that they inject INTO MY HEART is so toxic and terrible that those who administer it must dress for a walk on the moon lest it splatter or drip a drop on their skin. I love that.

Another saline and heparin on the rocks, bartender.

The nifty needle has a spring-loaded release mechanism to immediately self-sheath the point upon removal.

By the way, these pictures were taken in July, so your eyes aren't playing tricks on you- my skin does look terrible. One of the things they are always telling me is that my skin on chemo is very sensitive to the sun, but I would scoff and insist that they didn't know MY skin. MY skin rarely burns and always tans. Well, score another one for the medical establishment. In Costa Rica, I got very burned and some of these pictures show the healing process. Still today, the remnants of the sunburn are faintly visible on my legs. Oops.

Et voila! All of that blood, water, and chemical exchange and all I get to show for it is an unnecessary band-aid. They should at least give out suckers. Or toothbrushes.

Signing off Sunday.
T minus 3 days until this is repeated.
And twenty-eight more times after that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

TV X'S 2

1. A feature on TV last nighton young adults with cancer, including following some around Dana Farber Cancer Institute, my home away from home.

2. A documentary on The Learning Channel. Said Carr, the creator, "People often ask me why I named the film Crazy Sexy Cancer. The answer is simple: to challenge the perceptions, to poke fun and bring humanity to a disease that is still so misperceived and feared. No matter what happened, I refused to be saddled with the isolating stigma associated with cancer. Just because it had changed my life forever, didn't mean that I had changed."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

what a mess

quoted from a hand-painted sheet on the side of a rural Vermont farmhouse:

Nobody died, when Clinton lied.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the kingdumb

Dear Mr. Obama,

I just received your campaign's "Iraq" e-mail. As another person who opposed the war in 2003, I respect that you can boast the same. However, I wanted to let you know that I found the e-mail's simplification in saying "the people who attacked us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq" to blatantly neglect the paramountcy of Saudi Arabia's role. Going after the physical perpetrators of terror may be cathartic and important, but going after the money (whether that means through economic, political, or physical means) is the better way to be proactive about terrorism and not reactive. I do hope that future communications to your constituency will better reflect an acute awareness of this reality. Thank you.


Erica Murray


Dear Erica,

I have spoken out against the war in Iraq since before it began.Today, I outlined a plan to turn the page in Iraq and end the war.Sign on to the plan

The saddest thing about the Bush administration's surge of public relations in favor of the war in Iraq this week is how predictable it has become for them to make their case for war around the anniversary of 9/11.

Five years ago today -- September 12, 2002 -- President Bush made his case for war at the United Nations.

He was wrong. The people who attacked us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and his case was built on exaggerated fears and empty evidence.

But conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. Too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war, and our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.

I made a different judgment. I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. And I introduced a plan this January to remove all of our combat brigades by March 2008.
The time to end this war is now.

My plan for turning the page in Iraq is clear:
remove our combat troops from Iraq's civil war by the end of 2008
take a new approach to press for reconciliation within Iraq
escalate our diplomacy with all of Iraq's neighbors and the United Nations
confront the human costs of this war directly with increased humanitarian aid

Sign on to support the plan now and join the voices calling for an end to this war:

Our troops have performed brilliantly, but let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was.

The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to begin to remove our combat troops immediately.
Not in six months or a year -- now.

We must get out strategically and carefully, but our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.

Show your support for the immediate drawdown of our combat forces:

While we change the dynamic within Iraq, we must surge our diplomacy in the region.
We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This compact must secure Iraq's borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al Qaeda, and support Iraq's unity.

Conventional thinking in Washington says Presidents cannot lead this diplomacy. But I think the American people know better. Not talking doesn't make us look tough -- it makes us look arrogant. And it doesn't get results.

Strong Presidents tell their adversaries where they stand, and that's what I would do. Now is the time for tough and sustained diplomacy backed by real pressure. It's time to rally the region and the world to our side.
Support new diplomatic leadership and my plan to end the war:

The final part of my plan is a major international initiative to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis.
There's no military solution that can reunite a family or resettle an orphaned child. It's time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations.

We should increase our support for displaced Iraqis and expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries.

It's also time to go to our friends and allies -- and all the members of our original coalition in Iraq -- to find homes for the many Iraqis who are in desperate need of asylum.
As Americans, we must keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us and take responsibility for our own actions:

I welcome all of the folks who have changed their position on the war over these last months and years. We need more of those votes to change if we're going to change the direction of this war. But if we've learned one thing from Iraq, it's that the judgment that matters most is the judgment that's made first.

I opposed this war from the beginning, and I want to bring this country together to end this war now. The American people have the right instincts on Iraq. It's time to heed their judgment.
We have the power to do this -- not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. We don't have to wait until George Bush is gone from office -- we can begin to end this war today, right now.

It's time reclaim our foreign policy. It's time to reclaim our politics. It's time to lead this country -- and this world -- to a new dawn of peace and unity.
Thank you,
Barack Obama