Walking Through Cancer?/Part 4

                                                       Fred Hutch

I check in. Very dim lighting.  Not harsh, comforting. I look around at all the cancer patients, some with hair, some without. Some walking around with a mobile IV. I recognized that I was in a special world of sick people, just sick people and their companions, and I wondered whether or not I belonged there. Or if this mecca for compassionate care would become my second home.

I had to bring a stool so they could check for parasites. Possibly I’d been harboring some exotic larva since my honeymoon in the Amazon jungle in 1975.

First stop was the lab. Needle city, and roaring with activity. Needles frighten me, especially when they are left in my arm. This is always the worst part for me: the nurses digging around for just the right vein.

“This one is a sure bet,” I tell the phlebotomist confidently, as though I were in charge.

“No,” she noted dismissively, “it looks like it might roll on me.”

“Okay, wherever is best,” I concede, not getting my way.

So  the phlebotomist stuck me where she wanted to while I winced, and then retracted the needle but left the catheter in my arm. I hate the feeling of having a foreign object in my body, but I was aware that it was the means to knock me out during the procedure.

Which made all this bearable.

She took, I counted ‘em, nineteen (19) vials of my blood. Leave no stone unturned is their motto.

One really strange way that I know I have a blood disorder is when I observe my arms. My veins stick out like a weight lifter’s. That’s so unlike me, dainty little me. But it was easy, anyway, to find a vein.

Then on to my room for prep for my bone marrow biopsy. I entered the procedure room, where I met the kindest nurse alive.

“We want you to be comfortable, Marilea. So let us know if you need more sedation after we begin.”

Erin, the physician’s assistant who did the procedure, gave me a lidocaine shot in my hip. I felt that, but how many shots have I had in my life? It was nothing.

My nurse said,

“Okay, giving you the first vial of fentanyl. How are you feeling?”

“I’m still awake!”

“Okay, here’s a second vial.”

I didn’t thank her because I was out. But afterwards she told me that I was grimacing and showing signs of discomfort during the marrow aspiration so she added a third vial to my IV. Bless all the nursing angels I’ve encountered on this journey. Because of their care and compassion, I was unafraid of all the pain.

It was all so simple and faster than the procedure at Providence Hospital. It only took twenty minutes. My nurse called Gene at the hotel to pick me up, he was there in five minutes and whisked me home to Camano Island where I had a long lunch and an even longer nap.

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