I attempted to write this blog several times this past week without much success. It wasn’t for a lack of material, but for the better part of the early week it was a lack of energy. My last treatment hit me pretty hard. In fact, despite the IV ativan and pre-medication, a few bites into lunch I started to feel really sick. The nausea and abdominal pain became so bad that I ended up vomiting one of those horrible, painful ones I so thoroughly enjoy (sarcasm intended). It was, sadly, the highlight of the weekend as almost nothing stayed down. For three days I felt absolutely terrible and wondered if making a bed in the bathtub to be closer to the toilet might not be such a bad idea.
The only good news during the treatment, however, was that Dr. Brooks agreed to refer me to a surgical oncologist. A few weeks back I had spoken with one of the ortho surgeons from our unit who had wondered how my treatments were going. When I told him they called my tumor “non-surgical” he asked if I was willing to get a second opinion. Second opinion? I’m willing to get a million opinions if it means making it to the fifty years I promise my husband. I happily took the contact information for a surgeon friend of his. The same surgeon that Dr. Brooks has now referred me to see. His name is Dan McCabe and he works out of TMC and St. Joseph’s on the east side. His biography on his practice’s website states that his area of preference is multisystem cancers. I’m a little nervous and want to as Dr. Brooks a few more questions before I make plans with this guy. I have to admit, I really would prefer a surgeon that works out of my hospital or Oro Valley, not just because it is closer to home but also because I honestly feel I work for the best hospitals in town. Biased? Probably. I’m just picky I guess.
My brother and sister-in-law also stopped by to see me this week and give me the good news about the auction. Someone from her father’s work had won the set of pistols and now they could finally give me the check towards my medical expenses. They were able to collect nearly four-thousand dollars for my medical bills, which will come in handy when I have surgery!
I have another scan on Tuesday, which I am not looking forward to. I really hate MRIs. I do. I can’t sleep through them because of the breathing sequence they do to get the pictures. Do you know how difficult it is to lay completely still for about two hours without falling asleep? How boring? How stressful it is to hope the pictures show some kind of change for the good? It is this last part that draws the most concern. I’ve had a lot of abdominal pain again; the sharp pains are back with a vengeance. I actually caught myself starting to double over a few times at work this last week. I usually breathe through it and try to keep going, but every pain brings a new wave of worry. What if this drug isn’t working at all and my cancer is growing, spreading? What if I’m losing?
Not happy thoughts.
As for work, I’m glad to be back. It’s weird to have people ask about my hair still or to tell me how I’m an inspiration. I’m really not much of either as far as I’m concerned. Work is a necessity. It has the health insurance that pays the medical bills that allow me to live. Would I love to just be able to stay home sometimes and not worry about this whole thing? Sure, but it’s not reality. The reality is, people need to keep going. I need to keep going. Work is part of that. I still think this entire experience is making me a better nurse. I understand my patients a little more and I know that it’s best to keep going. When they ask if I have cancer, I don’t lie. When they say they’re impressed, I just shrug and say I’m doing what I have to do. I tell them to trust me, I won’t lead them astray. They may think I’m crazy when what I say sounds counter-intuitive –Walk after surgery? Are you insane?!– but they listen and trust me. We’re patients together.
Which brings me to my closing. Malika asked me last weekend if I would be willing to speak at her nursing pinning ceremony in May. It might have been the ativan or the fact that lately I feel like there is nothing left to hide in my life, but I said sure. She wrote the following message to the committee selecting the speaker:I would like to submit a suggestions for a nurse speaker for pinning. My best friend, Janine, would love to speak to our large pinning crowd. She has been a nurse for just over 2 years at Northwest Hospital and has worked with many of us Pima students throughout her time there. In August, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cholangiocarcinoma and is still in treatment for it; she also still works as a floor nurse on the neuro unit. I feel that she can offer an interesting perspective on being a nurse. When I brought up to her that we were looking for a speaker, she immediately jumped up and said she wanted to do it. She has started a blog where you can sample some of her writing skills and abilities to inspire a crowd of future nurses and their families. The website is: thisthinginsideme.wordpress.com. If anything, you get to read her wonderful, sad, and uplifting thoughts on being a nurse with cancer. Please consider her as a speaker for our pinning ceremony.
I wasn’t sure if I would be selected. Certainly there were plenty of nominees out there with longer nursing careers and more interesting stories than mine, right? Exactly. Still, a few days later Malika had contacted me to let me know that I was chosen to be the Key Note speaker! The response she received from faculty was touching:Malika, I forwarded your suggestion to faculty & to the pinning committee members & have received many positive responses. So, could you please ask your friend Janine to speak at our pinning. She needs to prepare only about 10 minutes. The topic is up to her, something she feels will be of interest to new nurses. We are grateful & looking forward to meeting her & hearing her speak.
I still have no idea what I will say in my ten minute speech, but I look forward to it!
Anyone want to help me rehearse?