I haven’t written anything for the last several weeks because events have moved very quickly in a wide variety of directions. The lessons this time are very diverse and a great deal of the time far more intense. That said; let’s pick up where I left off in my last posting.
On arrival at the ER on Sunday morning I was examined by the duty ER doctor, x-rayed and CT scanned and pronounced, in preliminary diagnosis, with a broken hip. On Monday more images and tests were carried out and it was confirmed that the “neck of my femur” was fractured. This is part of the bone which contains the ball which fits into the hip socket and connects the hip to the knee. Just below the ball the bone reduces to rather small diameter. A cancerous lesion had formed in this area which had escaped detection by the PET scan. It had weakened the bone to a point that the small amount of stress caused by my limited movements and finally by moving my right foot laterally about six inches caused the femur to fracture.
I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bob Bear to repair the damage and was operated on Tuesday April 1st. A plate was attached to the neck of the femur and a pin was inserted into the ball. This stabilized the femur. I spent the next five days in the hospital and was transferred to rehab the following Sunday. After a week in rehab I was getting along well on crutches and discharged to home on April 13th. Home felt really good even though my stay in the hospital had been made as pleasant as possible by the fine people who attended me. I continued to make good progress working with my Visiting Nurse Physical Therapist and became so mobile that I was looking forward to getting back to walking with a cane by the beginning of May.
On April 17th I had my first session with chemo. Here I encountered a very interesting, although not altogether pleasant, experience. The injection of the chemo chemicals is an all day process in which you sit comfortably in a lounge chair and take the chemo mixture through an IV inserted into the arm. This is a painless and not unpleasant experience. The evening after the initial injection and the following day I felt fine. The second evening I had a very real dream which, in my mind, sums up the chemo experience.
First, let me say that nothing prepared me for chemo. I had an orientation session and a booklet, put out by NIH that told me that I might have any, or none of, about a dozen side effects but these were spectacularly non specific. In my dream I, some how, came across an alpha test of a computer simulation in which you could choose a disease and experience the symptoms, select a treatment and experience the side effects of the treatment. Obviously I chose lung cancer and since I had no direct experience with the form of treatment I chose chemo. You must understand going into this that my personality always demands a plan, perhaps a back up plan, benchmarks on which to gage progress and signs of direction in things that I do.
After signing up and being given the same NIH booklet to read I was launched into full scale realistic simulation of chemo treatment for lung cancer. I had no information on which to base a plan, no benchmarks were discernable nor was there a back up plan or any signs indicating direction or progress. I was also isolated from others participating so I was on my own in uncharted waters, confused, very sick and scared. I found the test director and asked for the manual. He told me “We picked you guys to alpha test this simulation because we thought you were pretty smart. There is no manual or any other information available to you. You figure it out.” The dream then turned into a confused night mare in which I struggled through sickness, pain and degradation. I woke shaken and confused and spent the next forty-eight hours in more or less the same condition. Someone once described chemo as “riding a rollercoaster, seated backward and blindfolded”. In my experience, this is a pretty apt description.
After about five days the effects of the chemo were done with me and I sat back to enjoy the next ten days before I took my next treatment. This was not to be as I shall tell you in my next installment.
Here, I should tell you the lesson that I learned in this phase. I have had wonderful care and caring from hospital staff, doctors, family and friends. I have learned how wonderful those who care for you either on a professional basis or a personal one can truly be and how much love is shown toward me by people who are total strangers as well as those whom I thought I knew very well. I am blessed.