Monday, 23 September 2013

Another Ambulance Ride. You must be kidding me!

The calm before the storm

Yesterday kicked me in the butt and showed me how much having cancer has affected me and how I am JUST NOT OVER IT!

The day started out well enough.  I attended the Relay for Life for a few hours before driving up to Pemberton for a friends wedding.  On the way up I was pretty tired, although it was only one o'clock, I could not keep my eyes open.  The lack of sleep the night before and the energy it took to attend the Relay, even if for only a few hours, had been too much.  So, I slept most of the ride up there.

We arrived, had 30 minutes to change and then got to the ceremony.  It was a very beautiful wedding out in the country in Pemberton.  The couple had rented a large lodge and had also had a huge white tent erected in the back yard.  The ceremony itself was outside in the field surrounded by mountains and nature and then the cocktails and dinner took place in the tent.  The tent had beautiful flowers and lanterns and table decorations all in white and the softest of pinks.  It was really gorgeous.  If I had photo's I would share them with you, but unfortunately at this wedding they did not allow you to take pictures.  Although we have been promised photographs from them later on, and judging by the number of photographers, I imagine these will be amazing photos.

At around eight-thirty I was beyond exhausted so we agreed I should go back to the hotel, a ten minute drive.  I wasn't feeling great, but figured it was because I had done too much (only 3 days after a Major surgery).  I was asleep by nine o'clock.

Hugging the toilet

That didn't last, I woke up at around midnight and was up "playing on my iPhone" until about five-thirty in the morning when I took another dose of pain meds for the incisions.  At eight-thirty I woke up and immediately felt like barfing.

My whole body felt wrong, I had the shivers, I felt dizzy and I just felt wrong.  At first I thought I might have caught a flu bug, but when I was finally thrown on my knees by the toilet retching and nothing would come up, I knew that was not the case.  It was very odd, I wanted to barf but there was something about a third of the way up that stopped it cold.  I went back to bed, with pounding headache and weakness everywhere.  I could not lie down, so sat there with the garbage can beside me and tried to rest.  At about nine-thirty in the morning I asked Wade if he could please go and get me some Gravol.  When he left I was in the bathroom retching again.  This time about a tablespoon of something resembling curdled cottage cheese came up.  Gross!  No I didn't take any photo's ha ha.  I could barely hold myself up, let alone manage a phone.

At nine forty-five I took my first Gravol and went to sit in the armchair beside the bed.  I had to do this because any movement in the bed would make my head pound and bile churn up my oesophagus.  I just wanted to go home (which was an hours drive down a very, very windy road).  I said to Wade that if I didn't throw up between now and ten-thirty, then I would take another Gravol, rest until check-out time at eleven and then I should be okay to go home.

I am the eternal optimist.  At ten-thirty, I took my second Gravel and within two minutes ran to the toilet and started hurling again.  This was when something weird happened.  I felt a few things coming up (nothing too odd or visible), but suddenly my tongue got all numb and tingly on the left hand side of my throat, then within seconds my lips started to get numb and I knew I in trouble.  I don't like to cry wolf, but I just knew I would not make it home, let alone to Whistler where the main hospital was.  I walked out of the bathroom and asked Wade to call 911.  I don't think he realized at first how serious I was, because I was acting relatively calmly, packing all my stuff in the room, walking around like a zombie.  He got on the phone and was talking to them, all the time I am worried things were getting worse, now my throat was getting thick, although I could still breathe, I could feel this numbness in my mouth, throat and oesophagus.  I asked Wade to make it very clear to them that this was anaphylactic shock so they could bring the right stuff immediately.  I know in some districts the first responders are not allowed to administer Epi pens, and I didn't want that happening.

Amazing Care in Pemberton

We were all packed and I went back to barfing on the toilet when the two lovely female ambulance attendants arrived.  They were so kind and gentle and while one of them worked with Wade to understand what had happened and what medication I was on (from my surgery) the other one took my vitals and sat with me as I barfed up nothing.  Barfing up nothing is for some reason much harder and far less satisfying than barfing up something.  They asked if I had my Epi Pen (nope and it's long since expired anyway), but I'm only allergic to bees and wasps and I hadn't been stung.  All my vitals (except my blood pressure) were fine, so they started with these Benadryl strips first.  They were quite gross, but I can see how useful they are especially for people throwing up, who cannot keep anything down, and for young children.  Essentially they sit on your tongue like a breath strip and dissolve there, letting the medicine enter your body that way.  I was given 50mg (four strips) which left a thick, gross, sweet tasting sludge in my mouth.  I asked if I could spit it out, but they gave me a glass of water and preferred that I swallowed it to get as much medicine in me as possible.  I swirled the thick, viscous sludge around my mouth with a sip of water and then pushed it down.

They gave me a red plastic barf bag and strapped me onto a stretcher - I had to promptly sit up to barf again, and took me to the ambulance.  Was the Benedryl working they asked?  It had briefly I said, but now the tingling and numbness was getting worse.  I can still breathe, but I cannot feel my mouth and throat.  The one ambulance attendant asked me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue, it did not really move, it was so swollen and numb.  The ride to the hospital was brief thank goodness because between the pounding head and the vomiting I wasn't sure whether I wanted to die or go through this to get medicine to get better.

We got to some clinic in Pemberton and I was immediately put in a bed and a lovely nurse named Jeanette began caring for me along with the two ambulance attendants, Melissa and her partner (I wish I knew her name, they were so amazing).  It was decided pretty quickly that I needed an IV to administer more meds, however, as my right arm cannot be used for IV's anymore and my left arm was still a mess from surgery, Jeanette decided to give me the .3mg Epi via intramuscular injection in my arm.  I was very nervous about the Epi because it makes your heart race, and I am still watching my heart because of the damage from Herceptin.  My heart-rate was currently a rapid 82 which was a result of my body fighting off the reaction, and thankfully the Epi only brought it up to 87.  It did however make a difference.  The swelling in my mouth and throat started to subside and although not completely gone, I knew I was heading in the right direction.

The doctor arrived shortly afterwards, he was an interesting chap.  A fellow South African, who had moved from SA to Pemberton twenty years ago and was still here, yep the peaceful life can do that to you.  Dr. Tony Ho Chen was spunky and had a wry sense of humour.  At first I thought uh uh, does this guy have no bedside manner, but I knew within minutes it was his sense of humour and that he had sensed my energy and we were playing a bit off each other.  It was great and put me at ease.  He popped in and out from my cubicle to another one where a couple was there with a new baby, and to chat with the nurse.  It was obvious he was well known and well respected.  I felt in great hands.  After Jeanette had assessed me completely, She Dr. Ho Chen and I discussed some options to get me better.  He also had me remove all my dressings to ensure my incision areas from the surgery (and there were many) were not infected.  Thankfully they all looked good.  Jeanette cleaned them up and put on new dressings which felt much better.  Dr. Ho Chen said we cannot figure out exactly what it was I was still reacting to, but he thought it might have been the Keflex antibiotic I was on.  I told him I had been on Keflex about five times in the last year or so with no issues, but apparently one can build up a toxicity to it and perhaps this was it for me.  My body didn't want it anymore.

He could tell that I was still reacting and that the Epi shot, all though it had helped, wasn't doing the trick.  He wanted to give me (was it 8 or 10mg) of Decadron.  Yikes, I said, not Decadron.  They gave me that through chemo and even had to change my chemo routine because my body doesn't do Decadron (read heavy steroids) very well.  With chemo I was doing 20, 12 and 8 mg of Decadron/day which was then dropped to 4 and 2mg /day.  We discussed this and decided my body could probably handle a 2mg dose along with 1mg of Ativan.

I don't know if you've ever seen anyone on Epinephrine and Decadron, it's quite funny to look at, not quite so funny to experience.  My entire body was convulsing, sometimes long gentle shivers all over, then followed by huge muscular spasms.  I asked Dr. Ho Chen when this would stop, he said "oh about 2-3 hrs", GREAT!  There was however an upside, the tongue and mouth tingling was almost gone and my massive, pounding headache had ebbed to a small little ache.  Dr. Ho Chen stayed and watched over me for a while, we chatted about life and death and God and many different things (which will make another blog post one day).  Suffice to say, I think I was meant to meet this man and to be in the clinic at this time, even if it was under horrible circumstances.

Humbled once again 

I am now home, drinking my first cup of coffee in a few days.  Thanks Wade it is lovely, tastes like a second cup :-).  All my great plans for a busy week have been put aside as I now heal once again.  I am certainly humbled by this experience.

See Ma I can Bounce

I know now that you cannot just "Bounce" back from cancer.  It's about as long a road back up as it was the fall down in the first place.   I know I am not fully over the affects of cancer and cancer treatment, and I must have been dreaming to think I could go back into the world "full on" again at the pace I am used to.  So much for trying to make Convention at Sun Life this year.  My return to work plans will have to be revisited with my oncologist when I see him next.  I should have listened to him in the first place. 

So, this week I am going to rest and try to put some things in to perspective.  I'm going to try and come up with a return to work plan that protects my health and also allows me to look after my clients.  I'm also going to listen more to my husband when he tells me to rest.  I'm just too damn stubborn.  I keep thinking I'm a Super Hero!  

Something big is happening this week.  The Cancer Warrior Bags are being delivered (we had a delay as we waited for the Warrior Books and Blankets), so watch this blog for photo's of them going out and a Thank You to everyone who has been involved.  


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