Yesterday (actually earlier today since I can't get this darn post to be "scheduled" for tomorrow.) I mentioned that I'd been reading cancer books instead of my Bible. I've pretty much avoided books on my illness up to this point because I find them so depressing. And this time was no different. Tuesday after reading about local recurrence of the tumor and how breast cancer often spreads to the bones, I ended up worried about soreness in my ribs beneath my mastectomy area.
I thought it might be a spreading of the cancer. My radiation oncologist had no problem ordering me an x-ray to calm my fears. The only problem with this was that my hemoglobin numbers were still low and I hadn't gotten out of bed in at least three days. So mustering the energy to get dressed and go to the hospital for the x-ray was an issue.
But I managed it and Terry and the boys drove me to the hospital. I'd wanted Terry to come in with me because I was so dizzy I thought I would need help walking. But when Caleb fell asleep in the car, I decided to go inside the hospital alone while they waited in the parking lot. I was tired when I was sitting in the lobby. I was weak when I was sitting in the outpatient registration office. I was dizzy when I was standing at the check-in desk...
And then suddenly I couldn't breathe and I was dry-heaving. The registration lady handed me a wad of tissues to vomit in and luckily for me, she threw a wheelchair beneath me right as I passed out. It was only for a milli-second or so (at least it felt that short). After the fast black-out I still couldn't talk because I couldn't catch my breath. I was seeing spots and my chest hurt really badly. I remember being really scared and I just kept thinking I was so glad I was in the hospital.
Eventually I was able to call Terry and say something like, "Blacked out. Going to E.R."
Long story short, I ended up getting x-rays (They show nothing. Doctor thinks my pain is from nerve endings that were cut during the mastectomy growing back. Which makes perfect sense because I just had a few weeks of arm pain where the nerve endings from my lymph node removal grew back.) and being checked into the E.R.
I told the E.R. people right away that I knew it was my low hemoglobin. My oncologist had told me that it could cause dizziness and chest pain. Check, check. Two cat scans and lots of blood work later, I was admitted to the hospital. The on-call oncologist suggested that a blood transfusion would make me feel better.
(I've got to stop here and make a quick note about the drug Aranesp that I've previously blogged about. There was much controversy about me taking this medication to raise my hemoglobin despite the fact that the manufacturer admitted that it might make a cancerous tumor grow faster. I'm happy to report that I was glad I trusted my instincts because the on-call oncologist sided with me that there was no reason for a person like me with a high chance of "cure" to risk the drug when blood transfusions are available with such little risk.)
The transfusion didn't start until midnight and it took about 6 hours. They checked on me a lot throughout the night, but I still slept pretty well throughout the process. Getting new blood in my system was expected to raise the hemoglobin numbers and help with my lethargy and dizziness. I have to admit I'd been very nervous about introducing someone else's blood into my system. I felt better when the dr told me that chance of infection is really low-1 in a million or so. But I gotta say I still have worries that this is the person my donated blood came from...
Despite whatever apprehensions I might have had regarding the transfusion, it went well and today, 24 hours later, I can really tell a difference. My dizziness is gone and my energy is on the rise once again! Only one more chemo left!