Have you ever looked forward to the completion of a thing and felt let down because it wasn’t as exciting as you expected? We all know that feeling, right? Its just the anticipation of accomplishment does not have the pomp and circumstance that you looked forward to. I felt that way at graduation. There was literally pomp and circumstance blasting overwhelming my eardrums, and yet I walked back to the parking lot feeling a little meh.
That was not the case in finishing chemotherapy.
Nope. Just the past 7 days were a rollercoaster of thrills and loops and beautiful things and blessings and then like a rollercoaster, it came to a very abrupt stop. I walked away severely jostled and a very shaken.
So let’s begin. I think I will lay out each event of the week here, and then each incident might warrant its own post.
Monday I woke feeling ready for my last day of chemo. I recall being anxious about it, fearing the loss of routine and the Roswell care team. Ultimately, in expressing those anxieties, it helped prepare me to face them and it set me up for success. I am glad that I wrote how wonderful the day was, how well George did, how generous the gifts were, how happy everyone was, how grateful I am to my friends at Roswell. Their gifts will stay with me forever, and my family will always know how incredible they are. I went to sleep on Monday keyed up from the joy and the steroids, which led to an ordinary post-chemo Tuesday.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were quite uneventful and comfortingly predictable. I was sleepy and tired from chemo, and from being enormously pregnant. I was in touch with Katie at Roswell who was making arrangements to gift more presents, and mentioned that a sales representative from Enfamil was stopping by Roswell on Friday to see if they couldn’t score some good infant formula coupons for me. So I was getting excited.
Friday was the most eventful day. (The most eventful day.) Its hard to believe it was one day.
Wait! I forgot another key fortunate event that happened on Monday! The Pink Ribbon Riders granted me a very generous financial gift! Four times a year they pick families to award with money to help pay medical costs. I enjoyed working with them, and the help couldn’t have come at a better time because the year is almost over and I’ve hit my health care plan deductible… but I’ve not yet paid all of the deductible for 2022. We’ll be working on that into the new year. Along with the new medical debt we’ll accrue.
here’s a good blog prompt: US health care costs and the decisions we’ve been coerced into.
Also, another good prompt: Financial Stress. gah.
OK. So Friday:
I go to work, I get work done, no big deal. The door to my office is propped open, I’ve got on my business-as-usual persona, which helps me forget that my belly, my back, my neck is uncomfortable. I’m calm, then Theresa from Roswell calls me around 1030am and says that she met with the Enfamil rep that Katie had mentioned earlier. She has good news and launches right into it:
The sales rep that Theresa met with gifted my family six cases of infant formula. My jaw fell open and forgot to inhale. I wanted to ask Theresa to confirm that I heard her right; six… cases… of formula? Do I even understand how much that will last? How great a financial relief that brings my family? Theresa of course didn’t hear these questions, because my brain was still rebooting the talking function. So Theresa continued, grinning, the sales rep also gifted a little insulated formula bag with some coupons and goodies in it. This piece of news matched my expectations, so I was able to stammer out the beginning of a thank you. My jumbled words were cut short because I heard Theresa smiling again on the other end of the line. Wait, wait, there’s more! Enfamil would like to provide formula to my baby girl for as long as she needs it.
New blog prompt: what I resent the most about cancer.
Also, there’s a good one already up to elaborate here.
Theresa dropped off the gifts later that day and explains that I’ll have to reach out to the sales rep to make arrangements for the all-you-can-eat formula hookup since HIPPA protects my privacy. So I call when I thought I was calm, but instead, I left a weepy voice message where I thank them and ask them to pinch me and tell me if this is real. She texts back later that evening and confirms this for me, except I don’t get the message until many hours later. Because, foreshadowing.
Friday evening the Russell family is eating broccoli pasta for dinner, bathing, and settling down for the night. It was a smooth bedtime. George went to sleep very quickly and soundly, and I settled into bed as soon as he went up with Nick. My back was sore and I was wiped from all of the excitement, so I was in bed when Nick returned downstairs at 8pm.
Nick brought me my nighttime medicines: pills and lovenox. Pills are an assortment of vitamins for baby and blood counts, Claritin for allergies, and sertraline for anxiety. Lovenox is a small shot that I take, its a blood thinner which helps reduce the risk of severe blood clot. I posted about how proud I am for being able to administer that shot by myself. It has been going so smoothly until this night.
It made me nauseous. I mistook it for heartburn. I took Tums, but that made me salivate even harder, which is when I realized my mouth was doing the sweaty thing it does before I throw up. I stand up out of bed and call out for Nick, I tell him something is wrong. I need fresh air, I need to vomit, I am panting and scared. My anxiety has spiraled out of control; we’re in the lull where last nights’ dose is wearing off, and this new dose has not kicked in.
I’m on the toilet fighting down the puke and losing. It hurts everywhere in my abdomen, my back, my uterus. All of my muscles are contracting and roiling with nausea. I hate this feeling. I hate it so much. Its directly linked to the trauma of my severe allergic reactions to tree nuts and the anaphylactic shock that can put me in the hospital. I throw up my pills. I throw up my dinner. I am screaming in pain. Now the nausea is ebbing, but the pain and abdominal pain are a ten out of ten. The worst extended pain I have ever felt. Worse than child labor with George. I don’t understand what is going on, so the resulting panic makes it all the worse. Nick calls 911.
By the time paramedics come I have realized these are contractions. I change my breathing to noisy low moans on the exhale and inhale steadily. But because these contractions came on so violently and so quickly, I literally could not stop my breathing to tell Nick that these are contractions. I had been screaming because the contractions began at the strongest I have ever felt, there was no ramp up to slowly adjust, like it should happen when you go into labor. Luckily the paramedics knew to just assume that the pregnant lady breathing heavy complaining of abdominal pain is in labor and treated me accordingly.
The poor paramedics taking me away in the ambulance were two young men very apprehensive of the noisy pregnant lady. I was catching my breath now, and I had some pauses in contractions to answer questions. I also promised them that there would be no baby in their ambulance tonight. They half-heartedly chuckled, but I peeked at their faces, and they seemed reassured that I acknowledged the risk. I kept that promise, in fact today I’m still pregnant.
We drove down Main Street to the medical corridor. The lights were off because I wasn’t asking for them to rush me there. At the intersection of Michigan and Best we had a green light, so the driver proceeded. I heard him swear and felt him hit the brakes as suddenly as brakes can brake. My body was braced already with the unpredictable internal pain, plus I was strapped sitting up in with my knees tucked up to help me breath through contractions.
The ambulance was T-boned by another vehicle running a red light.
My head and neck stretched from the driver side of the rig into the center of the rig, and I had enough wherewithal to not retract my head and neck so hard or too early that when the G-force flung me back the other way that I would not smack my head against the side of the rig. I threaded the needle perfectly. My head didn’t touch a thing inside the ambulance. The straps held me tight. Nothing touched my belly. The tension I was carrying from the contractions ensured that I wasn’t suddenly tense and suffering whiplash. I embodied a crash test dummy, which is something my dad mentioned fourteen years ago when teaching me to drive. I was fine.
Surprise! there’ll be another post on this experience. I can’t forget to mention there that I sensed a car crash was in my near future. Oh, and the snow was pretty.
So I switched rigs. The poor poor paramedics that got me 98% of the way to the hospital were going to have a lot of investigating to endure. The new pair of paramedics drove me 60 seconds to Oishei where the fetal specialists would check me out. I left my house in an ambulance because I was vomiting and having contractions, I arrived with a different ambulance and a different medical presentation. Oh, by the way, the contractions had all but subsided by now.
I don’t need someone to explain why I had a more acute and immediate overreaction to throwing up than I did to being in a car crash in an ambulance, but man, it really encapsulates my anxiety disorder perfectly. And it pisses me off to know that I have come so far, but I am far from cured.
Its about 10pm when I arrive at Oishei. Its still the same Friday that started with Theresa calling me about the formula gift, just 12 hours’ difference.
The rest of the night was spent in the hospital, technically part of the ER department, but physically on the third floor with Labor and Delivery. L&D has their own ER department for pregnant people like me, but those rooms were all full. So lucky me gets to chill in a real delivery room with maternal fetal monitoring for 4-6 hours over night.
I had not grasped that I was not going to deliver my daughter today. But when the monitor got on, and I saw no contractions, and the nurses and doctors asked if I had felt any contractions, and the answer was no, no contractions, I started to release the tension. By midnight, my body had stopped spasming and relaxed into exhausted sleep. By midnight, baby girl was thrashing with displeasure about not getting any dinner or midnight snacks. Thrashed all night. They could barely get a read on her heart rate because she was tossing and turning inside of me. But that tells them that she’s okay, she’s no worse for wear from the puking or the contractions or the crash. She just hungry.
Saturday began at 5am when they woke us up to send us home. Nick and I blundered through our grogginess to dress and plan our return home. Too bad we were going home before all the downtown breakfast joints were open. We could really use a feast of buttery breakfast food to recover.
When we stepped in the front door at 610am, George and his grandma just opened the door at the top of the stairs to come down for breakfast. He rubbed sleep out of his eyes and smiled at his mom and dad. That lucky boy slept comfortably in his crib through the entire ordeal.
I have so many more words and thoughts, but my counselor told me today that my only job is to take care of myself. Try not to feel guilty about taking time for my body and health. I’ll leave it here for now, and leave you with the same charge. Take care of yourself. If you do that, most of everything else will fall into place. And listen to your gut. Sometimes your guardian angles talk to you through your gut feeling.
Leave a Reply