Colon Cancer Sucks Ass

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ultrasound of an Armpit

A couple of weeks ago a pleasant new side effect developed. My jaw and neck muscles tensed up and just stayed that way. Some days were worse than others, but there was always some pain. Last Saturday it suddenly worsened. My neck swelled up. Not to the point that it was bulging out, but it was noticeably swollen. I thought that I looked like a toe with hair, although I was reassured repeatedly that it was not the case. It actually looked more like I was storing food - like a chipmunk. It was not as cute as it sounds.

I was mildly concerned as well as highly self-conscious at these developments. On Monday night, I emailed my oncologist, Dr. W, just to update him and see if there was anything I could do to further alleviate these symptoms. He replied late on Tuesday with a request to come in to his office. I called my study coordinator Wednesday morning to set up the appointment. She talked to Dr. W and they were both concerned that I had developed a blood clot because of my portacather. If this were the case, I would have to have it removed... right away. Another emergency surgery, albeit much less serious this time. They wanted me to go to the hospital right away to get an ultrasound on my neck. The radiology department had agreed to accept me as a walk up patient. Oh, a silver lining - no emergency room visit necessary!

My roommate Jim agreed to drop everything and come with me. We went to the hospital and located the ultrasound area in the basement. They located the faxed orders for my test and told us to have a seat in the waiting area. The waiting area consisted of four hard plastic chairs in the hallway. Over the next three hours we became very familiar with those chairs. Without an appointment, the wait was considerable. They finally called me and proceded to take an ultrasound of my neck, shoulders and even my armpits! There is a big difference between the ultrasounds that they show on tv (mostly of pregnant women) and the ultrasounds that I have actually had. They don't lightly run their tool over your skin. They dig it in, really pushing on areas that are already in pain. After about 30 minutes of this, they let me go back out into the waiting area.

They have a policy that the radiologist does not give the patient the results. They are supposed to be given by the ordering physician. Unfortunately, they were having a hard time getting Dr. W on the phone. I had figured by their mannerisms and urgency that they had obviously found something. Finally, the radiologist brought me into a room and said that they had found two blood clots - one on each side. Then he asked me what we usually do. Yes, that's right, the doctor asked me what we usually do. I looked at him increduously and told him that it's never happened before. He said that he'd try to reach the study coordinator.

Finally, Dr. W called back. He wanted me to come to his office, but I was not allowed to walk. They called an escort and brought me to the shuttle since Dr. W's office is in the UCLA Medical Plaza and I was at the Medical Center. We had to wait a while to see Dr. W because he was with another patient. I never mind waiting for him though because he is such a great doctor. He takes the time to explain everything and you never feel rushed.

Dr. W explained that when you have cancer, your blood tend to thicken making clots more likely. The two clots they found were only partially blocking the veins. To dissolve these clots, I need to get injections twice a day and start on a blood thinner (pill form). The injections are only temporary - we're hoping that my blood will be thin enough by Monday to stop them. The pill I will be on long term. I need to carry something with me at all times that states I am on this medication. Does anyone know where to get a fashionable medic alert bracelet?

Anyway, it was a really long, draining day and I've really had enough of medical issues for a while. At least I only have appointments Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week.

A special note to all of you who know my roommate Jim and are aware of his needle phobia. Not only did he watch the nurse last night when she showed me how to give the injection, he actual gave me the injection this morning. Since no one he has told actually believed him, I thought I'd confirm it myself.


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