21 May 2007

Full Time Patient

You know why they’re called patients? Because they need a lot of patience.

I spent the other day accompanying my mother to the hospital. She was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV lung cancer more than two years ago. She had a course of radiation early on, and she’s been in chemotherapy for the past two years – now on her third regime. One of the reasons I went with her was because she was worried about the visit. She’d had scans a week prior to check the status of her several lumps, the first set of scans since she’d started chemo regime #3, and was due to get the scan results.

We arrived at the hospital at about 10:45 for an 11:00 appointment. First order of business is always a finger stick to get a drop or two of blood to check her blood counts. That took forever - she thinks they forgot about her because she was put in the farthest cubicle. Honestly, I could have pricked her finger. Hell, she could have done it herself!

Then we waited. And got called into the exam room to wait some more. Eventually, the oncologist showed up, and remembered that she’d left the scan results in her office, so she disappeared again. The scans were good – at best an improvement, at worst no change – so there will be no change to the chemo regime. The oncologist tends to seem distracted and overworked, and she's humorless, but she spent a lot of time with us. My mother said it was the most time she's spent with her in quite awhile; I think it was likely because I was there kibitzing and asking questions.

After we left the oncologist, we trotted down the hall to sign in for chemo, and then headed to the next building for a quick chest x-ray. When she signed in for chemo, she was told that there was a 45-minute wait; in fact it was more like an hour and a half. In other words, we were back from the chest x-ray long before they called her for chemo.

Her chemo treatment didn’t take all that long, maybe an hour, so we were out of there at 4:00pm. Yes, five hours for a finger stick, a half hour with the doctor, a chest x-ray and an hour long infusion. It’s a full time job. And there are signs all over the place that cell phones are prohibited, and of course there’s no WiFi access, so all you can do is watch daytime television. If chemo didn’t give you chemo brain, the daytime TV would rot your brain. So if you had an actual full time job, you couldn't use the infusion time to get any work done.

Besides her cancer monitoring and treatment, she has been having dental issues (a cracked tooth needs to be pulled), and needs medical attention for some side effects of the chemotherapy. The most pressing of those is clogged tear ducts. Here’s an irony – the chemo drug is called Taxotere – and it taxes the tear ducts. Good name, huh? Sometime soon, she's going to have stents put in her tear ducts to solve that problem. But that's surgery with general anesthesia, so she has to get checked out by her pulmonologist first...

All told, my mother's become a full time patient what with one thing or another. It's exhausting, exacerbated by the chemo-induced exhaustion.

I think it's time to take up cross-stitch.

If you've read this far, give her a shout out in the comments, because she's a lurker. We call her Moky.

13 comments:

S. said...

Moky, so sorry about the diagnosis and that you have to go through all that hospital time. I'll be thinking about you.

Magpie, don't you knit already? Socks! Socks is what you want. Or small toys. I have patterns if you want.

pinknest said...

best of luck, moky! i hope you manage to stay in good spirits throughout it all.

BarbaraCA said...

Hey, Moky, you sound like a fighter. Good for you!

Isis said...

I'm thinking about you, Moky. You sound like one tough cookie! Outstanding, and now I'm your fan.

And you both have my sympathy re the medical ordeal. Oy. I thought maybe these things were better in other places, but too many details (overworked doctors, daytime tv...) were entirely too familiar.

So here's wishing you both strength!

Phantom Scribbler said...

Thinking about you, Moky!

slouching mom said...

I wish for you both emotional and physical strength and no more long waits, moky.

(And, of course, that those cancer cells flee the premises, and soon.)

Aurelia said...

Moky, keep up the fight! I'm sure this is awful, but with Magpie by your side, you can keep it up.

Take care, and I hope they find something more interesting for you to do than daytime TV soon. Where's a good card game when you need it, eh?

niobe said...

Moky, you're in my thoughts.

Irish Goddess said...

Moky, You have an incredible daughter and my guess is she comes from an incredible mother. I'll be thinking of you and your struggles - may they be short and all your waits only during good television shows. (There must be some during the day - ?) Take care.

susan said...

Moky, I hope your resiliency continues to carry you through! And Magpie, perhaps you can start a meme or carnival to collect bloggy ideas for things to do while waiting around. Like learn string figures.

mayberry said...

Moky, the blogosphere is rooting for you! Take care.

Anonymous said...

Moky, this is Liz, Miranda's aunt and I am really glad Maggie is with you to do this. What a Kafka=esque ordeal. I don't know but I guess it's the only way; I know someone who went another route of no chemo. I have mixed feelings. I hope you have all the things, people, flowers, food, grandchildren to keep you spirit and smile alive. Thinking of you, Liz

Eva said...

Best wishes to Moky!