About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Falling apart

When it rains, it pours.

The hives were definitely from the Cipro.  I spent Friday afternoon and evening watching my entire body turn into a red, swollen hive.  I was taking 1 benadryl, hardly able to go 4 hours in between doses.  By the evening, my stomach was cramping up.  I don't know if it was from the benadryl, or the anxiety.  Before I went to bed, I noticed my left wrist kind of swelling up.  (Uh oh...lymphedma!)  I put my compression sleeve and gauntlet on before I went to bed.

Before getting into bed, I prayed for deliverance.  Literally crying out to God for relief.  I didn't sleep very well the first 3 hours.  At 1:30 a.m., I took another benadryl, which knocked me out until the morning.  When I woke up, my left hand was puffed up like a balloon.  My fingers that stick out of the gauntlet were like swollen sausages.  The hives seem to have triggered lymphedema.  I jumped out of bed and did my manual lymphatic drainage as well as some lymph exercises to try and get the lymph fluid to drain out of the hand and arm.

Eric left for France the day before, so I had to take the dog for a walk.  The benadryl made it really difficult to do-I was so wiped out.  To add to the drama I had to deal with, Jean-Marc decided the night before that peeing in his pants was going to be just fine.  He did it about 4 times over Friday night and Saturday morning.  Why do kids pick the time when you are least able to cope to do silly stuff?

On Saturday morning, I had to take Isabelle to her riding lesson today, which is on the other side of town.  Jean-Marc and I went to the park while she rode.  All morning, the hives were driving me insane.  Seriously insane.  I couldn't help but scratch.  Once I started, I couldn't stop.  It was maddening.  Words can't even describe how I was feeling during these episodes. My legs, stomach and chest were on fire.   When I got home, I soaked in an Aveeno bath.  That helped relieve the itch, but after about 45 minutes, I got cold.  I was good after that for about a half an hour, then I took another benadryl.

After I got out of the bath, I went downstairs to cut out Christmas cookies with Isabelle. (Trying to keep things normal for the kids.)  I opened my mouth to say something, and my voice was a croak.  I didn't think much of it at first, but then remembered something one of my Aunts had said on Facebook about one of her own allergic reactions to medication: anaphylactic shock.  When my mom came over later on, she had the same concern.   She asked how many benadryl I had been taking.  When my dad was having reactions to bee stings, he would take more than one.  So I took one more and we called the Kaiser nurse advice line to see how many I could take safely.  Mom did the talking for me, since I still had no voice.  They told her they would call back.  Meanwhile, the itch had come back and was driving me crazy. I had hives on top of hives.  Mom put some 1% hydrocortisone cream on my legs to try to assuage the itch and my legs looked like pink cottage cheese. We decided to go to Kaiser's urgent care.  Maybe they could just give me an epi shot or something.

We got there around 4:30 p.m., but by the time we found where to go, it was about 4:45 p.m.  I was in black sweats, a zebra bandana on my head an no makeup.  Full-on cancer patient look.  By then I wasn't  feeling as itchy since the second benadryl had kicked in, and some of the hives had faded a little.  But my voice was still bad.  The receptionist asked if I had an appointment and I said no. (Isn't that the point of urgent care?)  She got the nurse to come and have a look at me.  The nurse took us back and took my vitals.  I explained the situation to her and she went to "ask the doctor to see what they could do for me."  She came back and said I should go to Palomar Hospital's ER because they were going to be closing in 10 minutes.

Excuse me??  The doctor didn't even come and look at me!  They still had 10 minutes!  They are going to send someone a week out of chemo with low white blood cell counts to a hospital ER?  A cesspool of germs?? To sit for hours before being seen?  I explained this to the nurse, but she said there was nothing she could do.  I should have come in earlier.  Well, we tried calling and were waiting for a call back that didn't come by 4 p.m.  Yeah, thanks for nothing.  I called Palomar's ER to see how long the wait would be, since Kaiser was kicking me out.  I was told 3-4 hours.  No way.  I'm immune depressed right now.

We went back and asked the receptionist to see the nurse one more time. I still needed to know how many benadryl I could take safely.  The nurse said she wasn't "qualified" to answer the question.  I said, well, maybe you could go and ask the doctor?  Or perhaps there is a topical cream that he could prescribe that would help get me through the night?  The receptionist and nurse started whispering to each other and the receptionist got on the phone.

I just stood there, in shock and dismay.  Seriously.  I've been through so much in the past 6 months and have sucked a lot up.  I'm not a complainer.  Here I am, in need of some help, and because some jerk doctor wants to walk out the door at 5, I'm being told to risk my health by sitting in an ER for 4 hours??  Amputating my breasts, 6 rounds of chemo, drugs up the wazoo, and some idiot doctor won't risk staying a few minutes late to see me?

I decided not to suck it up any longer.  They may send me away, but they are going to know how they are making me feel.  They may send me away, but if they have an ounce of heart, they are going to feel like crap doing it.  I let the tears roll down my face.  Who cares?  They certainly don't.   Of course, that made my mom cry.  So there we were, crying in their faces while they were on the phone.  Then they handed the phone to me...apparently, they called an advice nurse down in San Diego.

The advice nurse asked me the same questions about my situation.  Where was the rash?  Head to toe, literally. Because of that, she said a topical cream wouldn't really be an option.  How bad was the itch?  On a scale of 1 to 10, its an 11 or 12.  Off the charts.  Could I breathe?  Well, yes.  But at times, I would have some shortness of breath.  But that could be from the insane itch.  That was their main concern-that my throat would close up and I wouldn't be able to breathe.  She said it sounded like I needed a steroid shot, and my options to get that on a Saturday night were to go to the ER, or drive down to Mission Valley to another Kaiser facility.  I seriously did not want to do either.   I would live with the itch until the morning, when they could give me an appointment.  At that point, the benadryl was fully in my system and it was manageable.  The nurse said I could take 2 Claritin on top of the benadryl, which I could take 2 every 6 hours.  That should get me through the night.

We got home and ordered pizza for dinner.  I had food I could make, but just didn't have the energy to do it.  Besides, the kids would like it and we could turn the situation of having grandma and grandpa over to have a little fun.  We put "A Christmas Story" on the TV and tried to make the most of it.  My mom decided to spend the night just in case I had an emergency.  We set her up in Isabelle's bottom bunk.  Isabelle was stoked to have a sleepover with Grandma.

Before I went to bed, I fully dosed up on the Claritin and benadryl.  The rash had been moving around.  At that point, it was spreading onto my neck, face and head. I did my lymphatic massage and exercises, trying to get the swelling to go down.  Then I got down on my knees and prayed to God for help. I didn't have a lot to say, just help.  Help these hives go away.  Help the swelling to go down.  Help me to be able to sleep.  I was so messed up, I didn't know what else I needed.  Just help.

Thank the Lord, He did answer that prayer.  I woke up 9 hours later, and had a good night of sleep.  I figured I would be up around 3 a.m. to take more medicine, but I didn't need to.  I still had rash on my head and face, but the itch wasn't insane.  There were still spots other places too, but it was manageable.

Considering I was improved, even though not fully healed, do I keep the 9 a.m. appointment?  I knew if I went in there in my improved condititon, I would feel a little bit like Chicken Little.  I was pretty sure the doctor I had the appointment with was the same one who caused me so much angst the night before.  I didn't want to show up all better and not really needing to see him.  I did last night, but this morning was a different story.  I decided rather than going to Kaiser, I would go to church instead.  At the beginning of my treatment, I had told myself I didn't want to miss a day of church because of my treatment.  I did miss 2 Sundays, but it was for the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walk and the Charger game when I was one of their "Survivors."  This would have been the first.  Screw cancer!  I popped 2 benadryl and went to church.

I'm pretty sure I'm on the mend.  I noticed on my phone today that I had a voice mail from Dr. P, my oncologist. He left it last night.  He told me that if my rash was still bad at my 9 a.m. appointment, they would prescribe me prednisone, a pretty heavy steroid.  I could take some of the medication that I took around chemo time if I had some left (I do).  It's also a steroid.  I was glad to see that he called, particularly on a Saturday night.  That's a far cry better than the urgent care doctor.   At this point, I'm not going to take the steroid.  My left arm is still swollen and I am concerned about it.  I'm going to call the physical therapist tomorrow morning and see if I can get in to see her as soon as possible.  I'll keep doing the lymphatic massage and exercises in the meantime.  I did a quick 30 minute cardio workout, and my legs felt like lead. But I did get a sweat on and that made me feel better.

I would say that the last few days definitely were among the worst of the last 6 months.  It was a little bit like the straw that broke the camel's back when I wasn't able to be seen by a doctor last night.  My body has been through so much over the past few months, I just felt like I was literally falling apart. Today, after a night of sleep, I feel much better.

My prayer requests:

  • That the swelling in my left arm go down.  I'm a bit swollen everywhere, so I'm hoping that the left arm and hand will go down when everything else does. But it is more swollen than the right, and I know I'm compromised on that side. 
  • That the hives continue to fade.
  • That I be able to manage the house, kids, and their activities this week while Eric is gone.  That I be able to do it with grace and love.  I need a big dose of the Holy Spirit! 

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I was wondering what happened with the hives. Yowch. That sounds just miserable!!!

    I'm glad you are on the mend.