I’ve got a story for you today on expectations and how sometimes things just don’t go our way. Especially as a cancer patient, managing expectations and understanding processes can be hard. And we can’t always control that! Let me tell you about The Insult to Dumpster Fires.
The day had come, and it was finally my first appointment for chemo. As cancer patients, this is a highly anticipated day, and one we have a lot of feelings around. I had known for a few weeks that I was going to get chemo, and spent that time getting myself psyched up for that experience, so I arrive at the hospital that morning at 6am, ready to go.
But there was no bed. No room. No problem, I tell them I’m headed down to get a coffee. When I get back, they have a room for me, so I get settled in. The nurse comes in, and again, I’m ready to go. But instead, she tells me that she’s still waiting on the chemo orders. Not really what I want to hear, but that’s okay. While we’re waiting, I ask her a little bit about what drugs are in the chemo cocktail, and what each of them will do.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t really know. So I pull my phone out, and tell her that it’s okay, I’ll just contact my doctor. But because that’s not something you’re really supposed to do, she instead suggests she call the pharmacist to come by and give me a rundown. He comes up, does an amazing job of laying out what I can expect from the cocktail, and what each drug in the chemo cocktail is supposed to control. So again, I say, “Great, let’s go!”
But instead, they tell me that now they’re waiting on orders for the heart ultrasound. This is news to me, as I didn’t know I would be having an ultrasound, so now I’m not very happy. I arrived at the hospital assuming my chemo would be ready to go, and instead, I’m having additional procedures done. But, we move forward with the ultrasound. So where’s the chemo?
At this point, they let me know that they don’t normally administer chemo through an IV line, they need to do it through a PICC line. For those that don’t know, a PICC line is similar to an IV line that they put midway across your bicep, and it feeds into one of those arteries closer to your heart to get the medicine in the right spot. It’s a shorter-term version of a chemo port. So, I say, “okay, let’s do that, then.” But the nurse let me know that they have to wait for a specialist to administer the PICC line.
By now, it’s four in the afternoon, and I’m a mess. I was angry, I was stressed, and I was probably pretty scared. But I get the PICC line, and the nurse practitioner arrives with the chemo orders from the doctor, so I move forward, thinking we’re ready to go. However, instead of prepping the chemo, she asks “Have they done the bone marrow draw yet?”
And, friends, at this point, I freak out. I was not in a good place, and I’m sure I wasn’t very pleasant to my NP. But I take a breath and collect myself, then ask what the risk is if we skip the bone marrow draw. She informs me that if they do the test, and it comes back clean, that I’ll have a shorter chemo time. This is obviously the better choice, so I tell her we’ll move forward with it. And then she says they can’t do it until the next morning.
So there I was, having spent literally an entire day in the hospital, assuming I would get chemo right away, and didn’t end up getting any of it on that first day. So what’s the moral of the story? What’s the point?
My point is A. I didn’t do my homework. I had no idea all these procedures were coming, but I’m sure someone did, if I had asked, or known what to ask. B. I didn’t react to those things that happened to me very well. I had expected everything to run on my schedule, and wasn’t prepared for things to go differently. So I ended up an absolute mess!
So this is your opportunity, as a patient, to do better than me and do your homework ahead of time. If you want to reduce the amount of stress and fear you’ll experience going into your procedures, knowing the information ahead of time is the way to go!