No Spring Chicken #19

An Interesting Day

You know that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times"? Today I had an interesting day. I went to the hospital for a biopsy of one of the lymph nodes in my neck so see how advanced the lymphoma is and how aggressive it is.

The plan, as I understood it, before Tuesday, was to take out the entire lymph node just like last time. But while Agate Passage was rehearsing Tuesday I got four phone calls. Two were sales calls and those numbers are now blocked. The other two were from the Virginia Mason Hospital regarding today's proceedings. The first was a medical assistant performing pre-admission on me to have things set up for today. The second was the nurse who was setting things up. But we were busy singing a song and about 3/4 of the way through it, so I picked up the phone, hit the talk button, then just held it up while we continued singing. When we finished I said, "Hello?" There was a pause, so I said, "Hello!" again. She said, "Oh, there is someone there. I thought that was a recording!" Well, that made us all feel good. She told me they'd be doing a sample by needle and so... "Whoa!", I said. They couldn't do it that way last time and had to take the entire node out. So that was what I thought they were doing again. "OK." she said, "I'll talk to the doctor and get back to you." We managed to finish our practice without a fifth phone call. Somewhat later the doctor called to tell me that the operation didn't need to remove the entire node, just take core samples (yes, plural) with a needle. That is an improvement over what they used to do four years ago when they did the previous biopsy. Which pleases me no end, since my face muscles didn't work right after the other operation for six months (they had to go behind the nerve controlling down on that side of my face).

Then we come to today. It poured rain during the night, then picked up about five am when the alarm went off. It picked up even more again when it was time for Clair to go out for her morning walk. She wasn't happy about that, nor that neither of us wanted to go get wet with her. I didn't get to have breakfast, due to the operation. Then, the rain reached a real downpour level when we started driving down to Winslow to catch the ferry. Fortunately, it dropped off a bit before we got there so with the umbrella we only got slightly damp on the way to the ferry. The ride over was peaceful, but when we got there the cabby we got took the "short" route. It was shorter, but involved more waiting for lights than the "short" route the cabbie took the last time I had to go over there, so it cost about $2 more that the last trip. So he didn't get much of a tip. I wouldn't have given any tip if I'd opened the door before I'd paid him, because he stopped with a big puddle in front of the passenger door. I could step over it, but not without prying myself out using both arms, so my right shoulder that was already complaining because I was off aspirin and naproxin sodium because of the operation started complaining louder. I also had to help Janet over the same puddle. When we got inside there were two people working at admitting (it was only 7:10am, and I didn't need to be upstairs until 7:30), but there were two people they were helping who couldn't seem to be helped. I don't know what the farther away person's problem was, but it took forever for her to be helped (OK, 9 minutes is not forever, but it took us all of two minutes once we got to the checkin person). The nearer person wasn't in the hospital list for admission on any floor or in any of the buildings. They were still arguing about it when we left the other station having already been helped. To top it all off, I'd allowed my iPhone to upgrade the operating system, and it was interrupting anything I was doing with it every 10 seconds (yes, that often) trying to get me to log onto iMessages, apparently some new way of dealing with phone messaging. Sigh. Why can't they leave it alone when it works? [OMG, is that a sign I'm getting old?!?] But I didn't want to sign in until I could check out the differences. But interrupting anything you are doing with a demand-dialog box doesn't let you get anything done. So I tried to log on, but it wouldn't allow that until it got an internet connection, which it couldn't do until it quit bugging me about iMessage. So I had to reboot it and then we were through checkin and on our way to blood draw, but I couldn't get the schedule until the phone rebooted. Sigh. Some days it doesn't pay to get up.

So, first step - blood draw. Go up to 6 for that, and the lady did a fine job of sticking the needle in without any pain and starting, but pulled the needle out too soon and didn't have enough blood. This is where I find out why using my right arm (I'm left handed so I generally prefer to have needles put in my right arm (whether for injection or extraction) was a bad idea. So she had to insert again, in another place, of course. In the process of re-doing it she had to move my right arm around a bit, basically at the shoulder, which is the damaged one. Sigh. Should have stayed in bed. Now I've got two bruise/hole spots in my arm and my shoulder hurts more.

Finally, though, the good news started happening. Back down on 5 in Radiology they decided they could do the biopsy with a local and ultrasound aiming. That sounds better than full anesthetic and going under and excision of the entire lymph node. And the people in Radiology who are doing the operation are wonderful. Friendly and helpful, they explained everything. With the local they even have me lying in such a manner that I'm looking right at the video screen of the ultrasound the doctor is using to guide himself. He takes a minute to show me how the one dark spot there is a vein, and how when he pushes on it I can see it collapse, but the dark grey mass beside it is a lymph node and how it doesn't collapse when pushed on. Neat. Now, I've got a curious mind, and think this will be neat to watch. But when I see the needle sticking in it troubles me, so I spent most of the operation with my eyes closed, just looking now and then. It is an interesting procedure, though. OK, needle gages are larger numbers are smaller needles (like sand paper). They started the initial numbing local with a 30 gage needle, then moved to a 25 gage so they could put more in. Then they stuck a 19 gage needle in as a "guide needle". It is open on both ends, and has a little collar on the outer end that they can hook the sampler needle to. The sampler needle is 20 gage, and has a spring loaded mechanism that when the doctor hits the "trigger" on it goes click and sticks the needle in and seals the back end then pulls it out, thus removing a sample from the node. The guide needle stays in for all the samples. I asked, after the second sample, how many he was planning to take. He said, "Five. But it depends on how I feel about the samples." He made some comment about fatty tissue after the 5th, so he took seven samples in all. Virtually no pain, awake the whole time and got to learn more about the process. How can this be bad. In by 8:40 (scheduled at 9 be we were early and they were available, so we did it) and out by 9:05. They rolled me into recovery, sat the bed up, checked for dizziness, nausea or disorientation and found none. Had me sit up and swing my legs of the bed and checked again - none. Had me stand up and checked again - none. So I got dressed and was ready to go by the time Janet arrived having gotten the page when the operation was done.

OK, down to floor 2 for Oncology. The Oncologist, Dr. Chatta, had us scheduled for 1pm, but had said that if we got done with the operation early we could come down and ask his nurse to fit us in earlier so we wouldn't have to wait around (now *that* is unusual in doctors), so we did and got an appointment for 10:20. That gave us time to go up to the cafeteria (floor 4) for breakfast (I'd been fasting before the operation). So, we had a nice talk with Dr. Chatta and it even included the note that there is a large Sikh population in Surrey, BC, where we are going this weekend for the District Barbershop Convention and there are some great Indian restaurants up there. It also included ideas about the possible chemo treatments scheduled to start on the 7th of October. I had the R-Bendamustine chemo last time, and if the status is low grade, as before, then that would be a valid treatment - known to work and that I can tolerate it nicely. But we could also consider the R-Chop, since you don't want to build up a resistance to any given chemo agents. The R-Chop would be the correct treatment if it is more advanced or higher grade. In both cases the "R" stands for Rituxan as the other ingredient (separate infusion). We won't have to decide until next week when we have the readings back from Pathology (probably Monday, but they could come in Friday, but I'll be in Surrey by the early afternoon). Another difference is that the R-Bend treatment takes two consecutive days, while the R-Chop only takes one day. On the other hand, the R-Chop is more toxic to the body. While my hair straightened with the R-Bend treatment last time, it may fall out with the R-Chop. Who knows? Nobody knows what I'd look like with a shaved or bald head. No, I probably won't do selfies either way.

When we got back home I took Clair out for a walk to get the newspaper and the mail, then we did our retrieving (she is a chocolate lab and knows her job and has to do it), then settled down for some quiet time (we got up at 5, which is hours early for Janet and I). Clair kept coming over to sniff me and give me lots of kisses. I think she smelled the hospital (specifically the oncology ward) on me and didn't want the return of how I felt last time. But she kept it up about every 10 minutes until I finally put her outside for the remainder of nap time.

This evening the chorus did a "Friends and Family Night" in preparation for our district convention. Both quartets that will be singing at district to represent us and the chorus performed for lots of friends and family who came. We had a good crowd and the performances were well received. I thought we'd get out early, but more work after. But I think we are as ready as we will be. During the break Ric, Al and I sang Witchcraft and Daydream (what a day for a) with Larry Breitbarth. Larry and Ric have learned these songs for the Harmony Platoon at district, while Al and I are learning them for Agate Passage (my quartet). That was fun, although I'm really not quite ready to perform either in public, but the sound was good if all the pickups weren't quite there. Funny thing is, I didn't know Larry until he joined the chorus, but I've done a few plays with his son, Scott. Connections - there are so many of them if you look for them.

Anyway, I'm ready for bed and it has been a good/bad/interesting day. I hope yours has been interesting in a more peaceful way.