Monday, March 23, 2015

I Watch Too Many Movies

Tuesday started off as another routine chemo day.  I would be getting a new chemo drug, and I would have 12 weeks of this before I would be finished.  Mentally, I had established my own inner countdown--four treatments down, 12 to go.


Except that it wasn't routine.  As soon as the nurse inserted the needle into my mediport and tried to draw blood, nothing was routine.  What was supposed to happen after the insertion of the needle?  That would be blood flowing into the syringe.  This time, nothing happened.  No blood.  Nothing came out of my body.  The nurse didn't panic, but I certainly got anxious, especially when she immediately started pumping on the plunger that went with the syringe.  It appeared to my untrained eyes that my nurse was pumping massive amounts of air into a major vein located right next to my heart.   My anxiety rose rapidly.

Nobody really talks about the anxiety and the panic attacks that come with a cancer diagnosis. We start to freak out about everything, just because that lump we though was "nothing" was something. We cancer patients can no longer trust ourselves to know anything about what is going on in our bodies. Any little thing sets off a chain reaction of "What ifs?" that would drive anyone over the edge, but a person with an anxious personality, like me?  Amp that anxiety to 13.  If I can't catch my breath after climbing stairs, I'm dying.  If my feet hurt, it's some obscure cancer-related disease and my feet will have to be amputated. If my eye twitches because I'm tired, I think I'm losing my vision. Whatever is happening is THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. THING.

As I'm sitting in that chair, watching the nurse,  my brain is remembering that I've seen all the cop shows.  I've seen the movies where people are eliminated by some bad guy inserting a single air bubble into the IV of a victim in a hospital room.  I know what an embolism is, fer cryin' out loud!

"Am I about to die from an embolism?" I blurted, ready to at least punch her for killing me.  In my growing hysteria, I wasn't thinking about what the poor woman's motive might be for murdering me in a crowded chemo room with my husband standing right there.  That would have required less anxiety and more actual brain.  I was thinking of the movies, and the TV shows, and freaking myself out. 

"What?" the exasperated nurse replied, still trying to get blood out of my chest. She laughed.  "No, you aren't going to die from an embolism! Give me some credit here!" 

She then explained what she was trying to do, and why no actual air had gone into my vein. Essentially, the needle was stuck in the port, having never exited to the other side as it is supposed to do.  After a few more moments of fiddling with my mediport, she finally got it to work.  I have never been more happy to see blood coming out of a syringe in my life.  I was especially happy that the blood was red and looked normal.  Routine.

"See, I do know what I'm doing!"  The nurse teased me.  I sheepishly smiled back. 


  1. Well, it is better to say something before it happens than after. You were right to say something. It had nothing to do with the nurse's competence.
    I feel for you. Anytime you have a health crisis it is unnerving. Around your age, we all face the reality of our mortality. I'm saying a quick prayer for you now. I hope this means 11 chemos left. Take care.

  2. You know...I would have freaked too. I think you were completely justified to freak. Your blogs take me back to the days my mom was battling cancer and I was just a freaked out 24 year old at her side attempting to keep my cool for her sake.

  3. Yet somehow you can watch the blood being drawn?!?!? EEEEyikes!!!!


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