Saturday, May 9, 2015

Treatment #5 and Flying Wildebeest

Treatment number five occurred during Thanksgiving week.  Of utmost importance to oncologists everywhere is that once chemotherapy treatments start, they happen on schedule.  A holiday on Thursday would in no way impact a treatment slated for Monday of that same week, even if said treatment would render the patient completely useless in preparing the Big Holiday Meal to give thanks for all God's blessings.

Even though Patrick was initially in favor of buying a pre-made dinner for Thanksgiving, the kids and I pleaded for him to cook a turkey and make an attempt at providing our traditional celebratory meal.  He agreed, and with the help of our two teen-aged daughters, and his willing sister-in-law, we feasted like kings.

Post-treatment Thursdays--holiday or not--found me mostly in bed for the day.  I do remember wandering out to the kitchen from time to time, hoping to be of some help with the meal prep, but in fact just making everyone nervous.  They ushered me back to my bed.

I began to think of the post-chemo "recovery" time as merely preparation for the upcoming treatment week instead.  Usually during the week following a treatment I was feeling well-enough to get myself to the clinic for pump removal, neupogen shots, I.V. hydration and/or iron infusions.  I visited the clinic two, three, or even four times each "recovery" week.  Sometimes there were appointments with other docs to squeeze in, too.

My oncologist was concerned about the light-sensitivity I was experiencing.  She feared that oxaliplatin might be damaging my optic nerve.  To rule that out, she asked that I make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

Here's how that went:

Eye Doc:  So.  You're a cancer patient?

Me:  Yep

Eye Doc:  And you're on what?

Me:  oxaliplatin

Eye Doc:  As part of your treatment?

Me, now losing confidence:  Yep

Eye Doc:  Spell that for me.

Me:  o-x-a-l-i-p-l-a-t-i-n

Eye Doc:  Never heard of that.  Let's do a visual field test.

Me:  mmmkay

He left.  Someone else ushered me into another room and took my glasses.  I sat while a blurry person in a lab coat explained how to run the test to a bystander.  This took approximately 37 hours. 

Lab Coat person then gave me an eye patch and instructed me to cover my left eye, then peer into the machine and to stare ONLY at the bright light, there just above the blankness.  Don't even think about letting your eyeball wander around looking at the nothingness inside the box.  Nothingness is Not Important, and you shouldn't Look at it.  We're testing PERIPHERAL vision here.  Control your eyeball, please.

The test began and my job was to STARE ONLY AT THE LIGHT with one eye, while noticing if there might be other lights blinking in various other places, at various brightnesses, inside the giant box of nothingness.  Also, there would be no wiggling!  Each time I noticed a light, I was to push a button on a handy little device they call a "clicker".  It took about three minutes to execute all of the clicks.

Next:  Repeat with The Left Eye, get directed to another room, wait for Eye Doc.

Eye Doc came back and he asked a bunch of questions, then strapped a contraption to his head that includes a billion-watt light bulb.  Did he forget that I was there because I can't stand bright lights???  He came at me with the Death Ray and I was supposed to keep my eyes open while he studied my optic nerve.  In both eyes!  What?!  Each eyelid in turn tried valiantly to protect me by slamming shut, as that terrible beam bore right into my brain.  Eye Doc and his Death Ray prevailed eventually and the inspection was accomplished.

He shut off the light, and removed his head gear, leaving me blind in both eyes.  Not "blind-blind", but all I could see was the imprint on my retina of his big, stupid light.

Then, guess what he said?  He said,  "Everything looks fine.  This can happen with oxaliplatin.  Now get out of my office you whiner, and don't come back, ever."  He didn't use those exact words.  But you know, I could tell what he meant.

He also said, in effect, "Here's a prescription for eye drops that may or may not help.  People expect to get something when they visit a doctor, and so I will give you this prescription because I am a doctor.  Be sure not to use the drops more than twice a day or you will attract flying wildebeest.  Have a nice day."

So, the important part:  optic nerve = O.K.  I did not avail myself of the eye drops.  The prescription remained unfilled.  I figured that I had enough problems without taking a chance on attracting flying wildebeest.

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