Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chemo 6/8

Almost done...almost done...that's my mantra. Once again, my oncologist Dr. G. was out, and the nurse practitioner examined me. My husband was disappointed, most especially since he was prepared to "tear him a new one" over the vague information about my surgery schedule and the lack of palliative care. BCH* does a great job with the drug delivery, but not so much with information-sharing or emotional support.

Friends have asked me the following:

Do they have a support group? I dunnoh--can't find evidence of any associated with the hospital. They do have a brochure for Gilda's Club, which offers support services. The Nurse K., the nurse practitioner who examined me this time, offered to give me the contact information for another nurse who had survived breast cancer and is now on Tamoxifen, an estrogen antagonist that has some nasty side-effects itself. It's the first time I've received any offer from BCH staff to be put in touch with another survivor.

Do they offer therapeutic massage? No. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen evidence of any palliative care (i.e. counseling, support groups, meditation or yoga, massage) Some smaller Chicago area hospitals offer these services, but not BCH.

Oh, and I received my first billing for chemotherapy. If I didn't have insurance, would have to pay $2500 per session. That doesn't include the cost for blood work or examinations. Every time Dr. G looks at my boobs for ten minutes: $158.

Am I receiving the best treatment for my cancer? In fact, I probably am receiving excellent care. So why do I feel so uncared for? Perhaps BCH will eventually launch a research study on whether patients are also feeling human beings. I hope the results are statistically significant.

The final chemo drug Taxotere Paclitaxel has a new set of side effects, including bone pain, watery eyes, and rosacea-like pimples and rash on my upper body. My eyelashes and eyebrows are scanty, now. About four or five days after chemo I get very tired and easily winded--probably a sign that both my white and red blood cell counts are bottoming out. My hot flashes are on a more predictable schedule, although one that interferes with early morning sleep. From about 4 to 6 am, it's covers off, covers on, over and over. During this time, sleep is in short snatches until the next one hits.

That's all the news, which as per usual is in the form of a complaint. They were right: when you have your health, you have everything. Too bad I had to get terribly sick to appreciate that axiom.

*Big Chicago Hospital

No comments: