Tag Archives: needles

A Bad Vein Day

Long term cancer patients get ‘bad veins’. Their veins hide, and need gentle coaxing, heat and occasionally, a good old spanking. It is not a new phenomena, nor is it one I have not encountered before and thus not spoken about before. It is, however, one that I have not had to think about for a long time.

My current world does not require much thought of veins, and I assume that this makes me normal because I did an imaginary survey and most people do not give much thought to their veins either, unless one is being vain (geddit?) and fearsome of the their bulging hand tunnels. I do not not have bulging hand tunnels.

Most of my time now, the Medically Trained People want to take stuff out rather than put stuff in, which is much, much easier and is merely a short, sharp scratch and a permanent bruise on my left arm. Yesterday, stuff needed to go in, bone juice to be precise, and my veins, without a doubt, did not want it. It took three, rather painful attempts to get the cannula in, which surprised me because six weeks ago, the needle went in with the greatest of ease. That’s right, cannulas still involve a needle and a tube.

For me, it was a reminder that this is part of my life now; needles, bloods, delays and pain. It was also a rather timely reminder that my current treatment is a vast improvement on my previous treatments, when a cannula was not a rare occurrence. Way back when, I was always sporting bruises on my arms, always worried that there would not be a suitable vein and I would experience pain, and I would always get ill from what had gone in. That does not happen anymore.

So, yesterday, for a brief moment, I allowed myself go rejoice in my situation, and all because this happened:

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And yes, I did keep the cotton wool on for my journey home; it ensured I was given a seat on the 73 bus.

EJB x

P.S. In six weeks time, I will definitely seek out my favourite nursing assistant for this task. She has the magic touch, but I have never said it to her face so as not to induce undue pressure.

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Travel Pills

As with any new treatment, I have discovered that I get new drugs. Lots of drugs as it turns out. Some I have had before, and some are brand new. Pills are pills. Until I enter the hospital, it is my responsibility to remember to take my pills four times a day. I am trying to pass the buck to others to remind me… Just in case. The pharmacist who introduced herself to me yesterday, who has met me on more than one occasion previously, helpfully produced another drug schedule for me, which misses off my MST. The person trained in ladies bits and pieces was correct, I have to take blood thinners because of my girth. I mentioned this to the pharmacist; she looked uncomfortable.

The schedule, by the way, is this:

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If you cannot be bothered to work it out, I am taking 28 pills a day, plus mouthwash four times a day and an injection once a day. It’s your standard holiday first aid kit. The anti-sickness makes me rattle. I have rarely taken it before as a routine drug, but as the nausea is supposed to be so horrific, I am more than happy to take the precaution.

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Because of all of this, I am rattling and toxic. After all, this is just the stuff going into me outside of the clinic.

Did I mention all this was free?

EJB x

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Bruised

WARNING – THIS BLOG CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES INCLUDING STRETCH MARKS, WHICH SOME READERS MAY FIND OFFENSIVE.

I am quite thankful that my current treatment does not result in me permanently looking like somebody who is fond of heroin. My girth probably assists with this too if I am honest and adhering to stereotype. As I am not constantly being cannulated (once every four weeks does not equate to constantly), my arms are not constantly covered in multiple bruises. Again, I repeat that for this small mercy, I am thankful.

Cannulas go in your arms and everybody sees my arms. Back on PADIMAC, everybody could see that my arms they were always covered in bruises at various stages of decay. Those wrist ones take an age to heal. These days I am usually limited to a small black dot on my left arm where my blood is taken weekly. The lack of visible bruises makes me sexy. Sex on legs.

Unfortunately, I still have to inject myself everyday. I do this in my stomach, specifically the left hand side of my stomach. The right side of my stomach is saved for Velcade. I would not want to get the Fragmin involved with the Velcade because I am sure I would just make those Velcade scars worse. Now, for those of you unsure what I am taking about, revisit this blog. It tells you what Velcade does. https://ejbones.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/so-long-velcade/.

Last week’s Velcade injection was on my waistband, which was not delightful. It was itchy and swollen, and just unpleasant. It actually made me look at my stomach, which to be honest, I rarely do, because why would I? Other people can look at it. I’d rather look at bums. So, there I was looking at the reflection of my stomach in my dirty mirror, and I was surprised to see a big black blotch of bruise on the left hand side of my stomach. The right, just looks gross, with seven marks in various colours, separated by stretch marks; but I expected this. I never think about the left hand side, despite me fingering it every evening and then stabbing myself with a needle. The size and colour of the bruise is ferocious.

I am sure there is a technique I can employ to limit the bruising. Perhaps being more gentle and less rushed with the daily poke, applying pressure after would prevent some bruising, but to be honest, I cannot be bothered. Doing the injection takes enough time out of my day, I don’t want to give it any more. It, is My Myeloma. Anyway, the Medically Trained People told me that bruising was perfectly normal and it is just what happens.

So the point of this blog, is just to let you know that I am living with a big fat bruise on my big fat stomach. My bruise will be with me for as long as I have to inject myself everyday. In the grand scheme of things, it is the least of my worries.

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A Month’s Supply

I am used to shoving drugs down my gob. Prior to my diagnosis, I was rather terrible at it, which the multi-vitamin tablets with a sell by date of March 2010, I found in my drawer would testify. I am now pretty good at remembering. I may have forgotten one or two doses after PADIMAC ended, but on reviewing the bag of drugs I was given yesterday for VTD, forgetting is not going to be possible. There are a lot of drugs and I fear I am going to have to be stringent with the timetable. I hate a timetable. It is day two and I am already behind schedule with the steroids. I would have liked to have taken them three hours ago. I’ll pay for that tonight.

My name is Emma Jane Jones and I am a drugs fiend. Apparently.

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The above is my month’s supply of drugs. Well, 28 days to be precise. The pile contains all my VTD meds bar the Velcade, which I get to go to the clinic for once a week. The bag itself contains 502 pills and 20 pre-made injections. I also have a further drug left over from PADIMAC, which I also have to take three times a week.

I just did a quick calculation in my head and I do not have enough syringes for 28 days. I will need to sort that. For this incredibly interesting exercise, that though is by the by. Honestly, this blog is so interesting, I am setting you up for a day of fun.

Now you have been warned, I am imagining that my daily drug routine is going to look something like this. Brace yourself.

I wake up, stretch, look at my phone and take one Lansoprazole to protect my stomach with a bit of water. Wait for 30 minutes to an hour before I take two 10mg and a 5mg tablets of MST (morphine), one Aciclovir, which I believe helps to fight of infection and a Allopurinal tablet, which even after a Google search, I do not have the slightest clue what it is for. I know I was told what it’s use was in September. I have since forgotten because the drugs made me, and I have thrown away the piece of paper telling me its purpose in my life.

On Velcade Days and the day after, I also need to take 10 2mg Dexamethasone tablets (steroids, sorry FUCKING STEROIDS!!!). I like to take these as early as possible, so they do not keep me awake. History tells me that they may well still keep me awake.

At some point in the afternoon, I treat myself to another Aciclovir tablet. Three times a week, on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, this will be accompanied by a large glass of water and a Co-Trimoxazole tablet to prevent chest infections.

Around 19:00hrs, I will gently caress the skin around my stomach with an anti-septic wipe before I stab the area with a blood thinner known as Fragmin. This is required because the Thalidomide can cause blood clotting as well as birth defects in babies. You have been warned.

At Bedtime Garden, I then get to finish my day with another Aciclovir, one 30mg and one 5mg tablet of MST and two Thalidomide tablets. Apparently, it is best to take the latter at nighttime because it makes you sleepy. I can confirm that I had no issues with sleep last night, but it was only day one. I will assess over the next week when it is best for me to take this drug. Interesting huh?

So, the survey says that on a good day I am prescribed 12 tablets and an injection. On a Monday and Wednesday this increases by one to 13. On a Friday, which is currently my Velcade Day, I take 23 and the injection. On a Saturday, I take 22 pills.

It’s nothing really is it?

Well, I also have in my Drug Drawer some Domperidome, an anti sickness pill, that I can take as and when required and the good old faithful Paracetamol.

Remember, you British Tax Payers are paying for all of this and for that I thank you.

Must dash, my stomach is now lined with a fibrous milkshake, so I must take the ‘roids’.

Boom.

EJB x

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The Biopsy

12 months ago, at this time of the day, I would have been deploying Operation Teacup. That however, was my former life, and today I find myself having to have a bone marrow biopsy instead.

My logic tells me that in order to escape the pain that is going to come from the sucking and poking, I need to focus on something. By focusing on it so intently, the pain will evaporate. So, this is a live blog of sorts. My Biopsy as it happens. You are just going to love it. I, on the other hand will not. It is a shame that I now live in a world where sucking and poking are predominantly bad things.

I apologise in advance if what follows is a series of ‘it hurts’ and ‘shits’, but if that is indeed what happens, then that my friend is the reality of having cancer and a limited vocabulary.

11:04 – I am waiting. I was supposed to have a clinic appointment before my biopsy at 10:00hrs. That has not happened. There is nothing like waiting to build anticipation. This is like waiting in the queue for Nemesis… Have I peed enough? What happens if I pee myself? Yep, just like the queue for Nemesis.

11:15 – ten more minutes to wait, the room is not free. I’m having a Dip Dab.

11:31 – I am now on a bed, in the foetal position, lying on my left. My doctor is from Spalding. Or his parents live in Spalding. His shoes are from Springfields. True story. I am being made comfortable.

11:33 – There is wet stuff is on my back.

11:35 – I am flinching, but the local anaesthetic has just gone in. The bad stuff starts soon, but I am quite at ease. I still think I may fart. Thank goodness for the baggy trousers.

11:38 – I have now had the third dose of anaesthetic, this one made my body shake a great deal.

11:41 – there is classical music playing, it’s like having a massage. Or at least that is what I am imagining.

11:42 – pushing is happening. There is lots of hand movement going on. It’s like he is making a cocktail for James Bond. Apparently, by bones are tough. I was told this before.

11:43 – the juices are coming out. A pain down the leg, a short, sharp pain. It’s fine. I am hardcore.

11:44 – three samples have now been taken. Just to confirm, there is a big needle sticking out if my back. I would take a picture, but I don’t want to put him off.

11:46 – more pushing and pulling. I just said ‘ouch’. The fluid has been taken. It is now time for the bone. I get more anaesthetic for this. Great.

11:48 – I can feel the pushing in my toes. I think it is apple corer time.
Fuck a duck. Thank god for the drugs. There is vigorous movement happening behind me. The bone is now coming out. It is out.

11:50 – so yep, that didn’t work. He is going back in. Come on bones. Come out. My knees are now as high as I can get them, I am sure I look foul. Vigorous shaking. Very vigorous shaking and pushing. Damn, it hurts. Oh God. My right foot feels like it is on fire. Why is it burning? Fire. Actual fire. I was smoking hot for 15 seconds. Finally.

Hurray. It has worked.

11:53 – right, all done. The fire has gone. Apparently, it’s because of a nerve thing. That’s medical talk from the Medically Trained People.

11:54 – it may hurt in a few hours time, like a bruise. There is a plaster on my back.

12:02 – I have just had to lie down for 10 minutes to prevent bleeding. During this time, my doctor kindly explained my samples to me. They looked something like this:

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Juicy. If you ever wondered what my bodily fluids looked like, they look like this.

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The drops indicate that this is bone marrow cells and not your bog standard blood. Fact.

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All of that for the teensiest bit of blurry bone.

During this time I was also able to look at the size of the needles. They were something else. Actually something else. They were also covered in a healthy dose of my juice.

12:23 – I already feel like I have been punched in the hip.

And then it is done.

EJB x

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Nerves

Way back on the 20 August 2012, I do not recall being nervous about my first bone marrow biopsy. At that time, my world had just exploded and I was in so much pain I needed assistance going to the toilet. I considered the biopsy to be the least of my worries and to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. It was unpleasant, but not bad. I didn’t even bruise. I think the Doctor found it more stressful than I did for I did not need to mop my brow during. I just, for some unknown reason, said on repeat the names of all high security prisons in alphabetical order split by function. It came to me in a dream.

Now, on the 7 March 2013, I am nervous about my next bone marrow biopsy. The reason I know I am nervous is that it is 05:30hrs and I have been awake for 90 minutes desperately trying not to think about the bizarre sucking sensation I am going to experience in approximately six hours time. I am also preoccupied with the thought that my nerves might make me audibly pass wind during the procedure. Of course, that is if I were capable of passing wind, which I am not. Everybody knows I am an elegant lady and us Elegant Ladies do not do that sort of thing.

I am annoyed with myself for being nervous. My thinking around this procedure akin to being kicked by a horse, is that it is a necessity, and thus any apprehension needs to be pushed aside and thrown away in my newly emptied kitchen bin, because it is a reality of having myeloma. I remember my Doctor on the 20 August apologising for having to do my biopsy and my response was simple, it was “well, you have to don’t you?”.

So, somewhere in the next few hours, I will relocate my can-do attitude and just let them get on with it. I was adamant that I did not need sedation for this, because I want to experience it, so, I really must just crack on.

I am a Hardcore Mofo.

Oh gosh, it is definitely a day for lipstick and unfortunately, a day for the baggy trouser.

EJB x

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The Harvest Festival

Today was Harvest Day. Or when I woke this morning, Day One of the Harvest.

If I were to have taken the time to have written a blog yesterday, it would have been full of apprehension and fear. I have felt unwell all week, I haven’t slept properly for two, and the prospect of having a line put in my leg, staying overnight at the hospital and general failure did not appeal to me. A whole lot of frustration over something that was completely out of my hands.

This morning I woke up nice and early, after two and a half hours sleep, got dressed and checked my overnight bag. I was prepared. I had slippers, an eye mask and herbal tea. Every part of me had prepared myself for the fact that something would go wrong today. I think being out of treatment for so long, and then the illness last week knocked my confidence. Plus, I suppose I had to be told about all the bad things that could happen in case they did happen, and up to today, all the bad stuff I was told would happen, apart from the ruptured spleen, had happened.

To the Macmillan Centre I went, arriving ten minutes late at 08:40hrs to be greeted by Mamma Jones, who had made the early journey from Peterborough to be my servant for the day. I made my way up to the fourth floor and set up base on my bed for the day. My bloods were taken, and I was told that I had to wait for the results before they went ahead with my stem cell harvest. There is a more technical term for today’s procedure, but I cannot be bothered to locate the paperwork under my bed. So, we waited, and waited a little bit more and then we were informed that it was a Go. I repeat, a go.

From this point onwards, everything was easy. Having anticipated the worst, everything that came today was a pleasant surprise and a nice warm reminder that I can take anything the Medically Trained People and My Myeloma throw at me. I have been doing it thus far, I do not know why I doubted myself. I certainly do not know why I cried in the shower this morning.

The needles went in my arms with the greatest of ease, after a little assistance from a bucket of hot water, a heated blanket and local anaesthetic. The fives hours I was hooked up to the machine flew by, partly because we had Scrabble, and partly because I was inundated with messages. I even managed to swallow my pride and use the commode at 13:15hrs, despite my utter hatred of the wretched things. Seriously, how am I expected to look somebody in the eye who has to handle my urine. My waste. On the latter point, nature was helped by the loose fitting trousers I purchased and the technical sounds coming from the machine. It prevented stage fright. Oh, and I really shouldn’t forget the nursing staff. They made my day much, much easier. No, they made my day better.

I was as comfortable as I could be, thanks to Mum and EMan. The machine works in such a way that I was unable to move my right arm for over five hours, and my left arm was not free either, for that too was connected to a cannula. Right arm out. Left arm in.

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So, my blood was departing my body from the big fat needle in my right arm, going through several tubes attached to the machine, that extracted the stem cell and then return most of what was left back to my body via the cannula in my left arm. The machine itself was fascinating. One of my nurses said that it reminded her of E.T, Mamma Jones said it reminded her of Short Circuit and I just spent the day thinking of Innerspace featuring Dennis Quaid. Hollywood was omnipresent today, it would seem.

Technology is bloody brilliant, the machine costs I am told, upwards of £50k, and it seemed to know what it was doing. At least I hope it did.

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The procedure was not without side effects, of course it wasn’t. We are talking about me after all. For the harvest, the patient, that would be me by the way, is given a drug to prevent blood clotting. Somehow, I am told, this causes one’s calcium levels to reduce, which I was warned causes buzzing in strange places. My buzzing, and buzzing really is the only word to describe it, was in my lips. Maybe a vibrating buzz would be more appropriate. I also had some buzzing in my right hand and feet, but with hindsight, that was probably just pins and needles from lying still for so long. The calcium deficiency was treated initially by pills that tasted just like the dipper from a sherbet Double Dip. They didn’t work, so the big guns had to be used and I was put on a drip. Afterwards, I decided to self medicate with a strawberry milkshake, a smoothie and a yogurt. It’s basically the same thing. If I were a vegan, I would have had to turn to Ribena.

Fast forward to 15:45hrs, and I was told that my body had decided to behave. I did not need to come back to the hospital for further harvesting, because E.T. had managed to collect 4.2 million stem cells. This pleased me.

And that was my day… I have crawled just that little bit closer to my transplant. The provisionally start date for which is the 27 March, but more on that tomorrow. Right now, I want sleep and oh boy, do I need it.

EJB x

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Prick

I am sure that there are many people out there who associate being poked by a foreign object a good thing. Maybe even a fun thing, depending on what the foreign object is attached to. In the world of medicine, and specifically to me, in the world of cancer treatment, being poked by a foreign object is not usually considered a pleasurable experience. Fortunately for me, thus far in my journey, the poking has been undertaken by Medically Trained People.

Not anymore.

Next week I will start a course of treatment whereby I have to inject myself everyday for ten days. The gift that is self medicating started early for me, just a few minutes ago to be precise. I have asked to receive an extra medicine not usually given to patients preparing for a transplant. I have asked for a drug that I am sure is really technical and stuff, but essentially, the drug puts my body into a kind of fake menopause. I simply cannot wait for the side effects from that to kick in. I understand that one of the side effects will make it difficult for me to get a good old poking the way nature initially intended. That though, is by the by. Nature sucks. Medical advancements and Vaseline are where it is at.

What is praying on my mind, right now, is pricks. The pricks of a needle. It was not a good thing for Sleeping Beauty was it? Well, a handsome prince did rescue her at the end, but generally, the lesson I gained from that particular fairy tale was that needles are bad. Real bad.

I know there are many people in this world who have to inject themselves everyday. Knowing this fact, meant that I had to find the will to do my injections myself. It is hardly fair of me to ask others to do the injections for me, as daunting as it may be for me to stand in my kitchen with a needle and syringe aimed at my gut. It would be a lie if I said that injecting myself did not scare me. Anybody who saw me build up the courage to do the first injection would see that I was afraid. I made up the medicine, which by the way was no easy feat, then stood with a timer, targeting the needle, then removing it, then targeting it, and then removing it, then targeting it, and then removing it before I could stab myself. It was not an attractive sight for I was pinching my flab with my left hand and directing the syringe with the right.

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A complicated medical procedure

As it turned out, it was not that bad. I am sure as the week progresses, I will find it easier and easier.

It’ll never be a trip to the cinema.

EJB x

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