A Perfect Storm, Or A Day in the Life of a Cancer Survivor

“Survivor” has a ring of past tense to it. Really, it should be “cancer surviving” — it is an active, everyday process. For example, today was “Scan Day;” a day dedicated to running back and forth between the doctor’s office and hospital, through a very carefully orchestrated series of appointments. Scan Day goes like this:

11:30 – Blood draw & IV start

11:40 – Get CT contrast and head to hospital

12:00 – Check in at hospital

12:30 – Nuclear injection

1:00 – Return to doc’s office for more contrast

1:15 – CT Scan

2:00 – Grab lunch (unofficial but critical stop en route)

3:00 – Bone Scan

This week I am nine years NED (no evidence of disease). We play this scheduling game at least once a year. Not only is it beautiful in its masterful use of time, but it also keeps me running at a pace that prevents me from thinking. That, coupled with my “cancer persona” make for a fine day.

Until today…

11:45 – Things are running late with the IV, so I pop over to imaging to get my contrast, which requires a quick consultation about when I’ll be back from the hospital. Drink….

11:50 – The phlebotomist is still running late. He has never, ever run late. He is, in my humble opinion, THE man. Warm, thoughtful, kind, and great at getting into my less-than-cooperative veins. But he did what he always does, and by 12:05 I was off and running.

12:15 – My husband drops me off at the hospital to get my nuclear injection. Remarkably, only 15 minutes late. I’ve got 45 minutes before I have to be back at the doc’s office, so I figured I’d just make up the time here and we’re golden. Right? Not right…

12:30 – I mention to the receptionist that I have 30 minutes to be back at my doctor’s office and she assures me she will “let someone know.”

12:45 – I mention to the receptionist that I need to leave now. She explains that she is waiting on orders from my doctor, which should have been submitted but were not. Knowing there is a $3000+ injection with my name on it, I sit back down and call the folks at the doctor’s office to let them know I’m going to be late.

12:55 – We find out that person who needs to send over the orders is at lunch. I sit back down.

1:15 – A hospital doc agreed to sign off on my orders, and with my IV already started, getting my injection was easy. I rush out to my husband, who is waiting in the car at the curb, and we’re off to doctor.

1:30 – Whilst dropping me off at the doctor, I place my lunch order, which my husband runs out to pick up for me. I can’t eat before my scan, and I’m starting to get light-headed.

1:35 – I’ve waited too long so extra contrast for me. I remind everyone that I need to be BACK at the hospital by 3:00, since my clock is running on the nuclear injection. They promise to do the best they can, but they have got to get the contrast through my system or there is no point.

1:40 – Lights flicker, then go out. We wait for the backup generator to kick in. Remarkably, it fails too. But…remember Mr. Phlebotomist? True to form he checked each and every room to ensure all was well and everyone remained calm.

1:50 – Lights still out and I can’t help but think about all the people who were in the middle of chemo transfusions and are now sitting in the dark.

1:55 – It occurs to the CT tech that I can get the scan done back at the hospital, and as a joint patient who is heading there in an hour anyway, it should be easy.

2:10 – Mission accomplished! I’m headed to the hospital with a virtual stop watch, stuck between the bone scan tracer injected at 1:15 and the CT contrast that I drank at 1:40.

2:25 – We return to the hospital and no one knows quite what to do with me. Eventually they figure out my registration and 15 minutes later I’m headed for a CT Scan. Tick tock.

2:50 – Waiting for my CT scan and starting to feel dizzy, I remind them that I need to be in nuclear imaging in 10 minutes. I wait.

3:00 – Called for the CT. They assure me it will only take 5 minutes.

3:20 – Twenty minutes later, and just as I expected, my “five minute” CT scan is done. My IV is finally removed and I am ushered in the direction of Nuclear Medicine.

3:21 – As important as this scan is, I march my husband into the foyer to inhale at least some of my sandwich before I faint.

3:25 – I arrive in Nuclear Medicine to check in. I’m stunned that I am only 25 minutes late, but frustrated that the desk is closed. Back to the reception, where they now know me by name.

3:28 – Someone calls back to Nuclear Medicine to let them know I will be in the waiting room. For the next three minutes, my husband and I sit, and enjoy our lunch.

3:31 – Our final destination: the bone scan. The good news here is that I’m short, and so the scan takes about 15-20 minutes less for me that it does for the average patient. Here I get a warm blanket, and the company of my husband. It’s all good….

The fact is that, all in all, we got what we needed to do done. Little more stress than necessary, but no one lost their cool and I expect to still have my test results by tomorrow afternoon. Moreover, sitting in the car at 4:03, I realize that in my head I had scheduled this until 4:00. Not too shabby!

Welcome to the cusp of the next Mercury retrograde. Now what are the chances this will properly post?

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 06:40:32

    A couple of things strike me as I read your post…you are NINE years out…you have a husband by your side. You are one very lucky woman.


  2. TalkAboutHealth
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 11:05:22

    Wow, busy day:) Great job keeping your cool!


  3. Jan Hasak
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 20:58:10

    I agree with Holly – nine years out and a husband who loves you. I love how you described your “scan day.” I could really relate.


  4. Lori
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 21:16:49

    Holly & Jan,

    I concur!! Trust me, I count my blessings each and every day…the are all a gift!


  5. Andrea
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 23:10:04

    YOU are a gift, my friend.


  6. Kathi
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 14:31:04

    Holy cow, Lori! Nine years out & you still have to go through all this, huh?? It’s endless…I hope you had a nap and a fabulous dinner after all that!! If I have time after my crappola, I do a little ‘retail therapy.’ 😉


    • Lori
      Aug 02, 2011 @ 15:15:16

      Insane, isn’t it? But bear in mind my scans are being driven by some funky tests and this is NOT the typical 9-year-out fare. Your results may vary!


  7. Betsy
    Aug 05, 2011 @ 08:45:33

    I wish that people who think “oh you are 9 years out” (or for me 3 years) that we should “put it in the past, it’s over and done with”, should read your so beautiful description of a day in the life of…. I don’t have all those scans yet but scheduling can become a nightmare and they forget that you, the patient, haven’t eaten even though they have been unavailable during THEIR lunch break. Well written.


  8. Paul
    Aug 06, 2011 @ 09:13:47

    I support so many people with cancer and people who are X years out. But until reading your blogpost, I didn’t have a sense of what days like this are like. Thanks for opening my eyes. I felt a bit of the running and worry and stress of the day just by reading it through.


  9. Amy J Volkers (@AstroInsights)
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 18:36:13

    Congrats to you on all of this! And as an Astrologer for over 20 years, I was thinking as I read it, “oh, wow, you’re getting all this done in the Mercury retrograde preview”… amazing that it all came together as well as it did 🙂 I just started my radiation yesterday (8/8) and am wondering how the retrograde is going to impact things lol….


  10. elynjacobs
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 10:50:37

    One way or another, cancer never really leaves us. We might hear NED, or cancer free or whatever, but we will always wonder, and anything suspicous, we have a day like Lori’s. Lori, I might say, you are my hero for getting through that day without landing in jail…I for sure, would have strangled someone. Well wishes for all….elyn


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