Friday, July 11, 2008


One thing I thought cancer might do for me was take away my fear of needles. I always hated them, in any setting. Never worry that I might become a junkie, I always said: the first time I poised that syringe over my delicate inner elbow, I would definitely be scared straight.

I became pretty stoic during the 4 months of chemo (I did not have a port or a pic line--it was a new needle in my left hand, every time; we managed to keep the same vein going for a long time before it threw in the towel and said "find someone else!"), even though I never reached truly blasé. I always asked the lab techs to "stick me" while I wasn't looking; I whimpered a little--no, a lot--when, toward the end of chemo, Lilia had to poke around for a while to find a cooperative vein. But still. I didn't have knots in my stomach beforehand, I wasn't truly freaked out, and it all seemed pretty under control. I figured it was a new era for me, needle-wise.

But it didn't last.

This has been quite the needle week for me. I had to have some fillings repaired by the dentist, and that required numbing my right jaw. I had them give me nitrous oxide while he administered the shots. Of course, I probably could have handled it, but I was a whole lot happier floating several feet away from my body while that needle was probing around my jaw hinge.

And today, I had an MRI. Now, some of you may be thinking that organizing this post around needles is a pretty back-handed way to tell you I had an MRI, so let me be informative. In late spring, I was trying on some clothes when I realized that I had increased a bra cup size on the left (that's the non-cancer side), even though I hadn't really gained any weight. And then I started noticing some aching that didn't seem to correspond with a hormonal cycle. So I called Christy, who said "It's almost certainly nothing," but endorsed the idea of my visiting one of the surgeons out of an abundance of caution.

I saw a new surgeon (Mel has moved on from USC--though I have to admit, I might track him down if I ever need a scalpel wielded again). He did a thorough exam, said it was probably nothing, but felt some lumpiness in the same area where my gynecologist found some lumpiness in December '06. At that time, I had an MRI and ultrasound, and though for a while the medical team thought there might be something to biopsy (again, out of the "abundance of caution"), by the time they went in with a hollow needle, there was no spot looking suspicious anymore.

Well, since it was lumpy again in that area--and I should mention, I am apparently just an extra-lumpy kind of gal--he ordered a new ultrasound. Which was completely, 100% clear and normal. But (always with these abundances of caution) he also ordered an MRI. Which I had today. Which I'll find out about sometime soon. Which I'll let you know about.

And which necessitated another needle--this one in my arm, for an IV push of "contrast dye," which helps illuminate all the booby tissue for better diagnosis. Anyway, this time I was anxious about the needle just like in the old days before chemo. It was like that whole toughening-up experience never happened. Funny. I have been really happy for the "reset" on so many things (getting my hair back, getting my health back, getting my life back). Too bad I also have to get back some things I didn't really miss.


winecat said...

You are a much braver woman than I. As soon as I found out I had to have chemo I got a port installed. Can you say chicken?

Turned out to be extra handy when I had a ruptured bowel and need emergency surgery, liquid "food", antibiotics and pain meds via iv.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I've never thought of you as an ELKOG. I'll have to reconsider.