It's now Saturday morning, 1-5-02. It's only been a couple
of days since my last update, but a new development made it kinda
necessary, at least in my mind. And since I'm running the show here,
an update it is!
You may recall that in the last update, I had a new pain. This one
is in my leg. I wrote:
"I got a new pain to replace it though. This one started yesterday in
my left leg. I can feel it on the inside of my thigh from just below
my groin to just above the knee. It feels like I pulled a muscle or
something, though I don't know how I'd do that unless I over exerted
myself on our little shopping trip the other day. It hurts when I
stand or walk on it, so I'm just kind of sitting or laying down mostly,
taking an Ibuprofen now and then, and hoping it goes away within a few
days. If not, I guess I'll have to see the doctor about it and hope
he has a solution. With any luck, I'll have insurance again by then!"
This new leg pain started when I woke up on January 2nd. It wasn't
too bad at that time, and I thought maybe I strained it somehow. I
figured it would go away within a couple of days and decided to wait,
watch and not worry too much about it. I took an Ibuprofen to help
with the pain, but it didn't seem to help much. Well, it wasn't too
bad, so I still wasn't too worried. Throughout the day it got a
little more intense, but still not too bad.
The next day, January 3rd, it was a little worse, and I tried more
Ibuprofen. It still didn't seem to help, but again, the pain wasn't
yet a 10 out of 10, though it did seem to get worse as the day went
on. Mom wanted to call the doctor right away, but I decided to give
it one more day and see how it went. The same day, I got informed
that my medical insurance is back in good standing - A HUGE relief!
The next day, January 4th, I woke up in so much pain I could hardly think
straight. The Ibuprofens weren't doing anything to relieve it, and I
knew that if it followed it's regular pattern of getting worse as the day
went on, sometime that evening I'd be on my way to the emergency
room. So I called mom and told her to make the call to my doctor and
see if he could fit me in for a look-see.
The doctor's office called me a little while later with some particular
questions like, is the area warm, is it swollen, etc. I reported
that it didn't seem to be warm to the touch and didn't seem any more
swollen than usual. It just hurt like crazy and I could hardly walk
or think anymore with the pain being so intense. I'd had a pretty
rough night's sleep as well, as the pain doesn't really subside all that
much even when I'm not up on that leg, standing or walking. I also
reported that I did notice that there's a lump right in the middle of the
action, but didn't know if it was a swollen lymph node or a lipoma.
I have quite a few lipomas on my arms and legs and have for most of my
life. They are benign lumps of fat just under the skin, and are more
of an inconvenience than anything. When one of them gets big enough
for people to start staring or irritates me in some way, I simply have it
removed. So far, I've had 3 of them removed over the years; Two from
my left arm and one from my right torso, along my rib cage.
Anyway, the nurse I was on the phone with said she'd report the info to my
doctor and call me back to let me know what to do. A short time
later she called back and said he wanted to see me as soon as I could get
there. So I called mom back and she came and got me and we took the
ride out to Ann Arbor to the doctor's office.
He examined my leg and said he wanted an ultrasound of the area to see
what the lump is and to check for blood clots. So off we went to the
building where they do the ultrasounds. It was getting pretty difficult
for me to get around, so I opted for a wheelchair ride instead of more
painful limping at that point.
Oh yeah... During the course of the exam, he noted that I still hadn't got
the stitches out from the biopsy they'd done about two months ago.
We were going to get them out during my last visit to him, but I forgot
all about them, and his last exam didn't get my pants pulled down, so he
never noticed either. Apparently, that was a bad thing. The
skin had grown up around some of the stitches and the nurse that was
assigned to remove them was able to get all but one. The knot on
that one is now below the skin, out of sight, and grown in.
She made arrangements for me to go back to the surgeon that did the
original biopsy and placed the stitches to have him assess the
situation. He would have to determine if the stitch can stay as it
is, or if I need another small operation to remove it. I have to go
see him next Thursday, on January 10th, and we'll see what happens.
Anyway, back to the story. The lady that runs the ultrasound had me
drop trou and get up on the exam table, took one look at my leg and said
she could tell just by looking at it that it was a blood clot and all she
had to do was find it. She really knows her business, because I
couldn't really see anything different about my leg, and I see it all the
She went right to it, and turned the screen towards me so she could
explain to me what she was looking at and what it all meant. As she
scanned my inner thigh, she explained that the dark black round area is my
vein and when she pushed down on it with the scanner, it
collapsed. She said that was good - it's supposed to do
Then she moved the scanner down my leg a little ways and the area we were
looking at went from black to gray. She pushed again and nothing
changed. It didn't collapse. She explained that it's because
we were looking at a clot in the vein (the gray on the screen) that
prevented the collapse, as well as any blood flow.
She moved down the leg and as she did, we saw that most of it had that
same gray color, meaning it was one very long clotted area that ran down
my leg past the knee somewhere. She told me she was sorry to have to
give me the bad news, and I told her I considered it good news; Bad news
would be if they DIDN'T see anything wrong to cause all this pain I was
in. Blood clots can be treated, I reasoned. Also, it wasn't a
swollen, painful lymph node, chock full 'O cancer.
Actually, throughout the whole thing we laughed a bit at some little
comments the two of us were making along the way. She had a great
sense of humor that I really appreciated. It was a little on the
morbid side, like mine, so we got along great.
She called my doctor back with the results and then told me they wanted me
back at his office, so off we went again to see what would happen
next. I was really hoping at that point that I wouldn't end up in
the hospital again, but had a sinking feeling that I would anyway.
Back at the doctor's office, things were closing up for the day.
There was nobody in the waiting room except me and mom, and the windows
were shut at the admissions counter. It may have been my
imagination, but it seemed that some of the lights were out as well.
As the nurse led me down the hall to an examination room she told me they
had a video for me to watch. Thinking back to that dismal video of
cancer patients I'd watched at St. Joseph's during my last stay in the
hospital, I groaned, "It's not going to be depressing, is
it?" She said no, it was to teach me how to give myself
injections. "WHAT??! Injections??! I can't give
myself injections!! Oh, crap!" I thought to myself.
A few minutes later, mom and I were sitting in a darkened examination room
watching a short video on how to self administer a subcutaneous
injection. I was NOT looking forward to ANY of it, but I paid close
attention, sensing I wouldn't be able to get out of it. Mom offered
to come by and give me the injections, as she went to nursing school and
knew all about it. But of course, being the stubborn, independent
guy I am, I was determined to meet this new challenge head on just like
all the rest.
When the video finished, the nurse came back in, needle in hand, and went
over the procedure again briefly. I was kind of hoping I could get
out of doing that first one right then and there in front of her and mom,
but it was pretty obvious that she wanted to make sure I'd be able to do
it, and do it right.
I asked her what I would be injecting myself with, thinking I'd look up
the drug later to add to my growing medical knowledge base. Her
reply: "A needle." LOL! She had a sense of humor
too! Great! I cut up a little more to relieve the stress I was
feeling at poking myself with a needle for the first time ever (and maybe
to delay the event a bit), but the time finally came. She had
everything ready there for me: The needle, the alcohol swab, my bare leg
and enough determination for the both of us. There was only one
thing left to do, so I did it.
As I summoned up the courage to stick myself with a sharp instrument full
of drugs, I recalled a boy from my childhood that had to stick himself a
couple of times a day with insulin because he had diabetes. I
figured if a 12 year old kid could do it, I could too, and stabbed myself
really quick to get it over with.
To my relief and surprise, it didn't even hurt. Not even the tiniest
bit. It turns out that getting over the psychological issue of
sticking myself was the toughest part. I knew from then on I'd be
able to do this with no problem. I administered the drug, pulled out
the needle and mom said she was really proud of me! Hehehehe!
The comment made me feel like a little kid again, but that's ok - I like
anything that makes me feel young again!
I got some booklets about all of it. One goes over how to give
myself an injection, in case I need a refresher. Another is a little
booklet all about Coumadin, the new pill I have to take every day.
The third is all about Deep
Vein Thrombosis, which is the medical term for the blood clot I have
in my leg.
The word "Coumadin" triggered a memory flashback of my
dad. He was on the drug for the last several years of his life to
deal with the lack of blood flow in his legs from his extreme case of
diabetes. His foot turned black and eventually they had to amputate
his leg. He was a fighter too though and had a great sense of humor
he kept up throughout his ordeal with it all. I guess that's where I
get it from. It gave me a renewed determination. Thanks again
dad - wherever you are.
The nurse explained that I would have to inject myself twice a day, twelve
hours apart, and take a Coumadin
(Warfarin is the generic) pill at bedtime. She explained I'd need to
do this for as long as six months. Six months?! Wait a
minute... what about the pain associated with all of this?! She
assured me that it would subside over the next few days.
The drug in the needle is Lovenox.
It comes pre-measured in the needle, which makes it a little easier for me
to deal with. She suggested that we get the prescription filled
there in the hospital's pharmacy because most drug stores don't stock
it. Being in a needle, it's a liquid drug that doesn't keep forever
and is rather specialized, so there's not a big demand for it at the local
We took her advise, drove around to the front of the hospital and mom went
in to get the prescriptions filled. I opted to wait in the car and
read the booklets I'd gotten, being too wore out and in pain to walk
around anymore if I didn't have to.
She came out a little flustered. It turns out that the pharmacy in
the hospital doesn't take my insurance! (Here we go again!)
She had to pay about $300 to get it filled, and they only had five of the
Lovenox needles in stock, so she couldn't even get the whole prescription
Remember way back, when I first got to Detroit and admitted to U of M
hospital and they didn't take my insurance, so I got transferred to St.
Joseph's hospital which did? Can you believe that St. Joseph's
hospital takes my insurance, but their pharmacy doesn't?!
Unbelievable!! U of M's pharmacy probably does! This whole
insurance game is one messed up enterprise! Now I know first hand
why so many people are screaming about revising the health care system!
Anyway, when we got home, mom called the local drug store, explained the
situation, and they said they'd get the drugs stocked and have them by
Monday, which is perfect since that's when I'll need them. I've got
the five, so I'll inject twice on Saturday, twice on Sunday, one on Monday
morning and then get the rest of the prescription from the local drug
store that takes my insurance that day, so I'll have the second one of the
day when it's time. Plus it won't cost another $300 or more!
On Monday, January 7th, I have to go back to the doctor's office to get my
blood drawn so he can adjust the amount of Coumadin I take so it will do
just what he wants it to do. He'll do that periodically till he gets
the amount down just right for me.
The next day, Tuesday, January 8th, I get my first chemotherapy
treatment. They said it's not going to be a problem doing the chemo
in conjunction with these new drugs.
Then, two days later, on Thursday, January 10th, I've got a date with the
surgeon that did my biopsy to assess the buried suture problem.
It's shaping up to be a pretty busy week, I guess. Well, at least I
won't be bored!
Next: Chemo Man