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          Saturday, 2-09-02, and yesterday I got my CAT Scan  The doc wanted it done from my abdomen down to my leg, in order to see if there's anything going on in there that we don't know about yet that could be preventing the blood clot in my leg from dissolving as quickly as it should be, and causing me all this continued pain in my left leg.

          I'm going to tell you all about that, but first let me bring you up to speed since my last update.                          

          The morning after my 2nd chemo treatment, I woke up and immediately got sick, but it really wasn't all that bad, compared to some of the hangovers I've experienced.    A little while later, I felt nauseated and took a Torecan for the first time to relieve it, and everything was good again.  

          Well, since then, I haven't gotten sick or even nauseated at ALL!  Totally COOL!! Add to that, I still haven't experienced ANY hair loss at all, and I just gotta say, this chemo thing hasn't been so bad after all, especially compared to the way I expected it to be!  In fact, other than being more tired than usual, this has been really EASY to deal with so far!

          Now, I realize all that could change as I get more chemicals put into my body with each treatment, and I recognize that many others have had a much tougher time with it.  But for any of you that may ever have to go through this someday, just know that you won't necessarily have a bad time with it either, so don't worry too much about it, k?

          Besides, over the last couple of months I've seen lots of other people at the cancer center getting their chemo treatments too, and none of them are freaking out either, even the ones wearing wigs and hats.  I think most of it is the not knowing part that's so scary.  After you get one or two, it's easier to deal with, 'cause then you know what to expect and you realize it's all gonna be ok after all. 

          That was last Tuesday and Wednesday.  The next few days, I mostly just rested a lot, took my medicines, and rolled around the house in my wheelchair.  On one of those days (I forget which one exactly) I got a call from the doctor's office, telling me that I could stop taking the Lovenox shots again, which was cool.

          As I took the Morphine pills twice a day, as prescribed, I felt a little less pain in my leg every day, and on Monday, 2-4-02, I was able to get out of the chair long enough to hobble and limp to the bathroom and kitchen on my own two feet again.  After each of those short trips, the pain flared up again for 15 or 20 minutes, then would slowly subside again.

          The next day, Tuesday, 2-5-02, I had an appointment for another blood draw, and decided not to use the wheelchair at all, if I didn't have to.

          The blood draws are walk-in type things for me, rather than an appointment, so I can just go get them any time, as long as I'm there the day I'm supposed to get them.  So, we decided to go in the afternoon, and mom came to get me about 2:00 or so.  I made it down the front steps and to the car without too much trouble at all, and we were on our way.

          We decided we were hungry, so mom and I stopped off at a Burger King for a juicy, flame-broiled whopper, OUR way!  Hehehe!  What happened next was a textbook example of how NOT to run a FAST food restaurant...

          We pulled into the parking lot and saw a long line of cars backed up at the drive-thru.  Even when we go through the drive-thru's at these places, we always park to eat anyway, cause it's just not safe to eat and drive at the same time.  So this time we decided to just go in and have a seat at a table with our lunch.

          Inside, the line only had about 5 people in it, and most of them had already ordered and were just waiting for their food.  I ordered a #2 with cheese, mom ordered chicken nuggets, I think, and I sprung for the tab this time.

          My leg was still feeling pretty weak and aching a little, so I decided to have a seat while mom waited at the counter for the food.  I hobbled on over to one of the hard, plastic booths and had a seat, facing the street.  I was ok with short walks and standing for a minute or two, but that was about as far as I could go with it at a time before needing to rest it.

          As I sat there watching the traffic go by, it seemed to be taking a long time, so I turned to see where she was.  I figured by now she'd be filling the drinks or something.  To my surprise, she was exactly in the spot where she was when I left her, and so were the rest of the people in line.  Some of them looked angry, some a bit amused.  All were obviously running out of patience.

          Behind the counter, BK workers (especially the manager - a short, bald man with sideburns that didn't fit the picture)  were rushing back and forth like mad and getting absolutely nothing accomplished!  Orders were all messed up, folks weren't getting what they ordered and paid for, fries weren't ready, the drive thru line was getting longer and slower, stuff was getting dropped on the floor, then they were taking the time to pick it up and throw it away - it was a total madhouse!  They were even to the point of frustration where they were throwing burgers in the trash if they weren't part of someone's order!

          This went on, while mom waited in line and I sat in the booth, for nearly 20 minutes, before she finally had a tray of food in her hand!  As she went back up to get some ketchup, I unwrapped my burger and found it wasn't what I ordered.  (What a surprise!)  So, having rested long enough, I hobbled on up to the counter, plopped it down and announced that it was supposed to be a #2.  The manager threw it in the trash, shouted out the order for a #2 and rushed over to straighten out someone else's order.

          I waited there with the appropriate scowl on my face, so they'd hurry, and mom came up beside me to see why I was at the counter instead of sitting in the booth.  I told her I got the wrong burger and that I was up there to get the right one.  She said I should sit down and she'd wait for it, but I told her it was my turn, and I'd get it myself.  She was just trying to help get me off my feet, but fast food places that can't get a simple order right are one of my pet peeves, so I waited, ready to pick a fight!  (Can you believe this from Mr. Happy?!)

          Instead of a fight, I got my burger, more fries (on the house) and was on my way back to my seat a minute later.  While we ate, mom gave me the details of what had been going on while she was up there waiting for the food, and we talked about fast food places and how they suck at getting simple orders right.  All in all, our BK experience took nearly an hour.  So much for "fast" food!

          Found this little news item on the internet:

          The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 12:50 A.M., flashed a gun and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

          Hmmm... I wonder if it's the same Burger King?

          We got to the cancer center for the blood draw just after 4:00.  That's when I found out that the office that does the blood draws closes at 4:00, meaning I was too late.  I blamed BK, and the lady there told me that I could go over to the Reichert building to get my blood drawn instead, because that location doesn't close.  It's there in the hospital complex, so we drove around to that particular building and I walked in while mom waited in the car.  Blood draws don't take long, so she figured I'd be right back out.

          This place wasn't like the cancer center at all.  It was big and very impersonal.  There were several windows with women behind them that process paperwork, a large waiting area with lots of chairs and a TV playing something totally uninteresting up in the corner of the room.  A couple of dozen people were waiting their turn and there was a lot of activity going on.  They took my red and orange cards, and I had a seat.

          About 15 minutes later, someone came out from behind the scenes and called my name.  I followed her back to a little booth, offered my arm, and she finished the blood draw in short order.  She then handed me back my red card, which now had a bright, florescent green dot-shaped sticker on it with a number.  I told her I needed the orange card back as well, and she asked, "What orange card?"  "The one I handed the lady at the counter along with this red one." I said, holding up the red card.

          She looked confused, and I explained about the orange card that tells what particular blood tests need to be conducted per the doctor (In my case, a PT test to assess the Coumadin levels) and how I came to have it in the first place, how I use it at the cancer center, why I was getting my blood drawn with her that day instead (BK's fault!), and how I would need the orange card for the next time I get my blood drawn at the cancer center.  She looked even more confused, and headed off to find a supervisor.  I followed, and was soon explaining the whole story once again, this time to the supervisor.

          The supervisor was a short, thin, pinch-faced woman with a snooty attitude who obviously didn't want to spend too much of her busy time giving me the brush-off.  Her glasses were too big and fancy for her face and her hair was like that of a disco queen.  It looked like she was working way too hard to appear 27, instead of the 45 that she actually was.  She told me, matter-of-factly (like it was none of my business), that they were discontinuing the orange cards hospital-wide, were taking them away from everyone as they get presented, and that the green dot on my red card had replaced the information of the orange card.

          Suppressing the urge to choke her, I instead forced a smile and thanked her for the explanation.  I had a feeling in my gut that something wasn't quite right, and that I should insist on pursuing it somehow, but I wasn't sure which direction to go with it.  So I limped back out to the car and we headed home.

          The next morning, Wednesday, 2-6-02, I got a phone call from the doctor's office, asking what it says on my orange card.  (I must be psychic...)  "They took my orange card", I said.  "WHO took your orange card?!" she wanted to know.  I explained what happened the day before, and how I didn't have an orange card anymore, but had a green dot instead.  I blamed BK again.

          She said that they hadn't drawn for the PT test (the whole point of the blood draw), so I'd have to get another one.  I told her I had to get a CAT Scan on Friday, and asked if that would be soon enough, or did I have to go get the blood draw right away.  She said she'd ask the doctor, came back and said Friday would be fine.  She told me to make sure they specifically draw for the PT test, since I don't have an orange card anymore, and I assured her I would.

          The next couple of days were pretty much uneventful, other than a phone call from the CAT Scan office on Thursday to remind me about my appointment with them for the scan on Friday at 1:50 and to tell me I had to be there at 11:30 and that I was to have nothing to eat or drink after 9:50 AM that day.  I wrote it all down so I wouldn't forget, and that was that.

          On Friday morning, 2-8-02, I woke early and chugged coffee as usual while reading and responding to emails, and reading the latest posts on the forums I frequent.  I decided to wait till about 9:30 to have something to eat, in order to prolong my appetite for the day, so I wouldn't be hungry again till after the CAT Scan.

          Mom called to remind me about all the same things the CAT Scan office had reminded me of the day before, and I assured her that I was on top of the whole thing and would see her later for the trip to Ann Arbor.

          At about 9:30, I had a huge, whopping bowl of leftover macaroni and cheese, one last cup of coffee, and then started my fast.  Mom showed up a little while later and we hit the road, headed for the hospital.  She dropped me at the front door, I limped on in and up to the information desk, and asked the lady there which way to the CAT Scans.  She gave me the directions, and I hobbled off to find it.  Mom was parking the car in the lot, and I turned back to the information desk lady and told her my mom would be in soon looking for where to find me, so just give her the same directions.  She smiled and said, "No problem" and I continued on my quest.

          I made a left, then a right, followed the signs down a long corridor, made another left, followed another long corridor, and finally found the CAT Scans office.  The doggone place was somewhere on the opposite side of the hospital from the front door I'd walked in through, by my reckoning.  It was a long walk, and my leg was aching pretty bad by the time I got there.

          I presented my paperwork to the lady working the admissions counter and she asked about any allergies I might have.  I reported my usual, "None that I know of" and she asked if I wanted my CAT Scan (radioactive - I'd read up on it) solution mixed with water or Kool-Aid.  I chose the Kool-Aid, and she handed me a standard medical questionnaire on a clip board to fill out.  I took it, had a seat and started filling in the blanks and checking things off.  Mom showed up a few minutes later, looking exhausted from the walk, and exclaimed, "Geezzz!  Ya think that was a long enough walk?!"  I agreed entirely and she had a seat next to me.

          A little while later, I was called up to the counter to get my cup of radioactive Kool-Aid, with instructions to have it downed within 20 minutes.  It was about half a quart, by my estimation, and the cup had my name and three times written on it, the first being the current time, the others spaced out at 20 minutes each.  It tasted mostly like Kool-Aid (red), but had a peculiar after-taste that's hard to describe.  It wasn't too bad though, and I didn't have any difficulty or aversion to drinking it down.  Then I returned the cup to the lady at the counter as instructed.

          20 minutes later, I repeated the process, and noticed that the first time had been crossed out on the cup.  20 minutes after that I got a final cup to drink with the same instructions and the 2nd time crossed out, but this time the stuff looked like milk.  It didn't taste bad and I downed it as well.  As I moved, I could hear it sloshing around in my belly, and told mom to have a listen.  I moved back and forth in my chair to slosh it, and we both laughed when she said she could hear it too.

          Another 20 minutes or so went by and my name was finally called to go in to get the actual scan done.  I followed the technician through the waiting room door and into the business area of the unit, and she asked if I wanted to use the restroom first.  After drinking all that stuff they gave me over the last hour and a half, I was glad to hear I was allowed to relieve myself, and did so.  Afterwards, I walked into the room with the CAT Scan machine and took in the surroundings.  

          Walking in the door, I saw to my right the machine itself, to my left a table or counter (can't recall now if it had legs or not) along one wall with paperwork and stuff on it, and most of the back wall was a large-windowed isolation booth full of controls for the technicians.  The rest of the room had a few pieces of hospital paraphernalia here and there, and that was about it.  Everything about the room was all very ultra-clean looking and well lit.

          The machine itself looked like a big (almost to the ceiling), square, white doughnut with a hole in the middle.  Lined up with the hole, ready for insertion, was a thin table-like thing, kind of like a gurney, but it was obviously part of the machine, with mechanical devices supporting it that would allow the technician to remote control it's movement in an X, Y, Z axis.  It was covered with a sheet and had one of those thin hospital pillows near the end away from the machine.  Beyond the pillow, above where my head would be, were two Styrofoam blocks.

          She asked if I had any metal on me and I told her no (I was simply wearing joggers, slippers and a shirt, as usual, so I didn't even have a zipper).  She asked about any allergies, and I reported my usual, "None that I know of."  Then she had me lie down on the gurney and installed an IV in my left arm.  She then had me position my arms above my head, and I found out what the Styrofoam blocks were for: to more comfortably rest my hands on.  As I stared at the ceiling, I noticed they'd removed one of the floodlights from the ceiling that would otherwise have been directly in my eyes, and thought that was pretty nice of them.

          At that point, another technician came into the room and they had a short conversation that involved her needing to go deal with something else.  She gave him a short update on me, introduced us, and he took over.  

          He went to the booth and the gurney elevated up to the height of the doughnut hole.  Then it moved towards it, inserting me in, feet first, till I was in up to about my chest.  The gurney then made short movements in different directions and slid in and out a few times until he was satisfied that I was positioned correctly within the apparatus.

          His voice came over a loudspeaker somewhere in the room (and it was pretty loud!) instructing me to, "Take. A. Breath. And. Hold. It."  I could tell it was his voice, but the way he said it sounded like a mechanical recording, and I thought it was pretty funny.  I did as instructed, and the gurney moved while the machine scanned me from just above the knee to about my chest.  "Breath." he said, so I did.  He reset me where I started, and we did the whole thing again.  Then the gurney pulled back out to about where it was when we started out, but didn't drop down in elevation.

          The fist technician appeared next to me again, inserted a syringe into the port on the IV and told me that what she was injecting might make me feel warm, but I should let her know right away if it felt like it was burning me.  "Okey dokey...", I replied.  "Feeling OK?" she asked.  "No problem", I reported.  "Still OK?  No burning?  How 'bout where the IV is, in your arm?", she queried.  "Nope, nothing burning" I said.  "OK, good", she said as she finished up with the injection and pulled the syringe back out, discarding it.

          "This next one will require you to hold your breath longer", she said.  "If you can't hold your breath that long, it will be ok, just let it out slowly.  OK?"  "No problem", I replied, and readied myself.  As the gurney reinserted me into the machine, I felt parts of my body getting warm.  Most noticeably, my groin, but also parts of my chest, abdomen and throat.  Nothing intense - not burning - just suddenly warmer than usual.

          The loudspeaker fired up again with technician #2's mechanical voice, "Take. A. Breath. And. Hold. It."  (short interval)  "Breath."  (short interval)  "Take. A. Breath. And. Hold. It."  (short interval)  "Breath."  (short interval)  "Take. A. Breath. And. Hold. It."  He'd had me hyperventilate a bit so I'd be able to hold my breath longer, and this time the machine moved slower.  I was starting to think I may have to let it out, when I finally got the instruction, "Breath."  The gurney repositioned back to the original starting point, including the elevation closer to the floor.  

          Technician #2 showed up at my side, removed the IV and he explained that the experience would probably leave me somewhat dehydrated, so I should drink plenty of fluids.  I found out why several hours later: All that radioactive Kool-Aid I drank gave me a case of diarrhea that lasted a couple of days!  The whole time, my stomach and intestines churned and gurgled and made strange noises, as I went back and forth to the bathroom and fought to resist the urge to fart at all costs!

            Anyway, at THAT time, I was feeling fine, and walked on out to the waiting room, gathered my things and headed for the door.  Mom stopped me and said she wasn't interested in taking that long walk all the way back through the hospital and then out to the parking  lot.

          There was another entrance near where we were and she asked the lady working the CAT Scan admissions desk to call for a shuttle to come to that door to pick us up and take us to our car, which was in a lot on the other side of the hospital from where we were.  While she was doing that, I walked on down to the entrance and had a seat to wait for the shuttle.  Mom joined me a couple minutes later, and the shuttle arrived soon after.  A couple minutes later we were in the car and headed for the McAuley Cancer Care Center to get my blood draw.

          Mom dropped me at the front door and I walked on in.  I presented my red card with it's new, affixed, round, bright, fluorescent green, sticker to the young lady that wanted to go skiing last time I saw her.  I explained about the orange card, blaming BK again of course, and said I needed to make sure that I was going to get a PT test, per the doctor.  She told me that it's not part of the information she works with at that desk, and to let the folks that actually draw the blood know.  She handed me the paperwork for them, as usual, and I moved on to where they actually draw the blood, dropping the paperwork at the counter like always.

          There were no other patients there, so I didn't have to wait at all.  The nurse had me take a seat in the blood draw chair, which has a little arm-size table-like apparatus attached to it for setting your arm on, so it will be positioned in a way that makes it easy on both nurse and patient.  I told her the doctor wanted me to make sure that I get a PT test, etc., etc., etc., and blamed BK one last time.  She looked it all up on the computer to confirm it, and said it was all set.  She filled a couple of test tubes full of Buck-juice and I was on my way.

          The next morning, Saturday, 2-9-02, the doctor's office called me with the results from the blood draw: 

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PT: 265

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I.N.R: 2.23

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White Count: 2.7

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Hemoglobin: 13.5

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Platelets: 459

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Coumadin intake stays at 5mg per day

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Get another blood draw in a week

          Okey dokey...  

          What I'm really interested in, is finding out the results of the CAT Scan.  I want to know what's going on with this clot.  I don't feel any pain from it anymore because I'm on Morphine, but I know that if I weren't it'd be killing me right now, and that's kind of a weird thought!  I expect the doctor's office will call me within a few days to have me come in so he can discuss it with me.  As soon as he does, I'll have another update.

          Sorry this update didn't have more laughter and jokes and stuff, but I'm just feeling kinda dopey these days, between the Neurontin, Morphine and the recent chemo treatment.  Basically, I'm just short of asleep at the wheel here while I write this...  Honestly, I spend most of my time in bed, sleeping, these days.

          Maybe this cartoon I made will help a little to put a smile on your face.  (Just click the thumbnail to see it regular-sized):

catscan600.jpg (175256 bytes)

          I feel fine though.  I'm not in any pain.  I'm not at all depressed or anything like that.  I'm able to walk, so the wheelchair is parked again, which is always good news.  I'm still getting over the diarrhea though, which is a bit of a bummer.  I mean, it's a bummer that I still have it, not that I'm getting over it!  LOL!!  I guess that's about it...  I'm gonna go take a nap now...

          Next: 'Nudder COP
                                                            Buck