tl;dr - The cancer is fine. I'm a mess.
I've been feeling pretty lousy since last Thursday. By Saturday, I was worried that I had come down with something.
It felt like I had a 15-pound cat on my chest and neck. Out of curiosity, I dragged out my blood pressure monitor. The numbers were alarming.
My insurance company now has a tele-medicine Urgent Care service, CloseKnit, so I decided to leverage that. If I had to function, I could - but with the discomfort in my chest, I figured it was worth a call. One thing Lymphoma is teaching me is that I need to pay more attention to my body.
I hoped she would tell me to go take some NyQuil and let it ride.
"Um, that's not a virus. You need to go to the ER."
Being well trained in the way of "useful denial" - I decided to see whether my blood pressure would go down and I felt better the next morning.
Ryan and I went out to vote, then went to the ER. Because, you know, civic duty.
Whenever you say "chest pain" - it's amazing how quickly you get out of the waiting room. We had barely sat down before the Intake Medic called my name.
I had hoped that maybe my blood pressure machine was mis-calibrated, I'm actually fine, and they'd call me a hypochondriac and let me go home.
As the VERY high numbers jumped on the screen, the intake medic turned to me, "No, your blood pressure machine is working just fine I'm afraid."
At the same time, he put a bunch of stickers on me, plugged me up to some wires, and ran an EKG.
While all this was happening, I was getting the usual round of questions from another intake medic. Name, date of birth, address, what I'm in for, past medical history...
Once I answered all those questions to both medics' satisfaction and the EKG finished running, the main intake medic took off the wires, left the stickers, and walked me into my assigned room.
I was greeted with this.
"Yeah, a couple weeks ago we had someone going through a psychotic episode come into this room. They didn't respond very well."
Once the main medic left, the next 10 minutes were a blur of nurses putting on EKG leads, strapping on a PulseOx unit, poking an IV line into my right arm, and drawing 5 vials of blood. All while asking the standard battery of questions - Name, date of birth, address, what I'm in for, past medical history...
ER visits are much like buying a car, or going to the Motor Vehicle Administration - you are in there much longer than intended.
The nice thing about going to an ER voluntarily because someone told you that you should be there is that I could bring things to do and a go-bag for Ryan to pick up if they admit me.
The rest of Tuesday consisted of me lying on this bed, listening to the usual activities of an ER unit (a lady who had no idea why she was in the ER, a crying baby, a psychiatrist performing a full mental health evaluation through a microphone to a patient in isolation, a conversation about retirement between two police officers...), and crocheting a hat while Ryan played Candy Crush and, occasionally, stopping to show me quirky homes on the Eastern Shore that are on the market for our desired price point.
Every once in awhile, I'd get a visit from another nurse for another vial of blood. After a couple of hours, the doctor on duty came in to explain what was going on, then a nurse would return to get yet another vial of blood. 1 more hour, then another vial of blood. Meanwhile, the blood pressure cuff would go off at random - about every 30 minutes or so.
Sometime mid-afternoon, an orderly and a nurse came in and announced that I was going for a ride to the CT Scan. The doctor had explained that she was running a test to see whether I had a blood clot. My guess was that the test came up positive.
The orderly maneuvered the slightly too large bed through a series of doorways and hallways to the CT Scan room.
Name, date of birth, address, what I'm in for, past medical history...
One lady hooked my IV port up to the CT contrast machine. The other set up the scanner while asking the battery of questions.
This room's ceiling decoration consisted of a blue sky and a blooming cherry tree branch. They were going for the "staring at the Sakura" vibe, I guess. Not that I could see this picture during the scan, they had me positioned head-first.
2 minutes of the scanner table moving up and down while the radiology tech gave me breathing exercises and I was done.
Back on the bed. Back through the hallways. Back to Sully, Mike and the rest of the gang.
1 hour later, another doctor came in with discharge papers.
"You're not imminently dying, but you should talk to your primary care doctor and a cardiologist."
Thankfully, they didn't find a blood clot. They don't know why my blood pressure is running so high, nor why I'm experiencing chest pressure. Lungs are clear, veins and arteries show no signs of blockage, lymph nodes and spleen are (thankfully) normal.
They did notice left atrial enlargement - new from the last CT scans I had in March 2022 during my last visit to the ER. So yeah, there's that.
I spent the rest of Tuesday sleeping while a rash began to develop on my chest.
Wednesday morning, I received an email from the oncologist.
Come in today.
My chest and neck were distinctively rash-y. I still felt terrible.
Blood pressure check done - still high.
Go to the doctor. Blood pressure check - not as high as yesterday, but still high.
"What's that rash? What did you get into?"
I dunno - it appeared after the CT scan yesterday.
Thankfully, as part of the ER visit, they did his two main blood tests. The cancer numbers are where they have been since I got on this medication.
Despite this setback, I'm still responding very well to the medication.
He gave me a prescription for blood pressure medication (Metoprolol Tartrate) and sent me on my way. I see him again in January - barring another bout of medical weirdness.
Thursday morning - I woke up with a full body rash that is now itchy. The worst of it is on my chest and neck.
My suspicion - I'm throwing an allergy to the CT contrast. Sadly, this is new. There's nothing else unusual in my diet that would cause this to my knowledge. But who knows. I wasn't allergic to the CT contrast before either.
Thankfully, I am not running a fever, have no problem breathing, and nothing else seems to be all that different.
I just look like a raspberry. A very itchy raspberry.
I spent yesterday in a haze of Benadryl.
Today - I am still an itchy raspberry.
After sending this out - I will be spending the day in a haze of Benadryl, smothered in Cortizone 10, and, maybe, taking another oatmeal bath.
As you can guess, I'm re-thinking some of my plans for Act 3.
Trying to remind myself that setbacks are information.
Mostly around my physical boundaries and what I NEED (vs what I want - which, in this case, are very different things).
I'm bummed (and itchy).
The setbacks are part of the journey - as much as I wish that wasn't so.