Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blood from a Stone

I had a quarterly check-up with my West Coast oncologist this morning. These appointments always start with a visit to the lab for a blood draw.

I'm what's known as a "hard stick" because the veins in my right arm—the only one that can safely be used because of all the surgery I've had, and the attendant risk of lymphedema, on the left side—are highly uncooperative. All those generous helpings of chemo—14 in all—have degraded them, and it's difficult for even a skilled phlebotomist to find one that will sit still and do her bidding.

Today's phlebotomist was not as skilled as I might have hoped.

She tried once without success and, instead of taking the needle out right away, decided to do a little excavating in the hopes of a better result. It's a fairly common—and almost always fruitless—tactic, and I closed my eyes and breathed my way through it. After a few endless seconds, she finally gave up.

I suggested a couple of other promising locales while she prepared a new needle, but she stayed in the same general region—one where there was no vein to be seen—just far enough away from the first site to be in a really painful part of my arm.

The second time was no better. And now she seemed even more intent on pursuing an archeological dig.

I'm normally very patient, and encouraging, and forgiving in these situations.

But not this time.

I opened my eyes, abandoned my attempts at creative breathing, and ordered her to remove the needle from my arm.

For some reason, "Take it out!" didn't compute the first time I said it.

But unlike this particular phlebotomist, I was successful on the second try.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Higher Math

This morning Zach and I participated in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women with a group of people from my office. Each of us had a placard pinned to our back.

Zach's said "I am walking in support of . . ." at the top, and he filled in "my gorgeous wife Jody."

Mine said "I am a cancer survivor" at the top. Underneath, I wrote "8 years & 3-1/2 years."

One of my co-workers assumed I'd made a mistake—she stopped to ask if I'd meant "8 years & 3-1/2 months."

If only.