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Updated: May 10, 2021

I never thought I would be so delighted for my biggest issue to be cancer pain! February is nearly gone and with it are some of the most difficult days on this journey. If Kaiser had a frequent visitor program, my ranking for the month would likely be among their highest. In addition to chemotherapy visits, routine lab work, two CT scans, and several series of injections, I had a couple of scares that brought me to my knees and into their emergency room.

The first ER trip was to evaluate what turned out to be thrombophlebitis or blood clotting on my left arm … again. Blood clots are a serious concern as they are a major cause of strokes and heart attacks. Although painful, mine were subcutaneous, meaning that the clots are just under the skin. This type of clot does not usually travel to the lungs unless it reaches the deep veins.

My second trip to the ER was just this past Wednesday evening. It was far more remarkable. To put this in context, I had finished my 4th cycle of chemo on Monday and had a CT scan with contrast on Tuesday. Imagine, having iodine and whatever other agent used for contrast injected into a system already full of nasty chemo toxins. Wednesday was one of those days I was hoping to eliminate from my memory. But it persisted…and will always be ingrained in my memory.

By late morning a burning, painful feeling, similar to a UTI started. As the day progressed, so too did the pain. That evening, my urine became a deep red. I now had the symptoms that brought me to the hospital on Halloween when all this began.

In triage at the ER, I provided 7 vials of blood and a urine sample that looked more like blood than anything else. To my surprise, the doctor’s greatest concern was my hemoglobin metric. The lower end of the spectrum for me should be 14. Chemo does take its toll and Monday’s session left me at a dangerous level of 7.9. Is it any wonder I was literally sick and tired of being sick and tired? So, the first order from the ER doctor was for another CT scan but without contrast. Her second order was for a transfusion.

Serendipity. It is funny how one situation brings an entirely different one into focus. I am grateful for an ER doctor who was attentive to ALL test results being returned on that evening!

While the transfusion was in process, she called and woke both my oncologist and my urologist to discuss the symptoms that brought me to the ER in the first place. They concurred that the cause, this time, was most likely from the stent that was placed in my ureter while hospitalized in November. Unfortunately, they were not able to define the cause for this flare-up.

Next steps. My oncologist and urologist now have plenty of scans, with and without contrast, to provide an updated prognosis. We are scheduled to meet next Wednesday, March 3.

I remain faithful, hopeful, prayerful, and t(hank)ful for you.

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