I’ve realized that in many of my blogs, I have spoken highly—lovingly, even—of my prescribed drugs. And I want to reassure you that I am not going to become addicted to them. In all honesty, they’re not that cool cause they’re not that strong; they’re like super advils, they are the weakest prescription painkillers that could be given. But because I have a limited drug history and usage, they are amazing to me… even if they probably work mainly as a placebo and my weakened mental state allows me to pretend they are heavenly and powerful. We think I took percosets when I got my wisdom teeth out in college; those knocked me out, I don’t even remember what they felt like. And because my mother is a hippie pill-free cautious kind of nurse, she always limited my use of those. She lets me free with my current drugs, most likely because what can a super mega advil really do to me?
I’m going to Quentin Terantino this one and tell you that the end result of my very shitty bad day was that I had to HAD TO take my drugs to go to sleep. As Sean said that night as I was trying to cut down my usage, “Just take your drugs, that’s what they’re for.” Ahhh, ok, if I have to (damn saviors)…
Pretty much immediately after I finished the Time Warp blog, all hell broke loose. I had planned a nice day centered around a whale watch but karma decided that would not happen. I received a phone call as I was frantically trying to get dressed (it takes me a while still since I can’t lift my right arm and put things over my head) that went something like, “This is the MRI department, are you coming for your appointment?”
WHAT F-ING APPOINTMENT?! All I do is make appointments and go to them and I had no idea about this appointment because NO ONE TOLD ME about it. And the MRI appointment is NOW on the other side of the island?!?!?! NO, I’M NOT COMING! Can I come later?? 1:45? But my whale watch goes til 1:30 and it takes 45 minutes to get there. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU dge. Nope, that wont do, FUCK. There I said it. (Dane Cook fans, he has a skit in his stand up where he says it a lot and it starts to lose it’s meaning. If anyone finds this word offensive, just say it a lot in different ways and voices and tones and accentuate different parts and it will lose its power soon too; you will become less offended as it becomes just some consonants and vowels thrown together to make sound effects).
Let’s take a moment to step outside this major breakdown and explore what Serena looks like in crisis. My parents got the screaming swearing pissed off Serena (really, even watered down from what I felt inside because I knew intellectually that I was over-reacting and that the emotional side was winning out because it was cracking). What my friends and Sean heard and got was the grumpy re-telling of the day (and, yes, there’s more coming) and the “why are people so stupid and why couldn’t someone tell me and this could have all been avoided if someone had just told me” rationalization. And what most people see is me still forcing something reminiscent of a smile and trying to stifle the smarmy looks I begin towards people, whether or not they actually say something stupid, or I just find a way to make everything they say stupid (and for the record, this is strangers and not friends; I keep a tiny bit of compassion next to my rationale that cannot be blocked out by the emotional overload to keep friends and family out of the spit fiery rage… phew, you’re safe!).
Alright, so I concede to the poor receptionist (who was actually filling in for someone else) as they kindly made room for me at 1:45, reschedule the whale watch to Saturday and go lay down. Then I realize that I don’t know how to prepare for an MRI. Am I supposed to arrive early? Eat something? Not eat something? Bring anything? I like to be prepared for everything; I like to know what’s going to happen and what to expect. I call back and they say no, just come as is at 1:45. Don’t worry friends, my little intuition buzzer said: ehhhhhh, no; plan to be surprised. (And yes, at some point, I did swear on the phone at the receptionist, well, not at her, but about the general situation and she was sweet enough to give me a freebie on that; sometimes I’m just not above cursing in public and to strangers… blame the cancer. Oooo, that’s a stretch).
We drive our 45 minutes to Kaiser… go to the wrong building (which I knew, in the back of my head, would happen and I accepted that fate), go to the right building, check in smoothly, pee and go on back to change and get ready for the procedure.
Begin the next shit show: “We’re just going to give you an IV.” WE’RE NOT JUST DOING ANYTHING! I have obvious veins but ones that are small and resistant to being stabbed by needles. I HATE IVs! They hate me! Oh, SHIT. Here we go. Stab the right arm. Ouch. No go. Stab the left. OUCH! No. Stab another vein, OUCH OUCH F-ING OUCH! Stop stop stop. Ok, we’re calling another nurse. Keep staring at the ceiling, Serena. Warm my veins, alcohol rub, warm, alcohol, stab, pain, but success. Finally. More medical tape (I’m still covered in medical tape goo from surgery and whatever else they stuck to me during surgery). And we’re going to the MRI room.
I am not claustrophobic. I have few fears because I don’t have much patience or interest in the words “No” and “I can’t.” But I now HATE the MRI machine. Mainly due to the discomfort and the need to be still for 45 minutes in a machine that sounds like a firing range and sperm whales vocalizing.
When you need your boobs scanned, you have to lay on your belly at an angle with said boobs dangling down into open space. With arms stretched overhead. Those of you that got to lay on your back in the MRI, I envy you. Here’s where this is all wrong for me: I have NEVER been a belly sleeper. It just plain hurts my tummy and back and every muscle attached to those spaces, and it compresses my lungs making it hard for me to breath. Then I had to have my arms overhead. I cannot lift my right arm so I won that argument and got to keep it by my side (I blamed stitches and complete lack of feeling due to the healing of severed nerve tissue; whatever works, right? It’s nice when the truth works, too). But ol’ lefty had the IV. Poor left arm. It HAD to be up. Within 5 minutes, it was tingling and then numb. Was my arm still there? I couldn’t lift my arm to check. I don’t know if it’s wise to put an IV—with chemicals needed for imaging—into an arm that has lost circulation. I mean, isn’t that the point? Don’t I need blood flow to get those chemicals from my arm to my boobs? I know I’m just a scientist and not a Doctor but…
Five minutes into this machine—on my belly, left arm up, right arm by my side, nose touching the cloth, toes hitting the end due to too much height—and misery. I am so uncomfortable that the only thing I have to look forward to is… claustrophobia! The mind is an evil thing when all you want is to not be where you’re stuck, and all you have is time to think about how much you don’t want to be somewhere. I did not panic but I did count down the minutes of misery. Not in exact terms but every time the tech came on the headphones and told me one more was done, I knew I was that much closer to the end. Yeah, I got to pick out a CD and wear headphones and was able to communicate to her but it was all a ruse. I couldn’t hear the music over the gun fire/whale sounds and when I told her my arm was numb she just said sorry, we need the IV to reach, it had to stay where it was. I twitched and moved between scans but I couldn’t move much and I knew that if I moved a lot, she would have to start over. NO F-ING WAY ARE WE STARTING OVER! The longest scan was nine minutes! Nine minutes not moving while sounding whales shot guns at each other! WHO DESIGNED THIS HELL HOLE?!
Finally, I mean FINALLY! I finish and I get to come out. I sit up like I’m waking up from slumbering under a highway, every bone cracking, muscles not supporting me because none of them have blood flow. I’m kind of sitting on my knees, blinking, limp, looking at my IV and the giant needles still attached, wondering how I survived. The scans went on time according to plan—no do-overs thankfully. I go in to have the IV removed and God love her, she didn’t really think about this, the tech says, “Next time you have an MRI, come early and we’ll send you to oncology to get your IV.” Next time? NEXT TIME? I’m never coming again and I didn’t know what to expect and that I would need an IV and that you would stab me three times before we got a functioning vein. Fucking next time. Yeah, I glared at her (I kept my manners, mom and dad, don’t worry). And I said very simply amongst all the rage and unpleasant thoughts in my head, “Yeah, well I didn’t even know I had an appointment.” To which she said she had heard the conversation on the phone when the receptionist called me the first time. I don’t even have words for the ridiculousness of this last conversation. But I do know what she was getting at. And I sincerely hope that if there is a next time, it will go much MUCH better than the first time. There’s no other way to go!
The final kick in the pants was when I went to pay. My bill was $200. What the hell? Every Kaiser bill I’ve paid up til now has been $5 or $19 or $20 at most. But $200? Damn icing on the cake. “Well, how much is the total MRI cost?” What’s Kaiser paying here. “About $3000.” I am in the wrong business! I could be torturing people with a costly MRI machine but instead I teach people to love whales! Where did I go wrong?! (Infinite Yankee sarcasm here).
Into the car and off to run final errands. The mall. I did what every good hard-working woman wants to do to feel better, when life has shit on you and there’s nothing left to do: retail therapy. I went into American Eagle and I bought some clothes. And I didn’t buy one or two like usual; I bought six or seven things. I didn’t try on 4 pairs of pants and shorts and buy one; I bought three of the four. Cause I’m tired of making decisions! No more decisions. PLEASE. Luckily, that $200 Kaiser bill was still on my mind and one store was enough; it did the trick (as did the BLT and fries and coke we had at Rubys).
“”There was a time when I had 2000 friends,’ he said, ‘and thereafter followed 2000 more. 4000 burdens weighed me well, but there were 8000 hands there when I fell.'” ~Erin McKeown
A big thanks to my parents who drove the car and sat quietly while I vented and was tortured. And to Sean and my friends who listened and consoled, and fed me good food that night with Aleta, Gary, Lindsay & momma, Dave, Kirsten, Steph, Jess and a couple of adorable little ladies playing with faux cupcakes and oven. And that glass of wine. And that pill I took after lying in bed trying to sleep for ten minutes. Thank you, drugs, for being my final knockout punch to never never land to make this bad day (turned good in the end) be over. Friday is behind me now and we’re moving forward. I needed that bad day to be my bottom so I can move forward and up from there. Fucking MRI machine…
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” ~Robert Frost