I keep looking at my right forearm, the top side, where an ugly purple-and-yellow bruise continues to develop. There’s a hole in the middle of it, a hole where a nurse on the second floor at Dana Farber, a lovely nurse from Kenya who was sweet and kind, did a very bad job of putting in an IV line. I knew it was bad the minute it went in, I knew it was bad as she drew out the 5 vials of my blood. I could tell when the needle went in that it wasn’t done right because it didn’t hurt in the right way. When an IV line is put in right, it feels a certain way. It sucks and it hurts, but the best and kindest and most experienced nurses get it right almost every time. I could see the needle sticking out flimsily across the skin of my arm, it wasn’t in deep enough. Sure enough, after she drew my labs, she said, oh, this isn’t a good one, it won’t work. And she pulled the needle out and my vein “blew.” The vein puffs up, bulges, and an immediate secret soreness and bruising start. There is a hole in my arm in the middle of a purple-and-yellow bruise, rather large, hard to hide when I walk around sleeveless in the summer.
She put in another line and I knew it was another bad one, but I didn’t say anything. I continued to converse with her, to love her as she was, to ask about her family and children and to tell her about mine.
When I went up to the 7th floor of Dana Farber for my infusion, my infusion nurse took the bandages off of my [second] line and said “this is no good” and pulled the needle out. I have a spot in that spot, but no bruise, thank god. I didn’t let them poke me again. I just got my SubQ shot in my belly without getting fluids through an IV like I usually do.
This was not my usual infusion nurse who I haven’t seen 2 Wednesdays in-a-row. I explained to this infusion nurse not to stab my belly when she gave me my SubQ Velcade injection. But she did, she stabbed me hard and I actually screamed out in pain. I rarely do that, it happens when a nurse is not attentive or skilled. I am sure 98% of them have never had a SubQ shot of chemo to the belly. I have a dark spot on my belly where she did it wrong.
The week before, June 29, Day 1 of Cycle 11, down in blood draw on the second floor of Dana Farber, they sent me in to a tech and not a nurse. When you get an IV line put in, you have to go to an RN. Your wait is longer. You can’t see a phlebotomist and there are fewer nurses than phlebotomists. And it takes longer to have a vein opened than to get a simple blood sample (or 5 or 8 samples) taken.
I knew he was wrong, I thought he was wrong, but I didn’t say anything. I let him draw my 8 vials of blood and then remove the needle, bandage me up. I had to go back in and have a nurse insert an IV line after all. Why couldn’t I speak up and advocate for myself when I saw that his badge didn’t have an “RN” after his name? Because I can’t even choose my battles. I am tired and weary and I am tired of the world. I am full of medicines and I am trying to eat well and I can’t do any of it. I make pesto from basil I picked at the farm, but I can’t cook. I have this broken rib and I can’t move and do what I want. I am already embattled, what’s one more wrong prick of a needle to my body? What is one more crumb of pain?
That was the start of one of the worst two weeks of my life since starting this regimen last October. I’ve been treated like shit by several people in my life since Day 1, Cycle 11, not just the little pricks in my arms and belly, but in the big ways.
I hope for much more out of a life of an incurable cancer. I expect more. My life requires shitty, ongoing, unpredictable treatment. My chemo is not working any more. My numbers have hit a level where I’ll be looking for a new regimen soon. I have not heard this yet from my oncologist, but I know my M-spike has reached the upper limit that is okay for staying on this clinical trial. My numbers went down only for the first two cycles. My numbers were lower when I was off of chemo last year and yet my body is subjected to devastating chemicals with lasting damages. I know the medicine is faulty, but I’d be dead by now if I hadn’t done it. I know I have to keep taking chemo to live.
This is the nature of multiple myeloma. So far, I’m not in the miracles category and thankfully, I’m not in the worst-case-scenario category. I’m pretty much in the middle. With multiple myeloma, chemos usually last a year or so and on to the next (I have a friend with mm and he got 5 years out of Revlimid, no side effects and here am I, I couldn’t tolerate it for more than 10 months!). I also know people who did 3 to 8 months of the same regimen we all start on and never had to do any of it again. I know someone whose myeloma disappeared after doing induction chemo and Rick Simpson Oil. Nothing, nada. She’s healed completely from it for now. Some people get 2 years, 3 years, 5 years. Some get a stem cell transplant and get 2-3 months of response, some get 10 years. Some never recover. Some die.
Most myeloma is smart and once it experiences one drug, it figures it out and gets stronger. It won’t respond to it again, usually. It also is stronger in the face of the next medicine. This includes “alternatives” for those of you who think you know how to cure any and all cancers. The myeloma is smart and strong and its DNA-copying mechanisms are amazing. They also can mutate into new, harder-to-treat forms. I’m not there yet, I hope never to be.
I was incredibly fortunate to have had my 10 months off of treatment last year, but it made me think I’d have that again. And now, the horrific reality of this stupid fucking cancer that I should not have, that I don’t want, that I’ve done nothing to obtain, is in my face.
I don’t say these things to make anyone feel bad for me or for you to feel bad in yourself. I am being poetic and dramatic. I don’t feel this way every moment. But after this cycle, complete with my fractured rib, my numbers going up, my increase in interpersonal conflicts, I’m knocked down another peg.
I suppose I will find my peace and strength. I will be my spirit, my eyes will shine, I will stand upright. I won’t feel fat and ugly and my skin won’t be bruised, my brain and thinking will be clear. I won’t wake up without remembering if I’ve slept or not or what time it is. I won’t be exhausted.
I don’t want to keep fighting. I don’t want to look down and see the purple and yellow shape of a bird with a hollow eye on my arm, I don’t want to feel my ribs shifting in my torso as if they will collapse and give way under the weight of my life, under the weight of gravity.
How can someone not reach inside my bone marrow and into my bloodstream and remove the cells that signal themselves to create osteoclasts out of plasma cells? How can my body have so devastatingly betrayed me?
This is not a good mystery. This cancer doesn’t solve a thing. It doesn’t take down the weak like the lion attacking the wounded or slow zebra. It doesn’t have a heart or a part in nature. It’s the Devil from Hell.
I want it out of my body and out of my life. I did not welcome it here and it does not belong to me.
Please make it stop.