Until this week.
Apparently my body can handle cancer and chemotherapy for more than 2 years, but give it a little sinus infection, and I'm down for the count! (Did I miss karate class when I had chemo and they blew a vein in my arm? No. Did I miss karate class last night? You betcha!)
I also became a medical hot potato.
Monday night I came down with sinus congestion/drainage and coughing with high fever and chills. My husband called our bishop, and together they gave me a priesthood blessing, which really helped me get a good night's rest.
On Tuesday I had an appointment with an ear/nose/throat specialist to take care of my right ear (which is completely blocked with 2 years' worth of wax and dried skin debris -- a natural reaction to the radiation treatments). While I was getting my ear sandblasted I mentioned the ongoing fever and sinus congestion/drainage. The ENT doctor immediately waved it aside as a matter for my general practitioner. (I guess he thought my sinuses were in my elbow or something else outside of his Ear/Nose/Throat domain.)
As soon as I left the ENT's office I called my general practitioner, who was already gone for the day. (It was not quite 3:00.) The best his office could do was make an appointment for the following day. ("But I have a fever of 102. Can you call and have him phone in a prescription?" "We can call him, but he'll just tell you to see him in the morning.")
I then called my neuro-oncologist's office, but everyone was out, and I was reminded by the receptionist that they would have referred me to my general practitioner anyway.
So off I went to my local urgent care facility ("Doc-in-a-Box"), where I was seen by a nurse practitioner who treated me like I was radioactive as soon as she saw "cancer" on my chart. I used to be on chemotherapy, so I am obviously immunosuppressed and should get a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia because I coughed. (No, I've been vaccinated against pneumonia, and I've been off chemotherapy for over a month now, and my last labwork was great -- I'm not immunosuppressed. And I don't want unnecessary radiation -- I get enough from my cell phone. And I'm certain that the cough might have something to do with the massive sinus drainage that keeps my head from exploding).
I was finally diagnosed with a sinus infection -- in my NASAL SINUSES (which made even the Doc-in-a-Box people scratch their heads about the ENT not wanting to get involved). They were afraid to prescribe me an antibiotic because I'm "already on SO many medications." (Not really -- just my seizure medicine and a prescription B-complex supplement.) After much consultation with the M.D. who runs the place, they finally decided on a really powerful antibiotic with all kinds of nasty side effects (nightmares and other neurological problems that I already need to be careful about, kidney failure, and probably leprosy and ugly toes, too). No, they didn't want to prescribe the antibiotic I've safely used before, because it only works well for upper respiratory infections (you mean, like sinus infections?) and the scary antibiotic also covers pneumonia in case I have it (BUT I DON'T HAVE IT).
By evening I finally had the right antibiotic in hand, so hopefully soon I'll be on the mend and back to worrying about important things like fighting cancer.
Actually, the one nice thing about this experience was seeing the look on the ENT's face when he read my new patient history form and asked me about the kind of tumor I had. When I told him, he said with astonishment, "You've had that for nearly 2 1/2 years?" I nodded and acknowledged that I was a walking miracle, and yes I already knew that 2/3 of patients supposedly die the first year. He shook his head and said, "More like 90 percent."
Who knows where he got that number. Maybe that statistic doesn't factor in things like prayer and Dr. Fink and the Lord's timetable. I also wonder how much of that 90 percent comes from:
- medical hot potatoes that get dropped
- nasty side effects of over-vigilant antibiotic administration to cure non-existent pneumonia
- exsanguination (bleeding to death) or infection from excessive head scratching or hair pulling
- high blood pressure, aneurysm, stroke -- whatever -- during periods of peak frustration
- car accidents during excessive travel around the medical community
- concussions from being "bounced" between doctors
- complications from untreated sinus infections or other ills that put cancer patients squarely into the medical community's "no man's land."
In any case, I am truly blessed. As a friend of mine said, we need to keep the "prayer garlic" around our necks to keep warding off the real threats to my life (and she's right) but I also intersperse those prayers with prayers of gratitude for the miracles that have preserved and blessed my life for another season.