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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)

Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Cancer Chronicles 26

I Have A Plane To Catch!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 4 - The Final Conflict

I woke up at 6 AM in a good mood today. It's been such a positive week. I'm utterly exhausted, but my mood keeps me moving forward. I pack myself up and prepare to meet the shuttle bus when I notice a yellow stain on my sweater. Not just any sweater mind you...an all white Bergdorf Goodman sweater! This is the first week in over a year I've worn anything nice. For the last year I've worn my "cancer clothes" from Target.

I call the Hospital to tell them I'll be an hour late for my appointments knowing the time it will take to wash out the stain. I throw the sweater in the sink and inspect my feeding tube. I have never had this problem before. I see nothing noticeably wrong, other than the dressing is soaked. The yellowness indicates to me stomach bile. I think perhaps it just leaked around the entry point of the tube. I add extra dressings to make sure it's secure. I blow dry the sweater I've washed clean and put it back on. Nothing is going to stop me from having a great day!

The shuttle bus always arrives at the hotel 10 minutes past the hour. I check out of my room and I'm out front dressed in white pants and sweater and two suitcases (one for clothes the other for the cans of food which I must carry with me) plus my laptop. I'm 10 minutes early for the shuttle, so I wait. Promptly at 10 past the hour is see the shuttle coming, then watch it drive right past the hotel stop! Wait..what about me? It's not like they can't see me! And there it goes on it's merry way!

As I try to figure out how I will get to the hospital without waiting another hour, a Limousine pulls up. The driver asks if I'd like a ride to the airport. Kindly I explain I'm not going to the airport, I'm headed to the hospital...yes with all this luggage! The plan is to leave directly from the hospital to catch my flight. I further explain I can catch a shuttle for free and would take a cab to the airport, thank you very much.

The kind old gentleman offers to take me to the hospital for free if I promise to let him take me to the airport when I'm finished at the hospital. When he says, "Only $35," I'm in the car before he can change his mind! It's $40 to the airport by cab! Mr. Jay Fu is his name. A very kind, talkative old man, much of which I can't understand because of his broken English. What I managed to comprehend, is that most of the other limo drivers think he's crazy taking clients at such low fares, but he works on value to create volume. Humm...the very principle I spent 20 years with Little Caesars perpetuating. I like this guy...tho I can't understand much of what he has to say!

As we pull up to the main entrance of the Hospital, he hands me his business card and explains his name is really spelled Fu, but the printer put Foo. He's not Chinese, he's Vietnamese! Ever heard of proof reading Jay? He asks that I call him 15 minutes before I need to go to the airport. Done deal! Gotta love a man who's last name is F-U!

I drag my luggage and make my way to the doctors office. You can check your luggage with security, but I opt for a quick exit, plus I will donate any extra canned food I brought with me to a needy recipient. Today I will see Dr. Edward Kim (Chemotherapy) and get my scan results. I like him, he's always very honest and upfront.

After a short wait my name is called, again the nurses remark how great I look. The comments fuel more positive energy coursing through my body keeping me awake and moving! Dr. Kim delivers great news! The scans show I'm still cancer free! This week just couldn't get any better!

After Dr. Kim leaves, my Dietitian Denise Anderson, arrives. I hand off my donation of extra canned food and tell her of my morning ordeal. She seems concerned and asks if I think it should be checked while I'm still in the hospital. It's been a few hours and there doesn't seem to be a problem. I think it was a one time thing. She gives me a deep hug and wishes me well as I schlep my luggage back to the lobby.

It's now 1 PM and I figure I'll rest a bit, have some coffee, and write this installment of the blog. I plan to call Mr. Fu around 4:30. It's been such a great week! I'm exhausted and running on raw energy now. I'm calm, collected, relaxed, and in such a great mood. I have company arriving tomorrow night and can't wait to get back to my very own bed! I'm starting to feel like a visitor rather than a patient as I roam the lobby searching for a quiet place to settle in.

I order some much needed coffee and relax with my laptop on one of the many comfortable couches in the lobby, surrounded by a battery of amazing fish aquariums. It's so peaceful in spite of the dozens of patients with IV poles in tow, dripping the elixir that could save their lives, and loving family members trekking through the lobby. My luggage by my side, I jump online to write to you all. I compose myself, take a deep cleansing breath, and relax.

SHIT! ...SHIT! SHIT! My lap, my stomach, my white clothes...all soiled with a yellow liquid mess. Something is seriously wrong! As I lift my sweater I see a small hole in the feeding tube squirt a drop of liquid. YES HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM!

This is not just any liquid, it's stomach bile being released through my tube. I have to stop it! I run for napkins at the coffee shop and snatch a handful. Like that's going to stop it! The more I move the worse it gets! I shut down the laptop, grab the luggage, and drag all the crap into the lobby restroom.

I throw my sweater in the sink, unbutton my pants, and inspect the problem. As I pinch the tube above the oozing breach to stop the fluid, a man enters the restroom. I ask for help, but he bolts from the restroom as if he just witnessed a murder. WTF? OK, I guess I'm on my own!

I grab my cell and call Denise and ask what should I do? She will call me back with an answer after she contacts my doctor. Meanwhile, I manage to strip down to underwear and socks while holding the pinched tube. My problem is, I need someone to hold the tube while I tape it together pinched in half, a very simple thing to do. I have all my supplies with me in my suitcase. I'm prepared for any such emergency. I'm not in pain, I can't feel anything, other than the bile streaming down my leg as I stand in the men's room almost naked.

Another man enters the restroom. "Can you please help me? Just hold this while I tape it." I ask calmly, as if I were asking when the next train arrives. The look on his face was unforgettable. He looks at me and says, "I don't know anything about that man!" Another one bites the dust as he too bolts. I have a brief flash from the movie Gone With The Wind..."I don't know nothin bout birthin no babies!" as I hear him say, "I'll get help!" the door gently closes behind him.

What is wrong with everyone? It's just a small hole in a rubber tube. OK, so I'm a half naked man, in a public restroom, rinsing his clothes in the sink, holding a rubber tube coming out of my belly with bile running down my leg..what's the big deal? Hasn't anybody ever had this happen to them before?

A security guard enters, he's obviously shaken up when he sees me. "I'll get a wheelchair! We have to get you to emergency!" I can't even get the words, "Could you just hold this, while I..." and he's gone. Dammit!! What is wrong with everyone!!??

The security guard returns with the wheelchair escorted by two other security guards. IT'S A HOLE IN A RUBBER TUBE PEOPLE!!!! I try to explain I'm fine. I just need to tape the tube and wait for my doctor to call back. As the first security guard insists I get in the wheelchair and go to emergency, the other two cordon off the restroom as if they were guarding buried treasure. I hear one say to a man attempting to enter, "Sir, you can't go in there. You'll have to find somewhere else to go." There is now a small crowd at the door. They should have just broken out the yellow tape, and called it a crime scene.

That's it! Everybody OUT! Even you with the wheelchair! Just give me a moment to clean up and get dressed! OUT! I manage to secure the tube by pinching it in half and taping it single handily. The dripping has ceased. I rinse my clothes, wring them out, and place them in a plastic laundry bag which I always travel with. I change into my "cancer clothes" and exit the restroom composed. Everything is back to normal again, right?

I'm sternly instructed to sit down, then whisked off down the corridor, flanked by two security guards, while the third pushes from behind as if he's entered an Indy 500 race...And They're Off! THIS IS NOT THAT KIND OF EMERGENCY! Oh, and I have a plane to catch.

Welcome to The MD Anderson Cancer Emergency Center!

As they wheel me up to the reception desk the young lady asks what the emergency is. I quip, "My water just broke!" What??? It's the truth, sorta. She gives me a grin and says, "Come again?" This is too good a gag to pass up. I continue, "I haven't even been seen and you're already asking me to come back?" {rim shot}

Seriously, my feeding tube has a leak. I need it replaced and I have a plane to catch. My cell phone rings and it's Denise, "The doctor said to go to emergency." One step ahead of you, thanks to an over zealous security team! She tells me to hand the phone to the receptionist so they can expedite my tube exchange, forgoing all the preliminary paperwork, since all my tests are current.

Within minutes I'm seen by a nurse as Denise meets me in reception and explains everything to the nurse. She also informs her, I'm trying to catch a plane. It's 2:30 as I'm rolled into a prep room. My luggage is already in the room. How?? I'm told to get undressed and into the cap and gown. Been there, done that, no problem. My vitals are taken and the nurse prepares an IV. WAIT...an IV??? For what? The nurse explains I'll be given some glucose and anesthetic. In my mind I hear a needle scratch across a record...ANESTHETIC???? I have a plane to catch!

A doctor arrives and I tell him I have a plane to catch. He shakes his head and says, "I'd cancel your flight if I were you."

"Well you're not me dammit! I have a plane to catch!" I think to myself. "Why will this take so long?" I ask. He explains, the surgery is quick and simple, but I can't be released until the anesthetic has worn off. Oy vey, again with the anesthetic! OK, simple resolve...no anesthetic. I have a plane to catch and company arriving tomorrow night.

The doctor advises against it, as I again state, "I have a plane to catch." With IV line inserted, comfortably situated on a gurney, I'm driven up to an operating room. One male nurse inspects my belly and tube while the another takes my vitals. I keep thinking, "I have a plane to catch."

I'm in a position where I can see the clock on the wall. It's directly in line with my feet, as if it were there to tease me. It's 3:50. As the one nurse breaks my concentration, I hear him say, "Mr Walin, did you take your blood pressure pills today?" I ask, "WHY?" (I haven't had to take blood pressure pills since my surgery a year ago. My BP has been perfect.) With concern he states, "Your blood pressure levels are highly elevated."

NO SHIT! Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that I spent over an hour in a public restroom, half naked with bile streaming down my leg, attempting to wrap tape around a seeping rubber tube anchored to my belly, while doing my laundry in a sink, waiting for a phone call from my doctor for advice, and nobody willing to help me? Did I mention, I HAVE A PLANE TO CATCH!? OK, I might be a little agitated at this point.

Doogie Houser rolls into the O.R. You've got to be kidding me! This second doctor looks all of 12 years old! My bloodpressure jumped another 10 points! By this time the tape I placed to stop the leak is unfurled, the hole plugged, my belly shaved clean and swabbed with Betadine. I hear Dr. Doogie politely ask, "Are you sure you don't want any anesthetic?"

"Yes, I'm sure!" I grunt with my freshly shaven red belly exposed as I see a bank of flat screen monitors to my left that x-ray my innards. I can see the long feeding tube buried in my stomach. LOOK...it's ME TV!

They place a drape in front of me that blocks my view of my stomach and I hear the doc say, "Are you comfortable?" I blast him with, "JUST RIP IT OUT DOC!"

I have placed myself on a pristine beach, listening to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, sun dancing upon my face, sipping a cocktail, with my feet beneath the sugar white sand as the waves caress my feet, gently nibbling at my toes.

There's that record scratch sound again! The drape comes down with a brand new tube in place. The nurse dresses the entry point. There appears to be no blood and there was no pain! SEE... NO BIG DEAL PEOPLE!!!

It's 4:20 as I'm wheeled from the O.R. to the recovery area. Plenty of time to catch my flight, right? I sit in recovery and wait, my cancer clothes at my feet in a paper bag. I figure I'll change now, to save time. Nobody seems to be coming by to tell me I can go. My luggage is still downstairs in the prep room where the IV was placed. Oh, better take that out. I've seen it done dozens of times. A little pressure, a cotton ball, and some tape. Vuala! No problem!

It's 4:45 and I need to head to the airport if I'm going to make my 7:00 flight. I walk to the nurses station and ask if I may be released. She explains I need to wait at least an hour for the anesthetic to ware off! LOL...what anesthetic??? Can I go now? I have a plane to catch..doesn't anybody listen around here??? Where are your priorities?

She asks the head nurse if I can be released. I already know what she's going to say. "If I wanted to hear a NO, I would have asked the head nurse myself. Why do you think I asked you??" I smartly think to myself. I have a plane to catch. I need to be released now!

The head nurse agrees to call transportation to take me back to the prep room. Transportation usually takes 15-20 minutes to arrive. It's almost 5:00. PLEASE, give me my paperwork and I walk down on my own. I'm fine and anesthetic free!" I beg.

She reluctantly agrees and hands me my paperwork to give to the nurse who will release me downstairs in the prep room. I'm like a greyhound after that damn rabbit, but this dog is gonna get that little bunny. I have a plane to catch!

I make my way back to the prep room and flag down a nurse. She tells me she'll be right with me to remove my IV. Ah...humm...OK. When she arrives I'm standing at the door. Before she enters she remarks, "Who took out your IV?" simply I state, "It was removed upstairs." (That's not a lie.) Then as she enters the room, the expression on her face was priceless. "Where's your bed? How did you get down here?" she asks. (Put two and two together Honey!) Smart people can be so dumb sometimes!

I don't have time to explain. PLEASE release me let me go! (For I don't love you anymore.) I hear Engelbert Humperdinck sing in my head. What a name huh? What the hell is a Humperdinck anyway? And this guy was a big hit with that name! FOCUS BRIAN!

I call Mr. Fu and make my way to the curb. A yellow cab pulls up and the cabby says in broken English, "I'm fo you!" and grabs my bags. "Wait..you're for me?" I asked very puzzled. "Yes," he says, "Fu sent me fo you!" "Who?" I question. "You know Fu?" He states. "Fu sent me fo you!" This just isn't my life anymore. It's a really bad SLN sketch (Saturday Night Live People!) It's 5:15 and I'm 40 minutes from the airport on Friday night facing rush hour traffic. My flight is at 7:00. I better take the cab, even if Fu didn't come thru!

RECAP: Fu fo u! Who? You know Fu? You fo me? Yes, Fu fo you! Fu not come thru! Got it?

This guy, who spoke very little English, managed to cut through traffic with the precision of a surgeon. He was flawless! He hit every pocket perfectly, knew just when to cut in. This man knew I had a plane to catch! In less than 30 minutes I was at the airport!

END OF STORY... WHAT??? YOU WANT MORE??? I'M TIRED! I TOLD YOU...I HAD A PLANE TO CATCH!

**No hospital staff members were injured during the rambling of this blog!**


8 comments:

Maureen said...

BRIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!
*doing the HAPPY DANCE* You are Cancer free...I am so HAPPY for you!

You fought and no matter how tough things got...you kicked it's ass!!

AND...you made your plane! You ROCK!

Oh, and yes...I want MORE! You better not be done blogging or I will have to slap you upside your head!!!

{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}} to you !

me

Dr. Swill said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
I'm having trouble keeping up with things and get distracted easily. In the middle of working on my tax return, I wrote a Sitcom Pilot complete with 10 episodes...I think there is something seriously wrong with me. I need a shrink! LOL

Even my dreams have been weird and I can seem to sleep well at night.

Thank you for your kindness. I'll try to keep you entertained somehow, when not writing about cancer. I just need to find the motivation!

Peace B

Maureen said...

you crack me up! and I am not laughing AT you, I am pretty sure I am laughing with you!

Can I be in your sitcom? HUH? LOL! If ya need a fat old lady...I will fit the bill!

I don't think there is anything wrong with you...I think you are just embracing your zest for life...and don't wanna be caught up in the mundane crap(like taxes!)

jeeze o man...what better motivation to blog then to keep ME happy!!!!! It is after all ALL ABOUT MEEEEEEEEEEE!! just kidding!

{{{hugs}}}

eric e said...

That had to be the funniest installment yet! The picture in my head of you in the public bathroom is priceless. It reminded me of a modern day version of the story of the good Samaritan. Everybody kept passing on the other side of the road. Or in your case, running the heck out of the bathroom!

Dr. Swill said...

Thanks Eric,

The sad part is, it's all true!

B

Anonymous said...

Very funny stuff...but also a sad sad commentary on the state of the world. We're all so afraid of everything these days we've forgotten how to be helpful or even think for ourselves. I love the way you write. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us.

Love,
Aida

john said...

I was up late wed night. Could not sleep. So I started reading your blog. I read this part and at 1:00AM I was laughing my ass off. I woke up two people in the house. Though I know at the time it was a huge pain, it is funny to see how people react and the way you told the story, was as if I was there the whole time. Thanks for a badly needed chuckle on a crappy night for me.

John
Surviving oral cancer.com

Dr. Swill said...

John you are so welcome!
This blog his here for you.

Your journey is just beginning. I hope you find peace in my words and pray your treatments are easy to endure.

We tongue free guys need to stick together! I want to form a choir someday...all people with no tongues! Think we'd chart???

Peace B

Words To Live By:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi