Breast cancer lesson 33: Smile even harder when things don’t go according to plan

It’s Sunday morning. Most weeks, I would be enjoying a leisurely lie-in and a lovingly-prepared cup of tea while putting the world – and the week – to rights. On this morning, however, I have had to go to hospital to make sure I don’t have dangerous levels of hormones running through my body. Thanks cancer, first you take my boob and now you’re going after my lie-ins!

It was supposed to be a blood test. And, it certainly started like a normal blood test. Left arm tick. Needle tick. Rubber band to bring up veins tick. Lovely smiley lady in scrubs who called me ‘darling’, tick. Only thing missing? The actual veins.

With right arm (otherwise known as obedient blood giving arm) now permanently out of action due to risk of lymphoedema, left arm is left in charge. Trouble is, left arm doesn’t like to play by the rules… Ever!

So, here’s what happened on my Sunday morning (before my morning cup of tea).

1) Smiley lady preps left arm and starts tapping. Nothing.
2) Smiley lady tries in three places to draw blood from my elusive veins. Nothing.
3) Smiley lady asks whether she can try my leg. I say: ‘go in anywhere. I have a high pain threshold’.
4) I, dutifully, start taking my jeans off. Smiley lady points out that by leg, she meant ankle, so no undressing required. Oops!
5) Smiley lady heads to my ankle. All I can think of is the fact I should have shaved more closely as it looks a bit hairy.
6) Ankle does not play ball.
7) Smiley lady looks less smiley as she asks me to sit outside and drink six cups of water and rub my hands together.
8) I head to the watercooler, realising that I didn’t do my jeans up properly after the aborted undressing attempt. Quick adjustment required.
9) I drink eight cups of water for good measure and look like I am rubbing my hands together in front of a fire. To others in the waiting room, I look like I have ants in my pants. I look weird. I am now the weirdo in the waiting room.
10) I need the loo. I cross my legs.
11) I go to the loo. Oops!
12) Smiley lady, rejuvenated by my epic water drinking, tries again. Four times. Nothing.
13) Smiley lady not smiley any more. I just feel bad that I haven’t been the perfect patient. My smiling looks a bit misplaced. My mind goes straight to the chemo nurses, the blood tests and the cannulas all waiting for me in the next round.
14) No more needles. Just another appointment tomorrow first thing with the anaesthetist. I have been upgraded from weirdo in the waiting room to annoying Monday morning patient with an arm that doesn’t play ball. Lucky anaesthetist!
15) I leave hospital with instructions to keep injecting (while still wondering about my hormone levels). And, guess what? It’s two injections for me today, not one. First Menopur, now Cetrotide wants in on the action!

By the way, if you’re wondering where everyone is on a Sunday morning in London, I’ve found them. They’re in the Assisted Conception Unit, watching me be a weirdo.

So, thank you cancer. You took my lie-in, you took my boob and, because you decided to spread out into my lymph nodes too, you took my right arm (for blood taking purposes).

My left arm looks like a dot to dot. My bladder feels like it has been abused (the body corset isn’t helping) and I really need a cup of tea. But, you know what? Even though I had the burning desire to start wailing in the waiting room, I didn’t. Every time you knock me, I’m going to dust myself off and come back fighting. Just let me have the tea first!

10 comments

  1. Don’t worry Jackie they can put magic little “taps” in that mean no more needles just blood on demand xx

    1. That was up for discussion yesterday so fingers are crossed. My arm is so painful after yesterday’s attempt and I reckon I am just days away from the next one. Definitely have one on Monday! Hope you are really well and hugs to William. J x

  2. You always manage to bring humour I to the most upsetting situations.. Good for you… Yes blood tests fill me with anxiety.. My legs are both out of bounds and arms not the best.. I hate it when they look at you like it is your fault they can’t find a vein!! Had a great lady the other day who did it first time… I want her again!!! 😃😃

    1. Big hugs to you re blood tests. Have never ever feared them before and am now looking at my badly bruised arm waiting for a call to summon me to the next one. Lots more tea drinking and arm warming for me. Hope you are well. J x

    1. I feel your pain! Just read your piece and know that arm look well. It just adds a whole new level to the experience, which is difficult enough. You’re so right about the apologising. I just felt soooo bad and the lady had a really good track record when I came along. She was obviously so sad about it, she had told the whole story to the anaesthetist, whose opening words were: ‘Eight times? Really?’ Let’s hope I can avoid another one tomorrow!

    1. Muddling through sounds good to me. Thanks for posting. I know exactly what you mean when you say on your blog that you feel so young in the oncologist’s office. Certainly is pretty lonely out there! Only upside, is that a lovely old chap chose to sit next to me yesterday in the waiting room because I was ‘the good looking one’. Trust me, there wasn’t much competition, but it still felt good. Good luck with the drugs. J x

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