Thursday, March 10, 2016, North York General Hospital.
Today was an eventful day. I had a PICC line inserted in my left arm. PICC stands for “Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter”. It is a long, thin tube that was inserted into a vein in my arm, and then threaded into a large vein that leads to my heart. The PICC line will be used to give me the chemotherapy concoction that I will require over the next several months. Generally patients who go through cancer treatment do not require a PICC line; they get chemotherapy through an IV in their arm. But because of my past cancer treatments. I have non-functioning veins in my arms and so inserting an IV becomes a federal case, requiring several painful pokes with mixed, mostly unsuccessful results. This is the second time that I am getting a PICC line inserted in my arm.
I went for my PICC surgery with Nagib, ready and optimistic. Unfortunately it was anything but simple. My doctors had a very hard time finding a vein in my arm (using an ultrasound) to place the catheter. My veins chose to play a wicked game of hide and seek and hid deep. In the meantime, the arteries were playful and kept rising to the top, almost as if they wanted to keep the veins hidden (on the ultrasound, the arteries look like opening and closing mouths!). The doctors conscientiously and persistently kept searching until they thought they found an elusive vein. I asked them if it was unusual for the veins to be so deep and they told me that it was not and that “I was special”. I apologized for making their work so hard and they kept reiterating that I should not apologize because – you guessed it – I was special as they continued to find anomalies in my arm. And while I was laying on the cold and surgical bed, I kept thinking, “For once, I wish I was ordinary.” The doctors called in the head of the unit, who came in and concurred that my veins were hard to locate. He also said that they would not give up on me until they found a vein. The whole time, I was praying so hard that God would guide the doctors so they could find one vein and then another to successfully insert the catheter. Alas, it did not work the first time. The second time was a charm, and they were able to work their magic. Just to be sure, they followed this up with an x-Ray to check that everything was in place. What a huge relief. I loved how the doctor who did this procedure, spent the last 5 minutes with me giving me a pep talk about being positive, about having faith, about building my immunity. Anthony Robbins would be proud!
Now the challenge is to keep the PICC line clean and dry, which will make taking a shower everyday difficult. Swimming is now impossible for 5 months. I will also need to get the site cleaned on a weekly basis to prevent infection.
Chemotherapy starts tomorrow. In anticipation of not being able to enjoy eating for the next few months, I decided to go on an eating binge today. Nagib took me to one of my favourite haunts, Schezuan Gourmet, for lunch , where we consumed ginger chicken and peanut chicken. For dinner, my mom made chicken curry, roti and rice. And then I inhaled two Kit Kat chocolate bars, probably not what I should have eaten, but my body was craving food – and lots of it.
The best part of today was picking up Sabrina from the airport. She has Spring Break and so has come home from New York to be with me for my first chemo. I am just beaming from ear to ear that we will spend the next 10 days with her. She makes everything better.
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