On Monday, I got a call from the nurse who works with my oncologist. I had a CT scan last week, so the phone call made me I brace myself for the worst kind of news.
Instead, she said "You have a blood clot on your lung."
What unfolded next is a bit blurry but I know that I asked if there was cancer on the CT (no), whether this was life-threatening ("absolutely not") and what I should do next.
I was instructed to get myself to a specific ER (at the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, which also houses the Cancer Centre). They would be told to expect me. Tim and I gathered up our stuff, made sure Daniel would be OK and headed out the door. We were at the hospital in 20 minutes.
We then proceeded to wait for more than 6 hours to be seen by a doctor. I established that there was a note on my file, saying that I was coming in but that didn't seem to make a difference in my waiting time. When I finally saw a nurse, she told me that they didn't have a bed for me (I didn't think I was waiting for one) but that she would do a blood draw and they would give me a "loading dose" of the blood thinner that would attack the clot.
She also gave me Benadryl because I had an allergic reaction to the bracelet they'd put on me to alert everyone to my allergy to sulfa drugs.
I probably spent 5 minutes with a doctor. I was given a shot, sent home and told to expect a call from the Thrombosis Clinic in the morning.
We were at emerg for a total 7 hours, into the very early morning.
At 7:30am, I got the expected call from the thrombosis clinic. I was on the list for the morning but should come in "as quickly as possible" because they were "very busy."
This time I was smart enough to have a shower, something to eat and grab a coffee before going.
They were great at the Thrombosis Clinic. Everyone I dealt with was kind, patient, competent and had great communication skills. I learned that blood clots are very common in cancer patients ("It's our largest group of customers") and that my odds of anything bad coming from it went way down when I got the first dose of blood thinner.
I have been prescribed an injectable blood thinner (fewer side effects), that I am to administer daily for at least the next several months. I need to be careful about bruising and cutting myself because my blood will, of course, not clot very easily.
I'm already covered in bruises and have very thin skin (literally, not figuratively) from the Decadron. My stomach is several shades of purple and green at the injection sites (the one from the loading dose is huge and spectacular). I scraped myself on something on Tuesday evening (I'm really not sure what) and I had to put pressure for a long time for the bleeding to stop.
But I'm already feeling better. And I know that my recent shortness of breath was caused by the clot, not cancer.
I learned that my oncologist spoke to the ER doctor on Monday night and had agreed that I would be streamlined through the process, given my shot and sent home quickly. Somehow that message didn't trickle down to the front lines. My oncologist was shocked and outraged.
I could have been saved several hours.
Also noted: I was out of the Thrombosis Clinic in two hours; it was clean and had natural light and no one in the waiting room was hacking, bleeding or puking. They set me up to expect a long day but, relatively speaking, it really wasn't. There's a lesson in there about setting low expectations.
I still don't seem to be able to do that.
And even as I was going through this, I was very aware of the fact (and appreciative of it) that I was not going to be handed a bill at the end of the process.