Thursday, July 9, 2009

Phreakin' Phlebitis

I'm swinging back to the strong side of the pendulum. I'm pumped up with Neupogen shots - I've started calling it "Neup" (pronounced noop) for short to make driving to the cancer center for this little burning shot more fun. The Neup injections mean my immune system is alive and kicking again, well kicking against the cancer in my immune system anyway. The Neup doesn't give me as much bone pain as it did the first time around as I'm now receiving the white blood cell boosters earlier in the cycle. It does make me very tired though as my marrow is working extra hard to create cells. But if it keeps me from catching the cooties then I'm happy. As a back up I'm obsessed with continually squirting foaming, moisturizing hand sanitizer. 

My body is feeling stronger. My daily walk today turned into a run, okay, a jog, or more like a walk with a little more bounce and arm movement, but it was the most intense aerobic exercise I've had in more than two months now.  

However, my veins are another story. They are rebelling against the harsh poisons they've been subjected to. And I don't blame them, but I am disappointed that they're collapsing on me. I'm standing up to this, why are they tapping out already? After chemo three I was left with a hardened vein in my right arm that was tender to the touch. After this past chemo, treatment four, it's been my left arm and "tender" is putting the feeling very mildly. The vein insertion site in my lower left wrist is rock hard and elevated. I'm told this is because it's filling with scar tissue after being ripped apart by the chemo. But this time it's not just the insertion site that's sore, but the pain follows all the way up the vein following the entire length of my arm right to my heart. It basically feels like a tiny knife, serrated on both sides, is continually traveling up my vein along with my blood ... over and over as it circulates through me. 

Last night I truly thought my arm was going to explode. The pain was nearly unbearable. I made Craig sleep with the phone next to his head in case we had to call an ambulance and told him to keep checking on me every time he woke up. Poor guy. Low and behold I'm still here today and no 3 a.m. phone calls were needed. 

While in for my Neup shot today I told the nurse about my throbbing vein and was told that it's the ropes. It's extremely painful, but that's how ABVD rolls. She recommended hot compresses and Ibuprofen which help ease the knives a bit. She explained that my cocktail is one of the, if not the harshest of chemo treatments on the veins. What I'm experiencing is "phlebitis," an inflammation of the veins. This phlebitis is only going to phlebitisize itself more and more as the treatment goes on. If I keep going with the IV insertions I'm going to be left with very few viable veins in my arms by the end of this, and a lot of pain. She told me about a man my age she just finished treating. By his 12th chemo infusion she said they were grasping at straws to find a vein. She had used and abused beyond repair all the large veins in his arms and even the ones in his hands. She tied off my forearm to examine the veins I do have left and told me that I would really be cutting it close to make it through eight more injections. 

But there is hope and it comes in a little box inserted in the chest called a port. This port can be put in with a minor surgical procedure and can stay with me for the rest of my chemo treatment. The nurses and docs can use a special needle inserted right into the port to draw blood and send my chemo drugs right to a major artery in my chest avoiding the many needle pricks and all the vein prodding and destruction that I've been dealing with. It sounds like a creepy but good option. More research and a talk with my doc is needed. Until then, it's just me and the phreakin' Phlebitis. Combine that with the fissures and it's a regular pain party. 

Regardless of all of that, I'm feeling much more like myself again and am ready for a road trip to D.C. this weekend for my college roomie's engagement party. It'll be a welcome vacation and I am so incredibly excited to see her and her beau. 


  1. you're right, the port sounds creepy but everyone I know that had it, is thankful they did - helps the whole chemo process along and you can rock it like another accessory... and it'll save you the extra discomfort because it sounds like the fissures are enough of a pain the ass (sorry, couldn't resist)... thinking of you...

  2. My cousin had the port put in for his Hodgkin treatments and it made a world of difference for him. Go for it!


  3. Hey, I'm the cousin that Kara's talking about. Call me at 860-550-2419 and I can give you my story. I was in the same exact boat as you. Your story sounds identical to mine.


  4. He is a sweet-pea, Karin, and I am sure you would have lots to talk about. His diagnosis was as shocking as yours ( went in to the doctor to get checked for a cold and came home with Hodgkin). He was 18 when he got diagnosed. He is in his early 20's now and about to get married next year. You can also find him on Facebook, the only Steve on my friend list : )

    Hope you have a good weekend!

  5. i found your blog from my husband's (dickter's bedpan). You can do it!!!! i'm proud of you for chronicling and be open and honest. As he does, i see you have your ups and downs. And i know people say it's "the best kind of cancer", but i think it still sucks. Just know that it's ok to feel sorry for yourself at times. Just make sure you remember to bounce back most of the time. Anyway. rock on. Keep doing it and it'll be no time before you don't have to go to the freakin doctor every week.