Cancer Chronicles 6: Tired and Tunneled.

Cancer Vixen, Marisa Acocella Marchetto.

Warning: below the fold is a photo of my chemo port taken right after surgery. It’s not hideous, looks kinda like a body mod gone wrong, but if you’re sensitive, don’t look.

So, the 19th. My diagnosis was on Dec. 19th. January 19th was medical hell day. I’m starting to dislike 19ths. Yesterday, had to leave the house at 5:45am for a full day: PET scan, radiation doc visit, MRI, and chemo port installation. We finished up all the medical stuff at 6pm. Tired doesn’t begin to cover it.

Oh look, I’m a lovely shade of Trump! This is what a port looks like right after surgery, with a protective coating on, which should dissolve in about week or so. The site itself is quite sore, but the surrounding areas are fine. I’ve now reached a point where I’m glad enough to get moving on this, but it’s going to be a long haul – eight months of treatment. Months and months of crazy. Months and months of traveling back and forth. Got to get all the family leave stuff straightened out. Applied for gas cards from the hospital. Have to start looking for a place to rent in Bismarck where we can have the monster dogs with us. When you live in a state where the majority of people are rural, hospitals have a block of apartments for patients to stay at, but of course, they don’t include anything pesky, like pets. Doll is now 16 years old, and she seriously dislikes it if we disappear for two or three days. Jayne gets superhyper if we disappear, and we keep instilling abandonment issues in them, which is upsetting for all of us.

Right about this point, you can’t think straight, and every time you try to just focus on everyday matters, there’s a background of CANCERCANCERCANCERDEATHCANCERCANCER in your head. It’s difficult to focus on all the shit you need to do, like find a temporary residence, and what this is doing to your bank balance, and you have to stop putting off having your hair cut, because you get so damn tired of being cancer focused, so you get it both directions, and stop wanting to think about anything at all.

I did finally cave in, a tiny bit, after yesterday. I went to sleep and did not set my alarm. Slept in to almost 10am, and ohgods did it ever feel good. You can be so focused on trying to maintain your regular life that you ignore all the alarms going off in your head and the sense of utter fatigue threatens to eat you alive. Whether or not it suits you, compromise is the rule during treatment. Just one night of not slaving myself to the clock has helped to up my energy again, so it’s likely there will be a number of days coming up where everything is late to start on Affinity. You’ll know I’m having a snooze.

I have to be back to oncology on Monday at 8am, and I might have a better idea of the upcoming schedule then. Oh, some good news – I made the clinical trial, yay me. And for anyone else going through this in any form, if you have the chance to get in on a study, take it – this is an easy way to help yourself and to help so many others. Other good news: the tumour hasn’t broken containment; most likely stage 3, and all the surrounding areas and organs look to be clear of cancer.


  1. says

    Yes, sleep is good. As for the trial, I have a 50% chance of being given veliparib on top of the other stuff. Whether or not I get it, being part of a trial is the gold standard for care, and it does help others, so I’m more than good with that.

  2. kestrel says

    Congratulations on being accepted into the trial, that is great. Also, hooray for having the port in place, and hooray for the tumor staying within it’s boundaries.

    I wish I knew someone in Bismarck who could take you guys and the dogs… All I can think to suggest, which I know full well you already thought of, is to ask the nurses and staff at the hospital there. At the Partner’s hospital, most of the staff are really helpful and can suggest places. (Not that we don’t have our share of jerks; no place on Earth has the world supply of jerks all sewn up, they are simply everywhere.) Here is hoping that goes smoothly.

    Sleep is good. Having been an insomniac my entire life I can really appreciate an undisturbed block of sleep and understand how vital that can be. In fact, why don’t you just go ahead and sleep a little extra, just for me? LOL. Since I can’t, you may as well!

  3. says

    Kestrel, I share your insomnia, so a really good night’s sleep rarely occurs; I certainly appreciate it when it does though! We’ve set the nDakota network on the housing thing, everyone knows everyone here. We’ll most likely look for a cheapshit trailer to rent for 6 months or so, that way the dogs are less likely to be a problem. We’ll really need that for the radiation treatments, which aren’t going to happen for a while yet, but that’s 5 weeks of: appointments 5 days a week, for a treatment which will last about 15 minutes.

  4. says

    I can’t speak for the whole commentariat, but don’t worry about us having abandonment issues. We’ll be here -- take time and rest when you can.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    Concurring with Charly on the sleep-ins. If it’s the new normal, it is.

    The port looks kind of innocuous but I’d imagine it sets limits on the kinds of bags you want to carry. Can you get seatbelts in the car to fit comfortably (especially if you need to sit on the left)?

    Hoping that being able to be in the trial, the cancer being no further than stage 3 and the port will set the way for a full recovery from the cancer in the end.

  6. voyager says

    That port looks good. Not much inflammation and it looks well placed.
    Your treatment schedule sounds gruelling, but stage 3 is good news. It is a hopeful number.

  7. johnson catman says

    Glad to hear the good news. Hope you continue to get good news throughout the treatments.

  8. rq says

    This is a bunch of good news about some really bad stuff. And by ‘good’ I mean mostly not completely bad.
    I hope there’s a solution for the dogs, 16 is not an adaptable age, poor thing. If the hospital ever asks for recommendations, suggest a kennel I’m sure you ain’t the only ones, and pets are important to people and their well-being during illness.

    Good luck and much thumbs for everything, thinking of you very much!! ♥

  9. Athaic says

    I can only awkwardly echo Charly, Marcus, rq…

    Re: finding a place for pets
    I could imagine too well how difficult that could be for big dogs. Thinking of my Grandma’s dog when she needed an emergency surgery, 2 decades ago. A local pet shelter was the temporary solution. Not the best, but it gave the rest of the family time to scramble and arrive.
    Speaking from personal experience, there are people who don’t want the permanent responsibility for a pet, but are perfectly willing to guard other people’s pets, for a few days in a row. Or weeks. Granted, it’s easier for small pets. Still, hopefully there are people like this around you. Don’t hesitate to spread the word.

    Re: Cancer vixen
    Oh! I remember reading this cartoon (graphic novel?) in a library. A very good read, the author did a very good job at presenting her perspective and sentiments during all the cancer-related shenanigans. Very instructive, even (especially?) for biologists like me. I wish it could be found everywhere.

  10. avalus says

    Best wishes!
    We will not go away, just because your posts are late.
    Everything else has been said much better than i could.

  11. Raucous Indignation says

    I’m so happy and relieved you qualify for the trial. T”is a lovely portacath, truly. May it flash freely and give good blood return.

  12. says

    Thank you all so much!

    And Chigau, I do eat! At least when I’m allowed -- most tests I have to take don’t allow for food and drink.

  13. says

    Ice Swimmer:

    The port looks kind of innocuous but I’d imagine it sets limits on the kinds of bags you want to carry. Can you get seatbelts in the car to fit comfortably (especially if you need to sit on the left)?

    I carry on the right, so no problem there, but right now even wearing a bra is on the painful side. Everything will be fine once it’s all healed. Most people kind of forget the port is even there.

  14. says

    Take all the rest you need. Seriously. Sleep is undervalued, if you ask me.

    I’m glad the fucker is staying by itself and I hope the therapy kicks its ass.

    I hope you can find a place that is good for you and the dogs, I can imagine that given their size and nature it’s not easy to find an accommodating place.

  15. says

    Fuck, found a mobile home giveaway (it’s free), but it’s in Linton, which is too far out of Bismarck. Two free houses, too, but they need to be moved. Not quite what I’m looking for.

  16. Raucous Indignation says

    Caine, every so often people do forget about their ports. It’s not often though. One day, when I was a young attending, I was seeing a patient for something. It was summer and his wife was wearing a V-neck top. You could clearly see she had a port. Making conversation as one might, I asked her if she was still under treatment. She was surprised; she had finished treatment years ago and was no longer seeing our practice for follow up. The port hadn’t been flushed for years. Now that’s NOT a good thing. We accessed it. It still had good “blood return,” although the “blood” wasn’t the color of any blood I was used to. It flushed fine. I gave her a referral to have it removed. Now, she was a bit heavier than you; the port wasn’t as prominent. But still …

  17. busterggi says

    Found out two weekends ago that my daughter has started chemo, she waited til her mom ^ me could be there inperson to tell us the diagnosis. She also a port in about the same location but its healed as well as can be expected. Can’t say I’m not worried though I have to pretend not to be so my ex doesn’t freak out.

  18. jimb says

    Best wishes, Caine. Get all the rest you can.

    Also, best wishes to busterggi’s daughter & family.

  19. Tethys says

    I will ask my Bismarck family if they may know of something that could work for the dogs. Oddly enough my Aunt and Uncle are in medical housing here in the cities while he has a heart transplant.

  20. jazzlet says

    Glad things are going as well as they can. Good luck with finding somewhere to be with the dogs. We get that thing where businesses say they’re dog friendly, then when we enquire about turning up with our German Shepherds, it turns out what they really mean is small dog friendly. We had a pleasant surprise today at the National Botanic Garden of Wales where they really are dog friendly (well on Mondays anyway).

  21. says

    Busterggi @ 25, I am so sorry to hear. It’s no fun finding yourself being part of a cancer support team, and yeah, most people need to freak out a bit. Carve yourself some private time to fall apart for a while, it will help. All my best hopes to your daughter and yourself.

  22. says

    Thanks Tethys, Jim, & Jazzlet. Yeah, no one is ever happy with monster dogs. Well, we have some time to do that; I have to get through my first cycle of chemo before the 5 weeks of radiation. If we can FMLA leave for that time, all will be well.

  23. KG says


    It doesn’t sound like what you want for the dogs at present, but in the UK there’s a thing called “dog fostering”, where volunteers take in dogs while the owner is unable to look after them* -- might be worth finding out if there’s anything similar where you are, in case you need it at some point.

    And all the very best wishes for your treatment.

    *We fostered several dogs some years ago (some were a pleasure, some were a pain!) until we ended up adopting one when the owner decide she couldn’t take her back. Enjoyed her company for the rest of her life (13 years).

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