Saturday, November 24, 2012


Fun with cancer continues.

Yesterday I woke up not feeling so great. On the drive to Scituate, I remember thinking, I am so tired I can't even talk, but I figured it was just my first experience with fatigue from the chemo, or maybe it was the result of overeating the day before. So I pulled myself together and we had such a great Friday-after-Thanksgiving tradition. I got these photos to show for it:

Annabel was not interested in posing for a picture. 

So we went with just Teddy...

Determined, we tried one more time and ... Success!
Brian had been working on getting the lights to work on our fake tree all morning and when we got home, I collapsed into my healing chair while he tackled the tree lights again. The kids played at our feet but I was out for the count -- freezing with chills and feeling progressively worse.

When we were giving the kids a bath, Brian made me check my temp. 99.7. Not a problem just yet. Dr. Bunnell's instructions were clear -- page him with a temp above 100.5. Once the kids were asleep, we checked again. 101.7. Crap. We paged Dr. Bunnell and he told us to pack a bag and come into the ER at the Brigham. My parents came over to stay with the kids, and we arrived at the ER around 10pm.

I forgot how scary diagnostic tests are. They drew blood to check for infection, examined my still painful arm which had become red and warm, and took a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia. I had an interesting conversation with the rad tech before I posed for the x-ray. I told him I was so scared that the radiation would make cancer grow again. He said he could give me some numbers. I stopped him. Numbers aren't good for me. But neither was the nurse's earlier answer that pneumonia can be fatal when counts are low so we need to rule it out. She should work on a more comforting answer.

Once they rolled me back into my ER room, I was so hot and felt so sick, I don't remember much. I think I slept a bit and Brian sat, or paced, by my side. My temperature was climbing, maxing out at 102.4, so they admitted me. We got up to our room at about 1am and were finally done answering questions by about 2:30. In that time, we got a visit from our friend, Marissa, who is a nurse on another floor. Marissa assured us that everything would be fine. I never, ever, get tired of hearing that, especially from a nurse that cares as much and knows as much as Marissa.

Neither of us slept more than a few hours last night, mostly thanks to the IV machine that beeped every time I unknowingly bent my arm. At least Brian's recliner was a bit more comfortable here than it was in the ICU, so we're making progress.

Turns out I am neutropenic (thank you, Google, for the correct spelling -- Brian and I struggled to get that word down -- he kept calling it neutrogena). I am told this means that my white blood cell counts are extremely low. They are low alright, since my count in fact hit zero. So even though I really only have a cold, I am prone to infection and can't fight anything off on my own, hence the fever. They have been pumping me with IV antibiotics since last night. In the midst of all of this, Brian is fighting the same cold and I know he doesn't feel well. When it rains, it sure does pour.

This morning, a fabulous PA from Dr. Bunnell's team came to visit me. When she left, I told Brian how much I liked her. She had such a great demeanor -- smart, positive, comforting, and empathetic. When she came back later, the PA asked me if my maiden name was Talbot. I said that it was. Turns out that Colleen graduated from Canton High School a few years after I did, I graduated with her older brother, I taught her younger sister, and I worked with her mom. Unreal. Colleen was awesome and she makes me so proud of the great people my hometown continues to churn out. Plus, I'm just really happy she's helping me.

Colleen's attending physician, Dr. Parker was also totally wonderful. I told him that I felt very hot. We will cool you off then. Brian and I laughed. Because it was the best thing he could have said.

Colleen and Dr. Parker then explained that this was not going to be a quick stay. Because my counts were at zero, I've got a climb ahead of me until they are high enough to go home. They said it will likely take a few days. So here I sit in a hospital bed at the Brigham again, hooked up to an IV, frustrated, but trying to stay positive.

Tylenol has been helping my fever, but like clockwork, it keeps on spiking after a few hours of peace. It's a very predictable cycle and I have gotten to the point that I can tell about what my temperature is before the nurse even takes it. I'm enjoying a cool period now, as I was earlier today when my Mom and I took a walk to the gift shop. I must say, I am quite the pathetic looking sight walking down the hall pushing my IV pole with a surgical mask around my shiny bald head. As my Mom and I walked around the gift shop this afternoon I told her this was just the Small Business Saturday shopping trip I had dreamed of. Yep, this year I may do more holiday shopping in hospital gift shops than elsewhere. Fun times.

I have to admit that it's been hard to stay positive in the last 24 hours. When my fever spikes, I am miserable. I feel like my body is being leveled and I can't fight back, which is pretty much exactly what is happening. But when I feel better, like I do now, I can find the positive in all of this. The best news is that if the chemo has managed to put my counts at zero, it must mean that it has killed any remaining cancer. So in a way, this is all very reassuring.

I did, however, get really upset last night when I realized that I never said goodbye to the kids. Teddy was so excited to decorate the Christmas tree today and put up all of the Christmas decorations. Plus, he was expecting his Elf on the Shelf, which I remembered when we were still in the ER. Around midnight, I called my Mom and directed her to the bag in the basement with the elf. She put Freddie on a candle holder on the mantle so Teddy wouldn't be disappointed. (Side Note: The real Elf of a Shelf kind of freaked us out last year with his weird little grin so this year, we found a cuter elf and told Teddy that since he's a big boy now, there is a new elf that helps with his toys. Luckily, he bought it.)

Avoiding germs has now become top priority. I am not at all germophobic and believe deeply in the Three Second Rule so all of these neutropenic precautions are hard for me. But I'm abiding by all the rules and you can bet on my next round of chemo I won't be as cavalier as I was on this one. Because this kind of sucks. And I'm sick of Instagraming this view:

So now we just wait. Wait and watch numbers -- milliliters of antibiotics, white blood cell counts, body temps. Yep, the fun with cancer continues. And that's about it from the 7th floor of the Brigham tonight.

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As I was proofreading this, Sean and my Mom battled to try to extend the recliner out to the sleeping position. They ended up dismantling it into pieces so Sean left me with the following goals for the night. He always makes me laugh. 


  1. Stay with it, sweetie! We love you and know that this is temporary. A hard day for you, so sorry. I wish I could regale you with the tale of my crazy Thanksgiving! But when we meet, I will tell you, you will laugh! xoxo Jen

  2. This cancer thing is really a roller coaster ride, the highs are high and the lows are low. Ride it out Tara, you will soon be off this ride and onto bigger and better things, and all this will be behind you. Prayers and Hugs, A fellow Cantonite.