Monday, February 28, 2011

The Panic Button

I had a panic attack yesterday. I have never had one before. I hope not to ever again.

It slowly built from butterflies in my stomach at bedtime, not calmed by hot milk and blogging, and then pressure on my chest, which grew from small pebble to boulder size - with me unable to see beyond a very dark bleak spot on the horizon. Shaking limbs.

It really kicked in at about 2:30 am, waking me from a drug-induced sleep, more like a coma - some sentient part of me completely terrified by my horror movie like dreams - very bloody, gory, completely disaster based - me running away, running to save, being chased. I awoke exhausted. I have to have my portacath out tomorrow, March 1, and the gory dreams made me fearful of this minor invasion. I battled the gaping maw of this panic all day, trying to combat it with "busy", distraction, building playmobil [as they say in the PMH literature about stress].

Literally wringing my hands. Staring out the window. Gotta do something, gotta get out. We went for a walk, I took drugs, but nothing helped. The tide was rising. The sense of doom very very real. My heart was palpitating, my body shook, my breath was short. I called my doctor's office, and the "on call" indicated they were concerned for my heart, which can be weakened by chemotherapy. They had to rule out heart attack  and if it is a panic attack, medicate accordingly.

By 3:00 EMS was here, hooking me up, and off to East General for a few hours to check the ticker. My heart is fine. My nerves are shot. I am now medicated. And hoping to find some way through the next period of time where I can survive my anxieties.

It is still frickin winter. I have had a very busy weekend. I still feel cacky. I am not sleeping well. I ran out of Ativan. My mind is in overdrive with fear of surgery. I panicked. My body reacted.

The hospital experience was disgusting, really. PMH is a golden temple of healing and beauty for the unwell in comparison. The "newly organized" ER of TEGH was borderline inhumane - and decrepit. A lot of people walking around doing nothing, it seemed to me. In my particular mental state, it did not help that the sick lady next to me in my curtained veal fattening pen was driving me nuts - basically she had the flu and was too stupid to figure it out, and bemoaned her state. Really, she moaned. I was close to throwing my shoe at her through the flimsy curtain to shut up. The doctor's instructions to her were to go home, drink gatorade, and eats bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast (BRAT diet).  Shocker, that.

And for the panic stricken, hanging out by yourself is not really a super good idea. Michael was not "allowed" to sit with me, since the curtained beds are too close, and it infringes on privacy and the nurse's work space. My nurse - real busy - was looking at Pre-Oscar stories on the internet right in front of me, waiting for the doctors. This new systems "assigns patients" to nurses, and until they are seen by the doctor- you're stuck with it. Fantastic standard of care. Alone, freaked out, in panic mode, surrounded by moanin' minnie and the bored nurse. Michael and I texted each other from lobby to bed. I eventually went and preferred to sit with him in the hall. Half naked in my gown, not allowed to eat or drink, surrounded by the saddest sacks.
At one point, I was ready to pull the IV line out and run.

But I knew that was a bad idea.

Finally, it was over. Got m scrip and got the hell out of there. After returning home with kids watching Amazing Race, medicated appropriately, life seemed semi- normal. Close.

I seem to be capable of taking it now, as it comes, in 15 minute intervals.When the butterflies unleash, I begin the protocol.

Speaking of protocols, Andy was telling me that neoadjuvant chemotherapy is not entirely successful for all patients who undertake it. Many get through one or two of their sessions to find their blood counts too low, they are too anemic to continue - so they pause treatments and alleviate the symptoms so they can go back for more poison - meanwhile waiting in fear the cancer cells are back at their dirty work. I would go insane. I would panic. I don't know how women do it.

It is not a common practice for a patient to take the full hammer, mega dose, 6 times in a row, without any disruption to the flow, or bad blood results. Well, I did. I am extremely cheered by this. Yay me. I did it.

However, the physical part of the chemo is over, and now the mental part of the bigger picture is settling on  and around me. The reality of the next month, and the cruelty of several weeks of somewhat normalcy - then SMACK - big bodily altering surgery - is seriously messing with my head.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yowza, like you needed that!

Good news about you being such a tough bird though! I know that my other friend who is going through this had some of the troubles you talked about re: chemo.