Life after cancer continues.

This continues a series of personal notes from Cynthia Nelson, 35, of Moorestown, who was diagnosed with ovarian and cervical cancer in June 2005. Cynthia bravely shares with us her experiences, thoughts and impressions each month.


How much longer? That is what I ask myself many days. How much longer until I feel 100 percent? Although I realize that I will never be the same as before, it’s now the middle of spring and I still have so many aches and pains that I find it hard to believe that I’m done with the formal treatment regimen.

I still can’t walk up stairs very well or go for a stroll around the lake as I get winded too easily. Even sleeping is problematic. Lying on my side is uncomfortable. Lying on my stomach is still near impossible and lying on my back leaves me creaking in the morning. I feel much older.

To alleviate some of my discomfort, I’ve taken to visiting a chiropractor and a massage therapist. I’ve also spent some time with several makeup artists – trying to at least perfect my outside image.

Earlier this month, though, I had such severe pain in my left arm where I had a port surgically implanted to allow for easy transfusion of meds that I had to go back to the hospital. My arm was swollen and tender; it even hurt when I pulled my shirt over my head getting dressed.

After a visit with the oncologist to confirm what I already knew – that yes, my arm was hurting, sore and something was amiss – I was sent to the admissions department to register. Of course, I must have asked about 12 times why I was going to admissions. That is the procedure, I was told. But I was alone, on my third cup of coffee and in no way prepared to have surgery to remove the port right then. I explained this to the oncologist’s nurse and the two people I saw in admissions – each of who simply told me “it was procedure.” By the time I had expressed my confusion to the fourth person and got “someone else will be with you soon,” I was beyond aggravated. I demanded an explanation.

One of the ladies in the admissions department punched a few buttons on her phone and handed the receiver to me. I once again repeated the same inquiry: “Why am I in admissions?”

I was finally told that in order to effectively view the port and thus, determine what might be causing my pain, my arm had to be seen under a fluoroscope, a machine that uses an x-ray and fluorescent screen to take a live image of the body part in question. But the machine was located in the interventional radiology (IR) department of the hospital and due to the volume of patients I needed an appointment. Thus, admissions was arranging for me to be seen that day.

Of course you know what happened – I ended up waiting around for several hours, repeating myself over and over, explaining where my arm hurt, how long ago it had started, etc., etc., etc. When I was finally wheeled into the IR unit, a couple of clicks of the machine and I was done. The whole thing took less than five minutes.

The doctor decided that the port worked fine – they had tapped it and drawn blood while I was waiting – and there were no kinks in the line, if you will. He concluded that I must have a low- grade infection and it would be best to leave the port in and just treat me with antibiotics.

Surgery to remove the port could be scheduled mid-summer, he said, explaining that he’d prefer to leave the device in for at least six months to a year following chemotherapy, just in case. I tried not to worry as I waited for my prescriptions. I just knew I’d be happy when it was taken out.

One of the nurses brought me a sandwich and soda. Wouldn’t you know it – tuna. As soon as I opened the wrapper I was immediately nauseous. I shook my head at her, explained my adversity to fish and asked her for something else.

How long, I wondered aloud when she came back with turkey, before I could eat the things I wanted again? Would I ever be able to?

As I left the hospital I was still very frustrated. Life will never be the way it was. This is my new life, and I just have to deal with it.

May 2006
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