Treatment Phase: Consolidation
Phase Day / Total Days: 26 / 64
Today, Ewan had to have his port accessed for a lab draw. It’s a procedure that sucks and is unnecessarily long, just to get blood for analysis. The process starts at home when I apply a tablespoon of lidocaine and cover it with square of Press’n’Seal. When we get to the clinic there is a lengthy ritual of carefully removing the Press’n’Seal. which sticks to everything including skin and clothing. Sometimes the cream smears on clothing. Then the cream must be ever-so-gently wiped away, preferably with gauze. Next, everyone in the room puts on masks to keep from breathing germs onto the port access site. The area around it is cleaned with 3 clorhexidine swabs. After the site has air dried for 30 seconds a sterile protective lotion is applied to the area. Then the nurse waits patiently while keeping the port needle hidden in her hand (to date, we haven’t had a “he” access Ewan’s port). When Ewan is ready, he says, “Ok, I am ready.” That is the nurse’s cue to go for it and access the port by pressing down on his implanted compartment, to keep it stabilized while simultaneously attaching a needle assembly to the septum and drawing back blood. Once the port’s function has been tested, is covered in a dressing, which attaches to the skin. Most people agree that it is better than the alternative of having an arm poke for repeated blood draws. But I don’t think this takes the port removal into account. Ewan finds the removal of dressing to be very painful on his skin. Taking out the needle insert has comes with pressure and pain. After a lot of anxiety and a few tears, when Ewan’s port was de-accessed (removed) the nurse offered him a lollipop.
Nurse: What flavor would you like?
Ewan: Cotton candy, please.
Nurse: Hmm, (rummaging through the basket) We don’t have cotton candy today. Here, you can choose one from the basket yourself.
Ewan choose a mystery flavor, the kind with the question mark on the wrapper. Anticipation built as we left the clinic. What flavor did he have? When he got buckled in the car, he eagerly unwrapped his lollipop. It was blue! He had a 50/50 chance of having cotton candy. His eyes got big and with a smile. He tasted it. It was blue raspberry. The odds did not fall in his favor; it was not what he’d hoped for, but it still sweet and he was ok with it. He continued to smile anyway.
This cancer experience has been a multitude of unexpected miseries. From pills and ports to being inpatient and out of control. Ewan is lead to believe that he has some control, but the truth is they are going to get blood for labs one way or another. He has to take his medicine whether it’s in liquid or capsule form. Each experience ends with the unfulfilling promise of a lollipop –- the hope that he will feel better and forget about the suffering. And at every corner, when we’ve thought we have a choice, nope –- no choice, a basket full of unwanted options. Even when there has been the hope that things might go our way, maybe things will turn out to be a cotton candy lollipop, after all. Even when left to the hands of chance, its been the disappointing side of the coin toss. Throughout it all, Ewan remains sweet. He even smiles.
This all breaks my heart.