Sunday, October 25, 2009
Health Food hell
So---the next two weeks. A lot of draining goes on of fluid now collecting in something called a seroma...a pocket that collects when you remove breast tissue leaving space, not unlike empty closets or drawers for things to collect... and more antibiotics than CAN BE POSSIBLY BE GOOD FOR those crucial flora in my gut....So a lot of time is spent at Erewhon (now that I've felt obliged to boycott Wholefoods since Mr. Wholefoods is opposed to a public option for Health Care) asking for THE most effective and thus expensive probiotics for my stomach. The pale, wan salesperson somehow lures me over to the weirdo counter where bizarre, strange drinks called things like Motor Oil Maco and Seaweed Soup are recommended on an individual basis. The pony-tailed anorexic behind the counter asks for a quick health history and his eyes start to bulge in a very unpleasant fashion as I tick off cancer, surgery, chemo, more surgery, staph infection and antibiotics. He looks up a book before telling me to settle down while he whips up something "really healing and beneficial".
Five minutes later he pours almost black goop into a large paper cup and whacks on a price sticker that reads--I kid you not- $24.95.
I think of doing a runner but just smile weakly and push my trolley to the checkout. I take a large sip and have to report that it tastes fouler than anything I've ever had the misfortune of tasting.
"This is vile" I say to the pretty checkout girl..."I think I may vomit."
"Did you get it over there?' she asks nodding her head towards the bar. I nod back.
Lowering her voice, she whispers conspiratorially "Do you not want to pay for it?"
"I'd be THRILLED not to pay for it" I respond, sensing some long-standing feud between her and the pony-tailed dude.
"Good, I'll tell him it's bad" and she tosses it in the bin instantly.
Perversely I start to wonder if it just might have been the magic cure-all for infection. Too late.
Week drags on—friends stop calling for most part and I just spend a bloody fortune on twice weekly Vitamin C infusions, three more trips to the oxygen joint where I have discovered the answer to claustrophobic nightmare side it...Delve into my bedside drawer which now contains about 27 different things to make you blotto---from Ativan to Xanax, Lunesta, Ambien, Vicodin.. Well, you get the picture and in fact half a Xanax really does the trick in the Oxygen Hyperbaric Chamber. It’s niiiice.
The days truly blend into each other. I try--but I can't fight the overwhelming, utterly horrifying exhaustion that comes over me at least two or three times a day. I find myself leaning on the kitchen counter, unable to even stand without leaning as I wait for the kettle to boil or as I butter toast.
It reminds me of my mother. The last two years of her life she just had no energy. None. I remember my shock the first time I noticed it on one of my annual trips back to Australia. She just leant on the counter every time she tried to cook something or make a cup of tea. It made me cry then when I realized just how tired she was. It makes me cry now. She was dead a year later.
And then the two weeks of the antibiotic, Augmentin, is up and it's back to Dr Bob.
I am convinced he will now send me to an Infectious Disease doctor as my breasts look almost exactly the SAME. Instead he hums and ha's and talks vaguely of perhaps opening me up to take out the expanders and wash me out.
So I nervously suggest that perhaps I should go to see an ID doctor and he actually listens.
That is to say he doesn't actually send me to see him. But he does say "I know an ID and I'm going to call him right now."
And he does so--there and then- somewhere else so I don’t hear what he says but he does come back and informs me the ID has suggested I go onto another antibiotic for a week called Clindamycin.
Now I must just state that I am not the shy and retiring type --many pals would claim that the exact opposite but here's the thing --I just DID NOT have the energy to ask why he was not sending me to see an expert in the field of flaming infected breasts.
This particular antibiotic makes me feel like everything else I've been through is kindergarten -these pills make me almost comatose. I sleep almost every day, all day. Take my son to school and come back home to bed. Swear every day that I will go down to the gym in my building but cannot do it. Impossible.
Anything but takeaway is almost impossible. Trying to help the teen with the endless amounts of homework makes my head hurt. Badly. Gives me a blinding headache and I am irritable and foul and barely human.
One week later. (2pm appt with Dr Bob)
It is five weeks today since Surgery. I swallow the last vile Clindamycin with a chocolate shake I have made for Nick and myself in lieu of a nutritious breakfast. We’re incredibly late. Somewhat justifiably as Lola has broken up with her boyfriend and she stayed over and slept in my bed last night and woke me at 6 am as she rummaged in my closet for some cosy piece of cashmere to pop on for her early job, reappearing ten minutes later to report a dead battery and beg her ambien junkie/zombie of a mother if I would drive her to the coffee shop where she has to open up at 6 and ‘prepare stuff ‘ before opening the doors at seven.
It’s still dark outside and now that I’m here, crippling fatigue aside, I’m suddenly fearful about my daughter entering through this squalid back alley entrance on her own. I accompany her inside to make sure there are no burglars waiting to pounce. Cannot believe how brave she is and suddenly guilty and bitter that I never had a rather menial but impressive job like this opening up a hipster Melrose coffee shop frequented by freshly CAA-signed young screenwriters and many other wanna-be’s. I marvel as she whirls into action – turning on the coffee machine, putting out the pastries and generally showing a speed and high energy efficiency that hitherto has not been demonstrated in my kitchen or home. Eggs are cracked, benches are wiped, glasses are polished and deeply impressed I wonder who has entered my daughter’s body. I beg for a latte but she’s too busy and so I rush home and crash back to bed, not even hearing the 7.15 alarm.
Drop the teenager off at school and ominously the head master who greets the kids every single day, approaches my car.
“Say good morning to Mr Darryl and look him in the eye “ I hiss to Nick as he lumbers out of the car and naturally Nick looks away and grunts something unintelligible at Mr Darryl who can never quite hide his displeasure at Nick’s ridiculously long hair and skintight hot pink girl’s jeans. (He prefers a nice girl jean – so much tighter, cheaper and more colorful than boy jeans usually and I am secretly proud that although his sexuality is not in question he is quite boldly foppish in his dressing. I wave at Mr Darryl and speed off to Santa Monica for the zillionth time this year.
Fed up with paying $14 every time I see Dr Bob. I park half a block away in the Funeral Parlor Carpark and run in for what seems like my 900th checkup. As I undress and put on the seersucker gown I take a good look in the horrifying but appropriately-lit exam room. My left breast is still a very angry red after 5 weeks of swallowing enough antibiotics to stop an angry rhino in it’s tracks.
Dr Bob enters and like some robotic hooker, I open my robe as I greet him. He pokes. It hurts.
“Still red” I say.
“Yes but a little better” he counters
“Well” I begin but trail off …. Why is it so difficult to argue with a surgeon?
“Perhaps a little but it is still red. What about seeing an ID guy?
Silence. He takes notes.
“Maybe IV antibiotics are the answer at this point ..”
“No I think another 5 days of Clindamycin is the way to go..”
Really? REALLY??? Just slide into my sixth week of antibiotics even though they’ve made ME feel sick, toxic, beyond the valley of depressed and exhausted but have NOT even begun to tame the blazing hot, flaming red breast?
I feel beaten but using every last drop of energy I have left I manage to ask
“And you don’t think it makes sense to check with the Infectious Disease doctor you spoke to last week to see what he says?”
“No, try these again, “ he says, handing me the prescription.
“Okay” I say meekly and start to get dressed.
I reach the Funeral Parlor’s empty half acre parking lot to find that these godly Christian bastards have called the towing company and yes indeedy, they’re hooking up my car!
I whip out a twenty and make a tearful plea to please, please NOT tow ..
“I’ve just been with my cancer surgeon and he kept me waiting forever..”
“Fifty dollar call-out fee” interrupts the slimy mean guy.
I whip out another thirty bucks and he unhooks my ride. Fifteen seconds later as I speed back towards Hollywood I boldly dial my breast surgeon Dr Peg and leave a message. Apologizing profusely in advance for calling when I know how busy she is, I ask if she thinks a sixth week of antibiotics is the best way to go at this point.
Eureka! She calls me back before I have hit the 405 and asks if she’d heard correctly. I STILL had an infection?? I was to call an infectious disease doctor immediately and she gave me the name and number of the same ID doc that the surgeon at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Center had given me three weeks ago. I called and was told they couldn’t fit me in for 2 weeks but moments later Dr Peg texted to say she had made an appointment for the very next day.