Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.


The last day of my children's school year was the third emergency room visit: May 27th.
Since then here's a list of the things I wasn't expecting to experience in my 34th year.

  • Ambulance rides: 2
  • Hospital stays: 9 for an approximate 55 days total (thus far)
  • rounds of chemotherapy: 7 with one to go
  • surgeries: 3, one for a biopsy, one to install a port for the chemo, and one to remove the tumor.
  • number of staples post-tumor removal: 55
  • home health equipment: walker, bedside commode, and elevated toilet seat
  • number of interns: who can count?
  • Doctors on my treatment team: 3
  • cat scans complete with barium swallows: 4
  • average number of times it takes to thread an I.V. into my arm, even with the I.V. team: 3
  • times I've lost my hair: twice. It grew back when I had a break from chemo after surgery.
  • poems I've written about this experience: 4
  • Days where C. Dale's blog has been too difficult to read: several, especially when he's had patients with terminal diagnosis.
  • prognosis: very good. the cancer responded to the chemo even though there was only a 40% likelyhood that it would.
  • what my 8 year old said: "I'll love you when you're bald"
  • new vocabulary words (medicine): zofran, anti-nausea
  • number of labs (ie blood drawn): twice per week
  • days I feel lucky to have such a supportive husband: every minute of every day

I've had a difficult time writing about this, obviously it's taken 6 months before I could even broach it on the blog. One of my doctors has encouraged me to write about my experiences, I don't know that I have much that is helpful to say, I don't feel brave or strong or as if I've had an epiphany along the way, but I can say, "here I am, here's what I know." Perhaps that can be enough.


Before the CT Scan

by Amy D. Unsworth

The older gentleman looks my way
a time or two.

It isn’t difficult to figure
a diagnosis:
no hair equals chemo
equals cancer equals my familiarity

with the IV team, needles, and
the shooting pain of a tube
threaded in the vein.

I’m not used to this sort of thing,
he tells the nurse
who mentions bee stings and
a few moments hum of the scan.

His doctor wants to rule out
a mass, a blockage, anything
visible that causes
a little dizziness,
a little trouble breathing.

The nurse forgets to draw the curtain
before pulling the elastic tourniquet tight.
I can’t meet his eyes
as she fails three times to find a likely vein.


Scoplaw said...

Crap Kid,

I'm still processing this (I thought you were just busy with your graduate studies). Be well!!


C. Dale said...

Amy, I didn't know. I am sorry if some of my posts got you down. But you are a strong person, and you have shown that already considering the number of cycles of chemo you have already done. Expressing how the whole experience makes you feel is a good thing, whether in writing or just talking to someone. You will do fine. You will come through this okay. You are doing what you need to do.

Amy Unsworth said...

Hi Scoplaw,

Yeah, it came as a surprise to me as well. But, hopefully, the worst of the storm has passed.


C. Dale,
It has been interesting to hear the "doctor" side of the situation which is one of the reasons that I read your blog. And things have a way of balancing out, you spoke of having to tell one of your patients about the reoccurance of his cancer and the same day a woman I know from my children's school approached me and told me that she'd also been a cancer patient at my stage of life, and that she'd been cancer-free for 24 years.
And I admire your ability to treat cancer patients everyday, and to do so with compassion. It's a job I don't know that I could handle. Thank you.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Wow. Amy.

I have another friend who's going through chemo. She's a poet, too. I run a reading series in SF with her husband so I see him more often than her. And I see how worn down he is.

Rough stuff. Strength to you.


Amy Unsworth said...

Thanks Glenn. And strength to your friends as well. I think the spouse needs as much as the patient, as they end up taking on extra responsibility while also coping with the emotional aspects.

Best to you,

matt said...

though i've got a bum GI tract, i haven't spent a terribly great amount of time in the hospital; however, i've had more than my fair share of neeldes stuck in the turn of my elbow. that said, when i read the last stanza of this poem, i couldn't breathe for what felt like a minute, but which was probably about a half-second: i know that experience exactly.

i just came across your blog today, and i like what i've seen. i think i'll be back.

many blessings, amy.