Monday, October 03, 2011

Round 3 and Sick Chefs = Bad

Today I begin round 3 of chemo. The last treatment of round 2 had many issues, which will be solved today with a 3-pronged approach:

1) Deep breathing exercises to help calm me.
2) Hopefully having a good needle-sticker
3) Armloads of prescription drugs.

I suffered from nausea and anxiety last time. The anxiety was because of the increasing (or at least, not improving) difficulty in getting the port needle seated right and pain-free. They did give me a topical anesthetic to use on the port site. The problem is that it is fairly short-lived, but it also takes a little while to start working. So I need to plan ahead fairly accurately to make sure that the topical stuff is on and the window of effectiveness is open. Last week, there we delays upon delays so the anesthetic had worn off. Today I'll be bringing the stuff with me so I can keep reapplying it. 

The nausea was also related to the delays. Chemo was scheduled to take about 45 minutes but instead took more like 5 hours. I really need to eat something little every 2 hours to stave off the nausea. Having had a (too light) breakfast, which had also worn off before the treatment began, I was essentially doing it on an empty stomach. What I brought with me was Fiber One bars, which (I found) can actually aggravate an empty stomach. I'm bringing Ensure today, which is really only consumed by people going through chemo and people over 65. At least no-one there will look askance at me, since all of them are going through chemo and well over half there appear to be over 65 also.

I will also be taking my prescription anti-anxiety and anti-nausea pills pre emptively. In addition, I'll be taking my exycodone, my as-needed pain relief booster. Thus drugged up, I will be completely unsafe to drive, but luckily my brother will be the pilot today. We'll also be getting a substantial, normal-person breakfast which will carry me through.

As I mentioned, part of the anxiety and nausea is psychological. That part is hard to counteract, other than through yogic deep-breathing. We'll try that and see if it works. It certainly cannot hurt.

Restaurant Flu = Bad

Jen and I, coming back from the cabin last night, decided to go out to eat for lunch. Ginger Hop, the new(ish) place in Northeast that is in the old Times space, sounded good, even though we've had really hit-and-miss service there. I have enjoyed the food and they do have some very tasty and well though-out menu items.

Arriving, we found that they were open, but only technically. The entire wait staff was sitting at the bar and the restaurant was empty. Once seated, and food ordered, we were close enough to the kitchen to hear this exchange between our waitperson and one of the chefs:

Waitperson: "You get a flu shot this year?"
Chef "Nah."
Waitperson. "Well, maybe you should."

Jen and I looked at leach other. During chemo, a person's immune system is suppressed, meaning I'm incredibly susceptible to getting sick if people are sick around me. 

NOTE: If you and I planning to get together and you're sick, or have been around sick people, we should probably reschedule. Getting sick could be very dangerous, and -- at a minimum -- could delay chemo for a week or more if the doctor decides its just not safe to treat me until I get better. Chemo essentially gives a chemo-person the immune-deficiency part of AIDS. To be clear: I do not have AIDS.  But in a similar way, simple colds and flus can be potentially lethal to someone who is not able to help fight the ailment off on their own. Most likely, the worst case for me is that I'd end up hospitalized for a few days, but still: that sucks.

So, when our waitperson returned with out entree (vegetarian spring rolls) I asked: "this is going to sound like a strange question: Is there someone sick in the kitchen?" I explained that I was going through chemo and getting sick wound be very bad for me. She understood completely, took the appetizer back and said she'd check.

While waiting, we wondered whether we'd get a straight answer, and had mostly decided to leave and go somewhere else regardless.

She returned and said that yes, there is someone sick in the kitchen, but they did not handle our food. 

We said we just couldn't risk it, thanked her and apologized for the hassle, and took our leave. She was very understanding.

Here's a tip: if you're sick, and work in a restaurant, don't go to work. Or better yet: if you're the manager of a restaurant, send staff home immediately if they're sick. Seems like you can't risk the bad press if people get sick from eating at your place.

We settled on Panera, just down the street at University and Hennepin, Northeast. The bored, clock-watcher counter staff were all coughing a bit, but I noticed that the sandwich maker put on fresh gloves and (as far as I can tell) didn't sneeze into our sandwiches. The tables were filthy enough, though, that neither of us wanted to sit nand had each independently reached this decision. It looked like a middle-school school lunch room just after all lunch periods have ended. Crumbs coated everything, and dried liquid spills were common. We asked if they could clean off a table and they did. They seemed unprepared for this, and had to find a washcloth that came from a bucket filled with gray-brown water. We were left with a dripping-wet table and chairs. We asked if perhaps they could dry it also? So sorry for the inconvenience. They obliged, This time they found only tiny foodservice paper napkins that proke apart. I noticed that no one cleaned any other tables after this, though there were at least 5 or 6 slackers seemed bored behind the counter.

Jen and I are in touch with the fact that we're high-maintenance in restaurants, but being germophobic is (or should be) part of the game when you're immunosuppressed. Lesson learned? don't eat out. We decided to make a nice, safe, dinner in.

TANGENT: Jen and I have decided that if were were ever to be on the Amazing Race, we'd be known as the "judgemental couple". We're really good at being snarky about people, places and things, and that just plain makes for good TV. 

Back to the restaurant thing: As a rule, I wash my hands constantly (its the first thing I do when  I come home) and open public restroom doors with my foot or with my sleeve over my hand. I'm not quite howard Hughes, but give me a few years of chemo and see where I end up.

I'm feeling pretty good right now (okay: really good -- all the drugs have kicked in). Lets hope it stays that way. I predict a blog post on Tuesday about how I don't feel very well. Anyone want to give odds on that?


Cathy Crea said...

I hope your chemo went well today. Your plan sounds good.

Get your flu shots, everyone!

Kelly McCullough said...

Sorry to hear about bad restaurant experience. Hope the chemo went better this time.

Eclector2 said...

Kevin's report was that it went pretty well today. I hope this continues through the night. I will call tomorrow.

Your restaurant stories were amusing, well told and totally horrifying. I'll never eat at Panera Bread again.

Love, Mom

M said...

Speaking of flu shots, I have had conflicting information on whether or not *I* should get them. My drug pamphets said not to, and my oncologist said to get one. Regarless, for hoe many times that doctors have told me that I should get one in the past few weeks, no one actually *has* My GP will certainly give me one, and I know I could go to Walgreens, but still it seems strange when doctor tells you you should get a flu shot, you agree, and then they do nothing.

hose people that I see regularly most definitely should get a flu shot, if not for their own safety and security, but out of kindness for me if nothing else.

Thanks, Mom. Well, Panera has decent food, but it's what I'd expect from a bunch of clock-watcher college kids who are counting the minutes until they can leave, and are very unlikely to take an (I'm sure unpaid) day off. The blame falls on the manager, I feel. The cleanliness also falls on the manager to delegate. I've seen worse in both restaurants, and its probably best not to think about how much our food is handled by bare human hands in restaurants. We assume that they won't take a minute out from hamburger making to scratch themselves, but we have no guarantee. :)

Ms. Hoffman-Dachelet said...

I am super glad you guys got out of town for the lovely weekend weather, and I am also glad you are having an easier time so far with chemo! Way to go!


John Slade said...

Ms. Hoffman-Dachelet!

My fourth grade teacher, who everyone knew was one of THOSE FEMINISTS!, was Ms. Ward-Wilson. First user of MS, first hyphenated name. Proud tradition!

Anyway, that's enough Rachel, what about YOU. I've had a flu shot, went to my doc and he didn't say 'you should get one' he said 'do you want one' and I said yes and got it. (It's cuz I'm in every quarter for diabetes.)

The kids trying to unionize the Twin Cities Jimmy Johns led their campaign with sick days - which not only did they not get paid sick days, if they called in four times sick (even with note) they got fired.

So stay away from Jimmy Johns would be my advice to you; also spot on when you blame the managers. But behind them are systems that put profit over health concerns... Many if not most of the problems with society today can be laid at the feet of the arch-capitalists; reducing restaurant inspections, food service regulations, and busting unions that would make these jobs worth caring about... all the fault of the managers and the imperatives that they are given.

Hope you have a good week this week, with the lovely weather! Hope to see you Friday!


Laura said...

I am wirh you on restaurants. I love to eat out but when every service has the potential to make me feel bleh and damage my intestine because someone making my gluten free item sets it down on a counter with breadcrumbs, it always makes me think hard about it. We eat in often and most oriental food is right out. You have to think about you first and most people are very understanding about it. Keep taking care of you first!


Wendy said...

Your comment about The Amazing Race made me lol! I love that show & I can totally see you & Jen being all judgmental. I usually don't get the flu shot, nor do I get flu, but I will for you.

Wash your hands everyone - warm water, soap & for at least 20 seconds (sing the happy b-day song).


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