Back when Vanessa and I were kids, we would always spend the night at each others house. We stayed up late talking, and just being high school girls. Slumber parties continued on into our adult lives, and although very much the same as they were when we were kids, they changed drastically.
Vanessa has always needed someone to stay in the hospital with her. She does not do well alone. Most of the time Matt would stay with her. Matt is a pilot for indirect fire fighting. During the fire season, he was gone a lot and unable to stay wither. Her mom, her sister, her dad, and made sure we had all nights covered with her.
On good nights, Vanessa and I could stay up pretty late and talk, and watch movies, and play the wii. On bad nights the slumber parties changed. Bad nights consisted of extreme pain, fear, nausea, vomiting, coughing, and fevers. Spending the night was no longer like high school. Spending the night was about being quick, knowing what was wrong with her and what to do to help her.
If she was in pain, then I would rub her back and her feet and soon be paging the nurse for pain meds. If the nausea came on, it was about reaching for her barf bucket quickly and rub her back while she vomited. After she was done vomiting she needed to be handed tissues to wipe her mouth and her tears. Then it was important to empty and clean the barf bucket ASAP.
Now, when Vanessa was sick with mucousitits, then vomiting was even more extreme. Mucousitis is a side effect of Chemo and Radiation treatments. It causes inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract. When mucousistis was going on, vomiting was difficult. Vanessa would vomit a lot of flem and would gag even more as it was coming up. These were some of the hardest times during her treatment that I remember. I would rub her back and encourage her to continue to get up as much flem as possible. When she was finished it helped her to now how much flem actually came up. So I would no joke sift through the vomit to count the loogies. Coughing was a large result of mucositis and it would happen frequently as it was her body’s natural reaction to discard the flem. Fevers were always scary and led to panic.
Fevers were of course a sign of infection, or worse a sign of Cancer spreading. Even if Vanessa was not admitted to the hospital she carried a thermometer almost everywhere she went and she slept with one. She had one that lit up the screen nice so that at night she could just lay in bed in the dark and take her temperature. In the hospital I remember one night we were both actually sleeping really good. It was starting out to be a good night. All of the sudden Vanessa woke up moaning and starting to panic. She said she thought had a fever. I reached over and felt her forehead… burning up. So my next move was to grab the thermometer and page for the nurse. Her temperature had read 102. The next step for the nurse was to start lab work to see why she had such a high fever, and give her medications to bring the fever down. The next morning Dr. Parker came in and said she had an infection and started a round of antibiotics. Thank goodness..
All of the above problems usually led to fear and panic. This was one of the hardest things to watch Vanessa go through. Really there is not a lot you can say. You can’t really say “it’s alright” because fact of the matter is that things are not alright. Things suck, and things are scary. To calm her down I would always work with her on breathing first. Deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Once deep breathing starting calming her, I would again rub her back and her feet until she was calm and comfortable. I would get her comfortable in bed again, and then lay back down myself, and rest until the next round came.