Ascites: I am a cancer blister

Ascites fluid
Four liters of ascites removed from my abdomen – ascites fluid builds up in my peritoneal cavity 2-4 times a year
Stanford Cancer Center
Setting up for the periocentesis: some local anesthetic, an incision in my lower right abdomen after the ultrasound.
Periocentesis
Getting the tube placed for maximum drainage it’s inserted in the safest place to avoid punctuation of my intestines.
Periocentesis
Getting the first draw for the lab, then gravity does the work into what looks like little beer kegs.

I first experienced ascites when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, de novo because of dense breasts.

It’s been:
3 years
7 months
22 days
5 hours
55 minutes
32 seconds
to be precise since first having 7.5 liters of ascites removed and the reason I showed up at the hospital about 15 pounds heavier than my usual weight, barely able to breathe, unable to hold down any food and scared as hell.

Prior to that first visit I’d been delivered to the hospital once, when I was born. Quite a different story 49 years later. Since the first periocentesis to remove the cancerous fluid, I’ve blown up like an oompah loompah seven additional times, including this last time illustrated by my clandestine photography here.

This is what metastatic breast cancer looks like. Not on the days when I am trying to make everyone believe I’m okay. It’s not that I mind looking like I don’t have cancer for the most part. But I don’t put my makeup on every day to prove a thing to anyone but myself. I push too hard most days. Never will I learn to take it easy.

Sleep is for the dead. It’s 5 am. I’m still awake.

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

4 thoughts on “Ascites: I am a cancer blister

  1. My dear friend Ilene,
    So sorry you are going through this. Thank you for sharing so openly your cancer journey with others. You truly help me get through some rough times by sharing something so personal and not holding back on letting people know the dark side of cancer that no one understands.

    I hope some day I am able to meet you.

    Warm regards,
    -Liesl

    1. Liesl –
      Dare I say my pleasure? 😂 yet if my experiences help to show the ugly underside of living with cancer: the no makeup in bed feeling like crap side…the medications, the procedures, the hospitals, the insurance nightmares, and so on…maybe next time someone wants to whisper how we may be overstating our illnesses they will think again. The all-encompassing and omnipresent impact of cancer, even those lucky enough to recover from stage I- III, changes our lives – physical, financial, and psychosocial – forever and we are never the same people as prior to this epidemic monstrous killer. I still feel strongly about pulling back the covers so to speak so you and others don’t feel alone and so those who aren’t in our shoes can see what a load we walk with.

      Much love to you, my friend.
      Ilene

  2. This is where the non-cancer patient would say “you’re so brave” not understanding that you are doing what you have to do. Oh you could choose not to but you’ve not yet been beat down to that point. I’m sure there are days where you look at the world you were shoved into and think what the hell am I doing here, STILL? Those days are offset by hell yes, I’m STILL here. #FuckCancer

    1. Cancer! Fuck yeah! ‘Merica, fix your healthcare system so I can get back on my $17,000 a 21 day cycle of Ibrance. But regardless of the healthcare situation or my ability to look like I’m suffering from some weird malnutrition I’m still here, hell f’ing yes. With the stress, the BS, the five doctors appointments a month, the financial strains, the forced retirement, being told I am not below the poverty line on social security which mostly goes to my healthcare, insurance and copays therefore disqualifying me from state funded extra help – I’m doing great!

      How are you, Samantha? I’m loving the book by the way. Craig says, looks like a great read where’d you get it? Stanford library? No, my virtual girlfriend who I met through WordPress. He looked at me as though I was the Kraken, said sure you did honey, and went downstairs to watch Ancient Aliens.

      I suppose that about wraps up another strange, surreal day in the weird wacky world of a #lifer

      #fuckcancer
      You’re awesome.
      🤗

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