Needle Pokes 101

Inspired by a poem I wrote as a teenager of the same name, Pincushion for Pokes is this blog’s name because as a cancer patient, that’s what you often feel like. Needle pokes seem to be as common as breathing. Early morning blood draws performed by phlebotomists aka blood draw people are usually taken before doctors do their rounds. Your doctors can then see the results of your Complete Blood Count (CBC) a short while later when they visit patients and order blood products like blood or platelets if your count is low and you need an infusion.

Tips for a Better Blood Draw or Shot

◊ It’s better not to get all nervous and worked up before a blood draw or shot. Relax your arm or whatever area is being poked and the needle goes in easier with less pain.

◊ Ask the person poking you to count to three and then quickly insert the needle (versus a slow poke that slowly enters your vein and thus makes the process more painful).

◊ Don’t be afraid to fire a bad poker. If the nurse or phlebotomist or health professional is unable to access a vein after three tries, someone else can. (I’ve even had people from Survival Flight trained for medical emergencies come to start an IV that my nurses couldn’t get.)

◊ Neupogen shots that are given to cancer patients to restore white blood cells really sting, so make sure that the refrigerated shot has been out of the refrigerator for half an hour like it’s supposed to before you’re given the injection.

◊ Neupogen shots are injected into a fatty part of your body, which is probably the thigh area. I would advise anyone getting these shots to brace themselves by gripping tightly to a small cloth or towel during the injection. I clenched a clean cloth diaper in each hand.

◊ You’ll find that if you spend lots of time worrying about an upcoming needle poke, you wasted way too much time fretting about the poke that is over and done with in merely a few seconds. Thinking a lot about an upcoming poke makes the whole experience worse.

◊ Finally, and remember this, YOU CAN DO IT! Give yourself credit, you’ve probably been pinched harder than some needle pokes. With time your nerves subside.

Avoid Yanking IV Lines

Invaluable & Always-there-for-you Mom

Invaluable & Always-there-for-you Mom

You know that sickening lurch forward you feel when somebody steps on one of your multiple tangled intravenous (IV) lines while you’re in your hospital bed? Well, my innovative Mom rigged up something simple that worked for me for eight years, keeping IV tubing from being yanked out. My creative Mom aka biggest advocate taped an upside down little plastic pill cup, the cups the nurses bring you when it’s time to swallow another boatload of medication, tightly to my bed rail. My IV lines were then simply placed on the side of the pill cup that was higher up on the bed, and this gave extra slack to the IV lines and a better peace of mind for me!

Poem Giving Perspective Fighting Cancer


Count Your Blessings

I was so worried at first about my hair falling out.

That was soon the least of my problems I had to fret about.

So many unexpected dilemmas that I was faced with to cope,

Sometimes it was hard to look ahead with hope.

Seeing other patients at the hospital and talking with some, too,

Makes you aware that there are people in worse condition than you.

What many healthy people take for granted daily

Are the abilities to taste, touch, hear, smell, walk and see.

I am thankful for everything I can do, even a simple task

And when I need assistance, I am not afraid to ask.

No matter how you may look or move, give thanks and be secure

Because you are made stronger by what you endure.

When you have to fight to accomplish the smallest of things,

Life is sweeter and you’re more thankful for God’s great blessings.

One Positive & One Negative Patient Experience

Fighting Cancer while Attending College

Fighting Cancer while Attending College

1. Life can be overwhelming when the diagnosis is cancer. A pleasant greeting by any person, from a receptionist behind a desk, medical assistant taking vitals, to doctors and nurses in an exam room, can truly make or break a patient’s day.

LESSON: Friendly smiles and greetings can make a huge impact to brighten a person’s day! SMILE.

2. A CAT scan technician started getting ready for my CAT scan, without a word or a glance. She did not introduce herself or acknowledge me. When she reached for my central line to administer a drug, I asked her, “Do you have a name?” I repeated myself. She didn’t give a name, only the weak explanation that she was having a bad day. She treated me like a number.

LESSON: Introduce yourself. Leave personal problems at home.