Needles & Veins
It’s fair to say my pain threshold has always been…well…none-existent.
I was rubbish.
Any pain was always quickly remedied by a tablet of some kind. I just couldn’t put up with it like some people could – let’s just knock it on the head and quick!
Due to a history of genetically acquired high blood pressure (thanks Dad, bless ‘im), even annual blood tests were dreaded. I had rubbish veins even for that. And no way could I look while they took blood either.
When the blood tests started after diagnosis, I knew these were going to get more regular.
Didn’t quite anticipate how regular though.
My right arm was never much use for blood. I always had a conversation with the nurse that the left arm was probably easier. It did feel like I was telling them how to do their job, but some were grateful. It saved time trying and failing! The left arm had a ‘juicy’ vein. Their words…
Some just tried regardless from the right one. Ouch.
Right Where Shall We Start?
The first month after diagnosis, I had a number of tests done and all taken out of the crease in my left arm. This was working perfectly fine, but they switched to the right one. As the frequency of the tests seemed to be every week, it was getting a bit harder to get enough blood out.
Eventually the arm said ‘nope – you ain’t ‘avin any more out of HERE, thank you very much – move on!’
Great. Now where?
‘Oh that’s not working is it?’ said one frustrated nurse. ‘I can normally get blood out of the most awkward of veins’, she expressed indignantly, as I sat there wincing.
‘I may just try one more time…’
No please don’t!!
It wasn’t happening and my arm was aching like mad.
From then on and especially following my two Wide Local Excisions to remove the tumour, and most importantly because of the the Axillary Clearance of the lymph nodes, the nurses would use the back of my right hand.
The left arm was out of bounds now – no needs or blood pressure to be taken from the left side of me, due to the risk of developing Lymphoedema in the arm and infections from needles.
This was the same rule for Cannulas.
Oh the Cannulas!
After the same vein had been used a few times for those too, that stopped working, so they had to mix it up and bit and try and new place. As you can see from the picture below – the result of a few attempts. They would basically have to try until they found one which worked. I became quite blasé about it all in the end.
I still couldn’t look as they did it though….
The most painful place I had it taken from, when the veins in the back of the hand gave up during Chemo, was the side of the wrist towards the base of the thumb. The nurse would actually express her glee as she found it and it was working nicely. It became a favourite place!
Not for me it wasn’t! It goes back to being a wuss again! A blood test was fine… A Cannula in it? Oh my God…every time I moved my thumb it hurt!
Tip: Don’t move the thumb….!
Why did the Veins Stop Working?
Collapsed veins are common when you have repeated tests or cannulas. The veins may get blocked if the lining of the vein swells.
Blood is also hard to take from or trying to get Chemo drugs IN to cold arms. The nurses would place my arm under a heated pillow before administering the dose, or place my hand in a bucket of warm water.
That just made me want to go for a wee to be fair.
During and after treatment, my arm looked like I’d been injecting myself with something a little less ‘savoury’, if you could call Chemo ‘savoury’. Sunken veins.
Or visible vein cording.
It did not look good. I had some massage therapy after Radiotherapy had finished, to help with this and a year down the line, they’re not right, but they are much better.
How my veins will fair now going forward, for taking blood God only knows.