Friday, December 5, 2014

Cancer Recovery: Week 9



I haven’t been posting much lately because the effort of typing is prohibitive.   Instead of typing everything I now have a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking.  It’s not perfect but it’s better than typing by hand.

My health and well-being vary from day to day.  Today is one of my better days but I don’t know anything about tomorrow.  I have an appointment in a couple of weeks to get my feeding tube removed.  My doctor tells me this will resolve most if not all of my nausea problems. 

Last Wednesday found me in the emergency room again.  I was rehydrated and generally treated poorly.  My electrolytes were all okay with the exception of potassium.  I now have potassium pills that I’m taking.  

Believe me when I say that the cure is worse than the disease.  I have it on good authority that it will take one year for me to recover completely.  I have a strong feeling that it’s going to be a long year.  So I’ll make use of the time as best I can and continue writing.

My thanks to all of you for your prayers and positive thoughts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cancer Recovery: Week 5

I spend my time eating through my feeding tube and trying to find something interesting on the idiot box.  Neither is much fun, but life took a turn for the worse last Monday.

I'm a lazy person by nature.  I'm suffering from exhaustion which exacerbates this condition, but that's neither here nor there.  A month or so ago I decided to see how much pain was being masked by my morphine, and so I skipped my morning pill.  By noon I had my answer - a lot of pain was being masked - and so took my morning Morphine pill and a shot of my emergency booster morphine liquid.  So far, so good.

Last week I repeated this experiment and discovered I no longer needed the morphine and so stopped taking it.  My logic is that if I'm not in pain, why take the meds - right?  So I stopped.

This was a mistake.  Big time.

The nausea got worse, then it got a lot worse.  I became light headed and my hands and feet felt numb (I'm told this is called neuropathy).  Then the vomiting started.  I called the emergency number I'd been provided with and spent two and a half hours playing telephone tag with non-medical personnel who individually assured me that someone would be calling me back.  I finally got the message and dropped into the ER, there to saddle them with my symptoms.  Thankfully I was able to get Main Lady to drive, as Mom does not do well driving at night and her head is full of dust bunnies.

So we get to the ER and taken to a room where I'm eventually given anti-nausea medications.  In the middle of all this I get asked the standard questions about what I've ingested and when, and I let it slip that it's been two days since I took the morphine.  Main Lady jumps on it, beating the ER doc by a mile.

"Jack, you're suffering opiate withdrawal.  You can't just go cold turkey on an opiate; you'll get sick." 

So that was that.  I saw Dr. Deathray the next day who set up a program to taper off, which is what I'm doing.  For her part, Main Lady is a licensed clinical psychologist who used to work for the State, and so has seen a lot of this type of thing.

There should be a warning about this stuff.




 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cancer: Recovery Week 3

Monday night was devoted to nausea and vomiting. I flashed until I couldn't stand up, and let me tell you there is nothing worse than vomiting up the artificial food I have to eat via my feeding tube followed by dry heaves.

Tuesday my radiation oncologist (Dr. Rubin) stuck a fiber optic tube up my nose to look at my throat. This procedure is no fun, by the way. He followed this examination by trying to find the tumor in my neck that had started the whole business, and declared the tumor to be gone. 

Result: I am now cancer free.


Dr. Rubin has no idea why I'm still sick and unable to retain food. I explain that I'm depressed and need some sort of anti-depressant, which Dr. Rubin cheerfully prescribes. Everyone in the know says the pills will help, but I'm doubtful.

Wednesday my chemo therapy oncologist (Dr. Muler) ordered hydration and 2 grams of magnesium. Dr. Muler thinks the problem is with the tube feeding and blames the dietician, Marcia, for my problems.
Marcia changed me to a brand new artificial food and slowed the intake rate to practically nil. Marcia wondered if I might have picked up a nasty little bug from the hospital, which is very likely. My immune system is compromised.

Thursday I begin to feel a little better and spend the day eating from my feeding tube and watching The Sopranos on DVD. I'm depressed. I force myself to get cleaned up and think positive thoughts.

Friday, today, I'm fighting off depression with everything I've got.

The bottom line is that both doctors are good at their profession, yet neither one can tell me why I'm so sick.  I'm exhausted all the time, I'm almost always nauseated and I'm depressed.  I don't see that there is much of anything worth living for.

Still and all, I keep marching.  One foot in front of the other, one hour at a time.  I hope the scenery changes.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cancer: Recovery Weeks 1 and 2

Now that the therapy has concluded with an appropriate fanfare (Puccini's Tosca belting out Saint James Infirmary) I can relax and recover.  Right?  Wrong.  Real wrong.  I've spent most of my days in the hospital hooked up to multiple bags holding various concoctions which are guaranteed to keep my electrolytes in balance.  We hope.

The real blessing is that the constant nausea is gone or is under control.  The stomach being a small part of the digestive system, the intestines are free to give me one form of hell or another, and I now know that my mother's favorite son can have constipation and diarrhea at the same time.

Right now I'm getting nutrition from a bag of slop hooked up to my feeding tube and being fed into me by a pump.  If not for the pump regulating the flow, I would truly be up against it.

I want to thank all of you for your kind words, prayers and patience.  This is a bad road I'm on and every single prayer helps.  Just this afternoon Main Lady stopped over with a small bowl of yellow squash soup, and wonder of wonders I could actually taste the soup.  I am overjoyed, literally.  Everything else tastes like sawdust, and because of my dry mouth condition most foods are off the menu - I need soup or something the consistency of soup, not too spicy because my throat has the same feeling you get right after a tonsillectomy.

The pain medications are making me paranoid and hallucinate.  Not badly, mind you, but hallucinations are what they are.

Well, thanks to all of you. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cancer: Last and Final Treatment

I had my final treatment today.  As of today, no more chemo therapy and no more radiation therapy.  I'm officially done.

Now the tough part starts.  All that collateral damage has to be repaired, and the urban renewal process is tough and takes time.  For instance, Monday night I landed in the ER with my electrolytes out of balance to the point of magnesium being critically low.  I was unable to move my arms and legs, I was hallucinating and generally incoherent.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and Divine intervention, I'm still alive and with us. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cancer: Week 7 Day 4

Today is my birthday and my final chemo therapy treatment.  Of better news is that I was given a pump to use with my feeding tube.

The deal is I have a feeding tube.  In theory I take a can of highly concentrated, high caloric liquid food and poor it down the tube and into my stomach.  The trouble is and likely has been, is that the stomach can't handle it.  Think: you go from a diet (diet?  you call that a diet?) diet of junk food and gin to something that any triathlete would call desirably, disgustingly healthy and you wouldn't know what to do either.  So the stomach threatens an abrupt return to sender until the mystery substance can be identified and dealt with.

Enter the pump.

The pump accepts a huge bag of this health slop on one end and dispenses said slop into the stomach one tiny teaspoon full per minute.  The stomach gets used to getting a nutritious substance in this fashion and doesn't act up.  Much.  So now the nausea is, we all pray and hope, a thing of the past.

Prayers answered, and we may all thank the Lord for this one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cancer: Week 7 Day 3

I woke up yesterday afternoon and discovered that I've lost my voice.  I cannot talk at all; only whisper.  I'm told this is an expected side effect of the radiation therapy.

The skin on my neck and throat is burned and the nausea continues.  I can't eat anything without becoming nauseous, and the medication for nausea is not all that helpful.  The only real cure is time. I'm supposed to consume 2000 calories per day; I'm doing good to eat 1100.  Yesterday I managed about 1800 or so, which took a Herculean effort on my part.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cancer: Week 7, Day 1

Seven weeks of treatment.  My final radiological treatment is one week from Tuesday (tomorrow); my final chemo treatment is this Thursday.  Then I'm done with therapy and things will get worse for three weeks.

Nausea comes in waves.  I've never been so sick in my life. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cancer and Rock Bottom

Last night, Wednesday, I hit rock bottom.  My digestive tract was malfunctioning in ways I couldn't believe were possible.  Nausea came in waves, accentuated by a spike in my fever.  I was so miserable I wanted to die.  Why should I live through this?  I couldn't come up with a good reason, but the effort of assembling myself, my pistol and a conveniently private place where my remains would be guaranteed to be discovered by the authorities was just too much effort.  So here I am.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cancer, Week 6

I'm still alive.  My dietician tells me I'm not eating enough, which is probably true, so this week is going to be food week.  The problem is that my mouth is so dry that anything resembling a bread product is automatically rejected.  My sense of taste is, for all intents and purposes, gone.  Everything tastes like low-grade sawdust.  My energy level is down, which isn't helping.

The team on the radiology side have got their act together and are handling their set of side effects very well, meaning my pain level is easily tolerable.  The chemo side has been a different matter up until I switched oncologists; I picked the one the nurses feared, respected and universally disliked.  I met him and consider him a good, regular type guy who happens to be a whole lot smarter than everyone else.  Question: how would you handle it if the people you were forced to work with were all retards?  Let me amend that question: how do you handle it?  Because we've all been there, right?

This morning things aren't too awful bad.  We'll see how the day shakes out.

One good thing is that I no longer need Lorazepam (Ativan) to get through my radiology treatment.  I'm happy with that.