June 15, 2006
O Best Beloveds, this contains lots and lots of little bits of health-related trivia, all designed to answer an otherwise simple question “So, how are you?”
New Slightly Icky Chemo is not sitting well with me. I spent most of last week, in addition to chemo fog and nappish, aware of my stomach in a manner I am sure is akin to morning sickness; never exactly feeling like I’m going to throw up (except maybe for a mercifully quick surge for a moment or two), but near-constantly queasy, always moving between “maybe if I eat I will feel better,” to “shouldn’t have eaten, feel worse,” to “please remove all food from the premises.” I’m on several anti-nausea meds but none of them worked completely. It’s no fun thinking about food all the time this way, because it’s not “Here we are in Paris/New York/New Orleans, how ever shall we fit in all the places we must sample in just one day?” sort of menu planning, but rather “what can I eat that won’t make me feel sick, but will fill me, and that I won’t mind never eating again because it will be forever sensory-associated with my stomach feeling like crap?” (Farewell, Trader Joe’s pasta sauce. So long, smokie link sausages–to name just two from Cancer: The Beginning, when I had similar cuisine issues plus bizarre cravings.) A strict regime of cream cheese on white bread and chicken salad sandwiches seems to have done the trick, though neither in very large quantities. By the weekend, I was back to “real” food, but I ate too much–I was hungry–and quease returned. By Monday night, I was finally feeling like everything was balanced, but Mozarella Monday at Jar with Suzanne and Steve (Nancy Silverton takes over the bar and does all kinds of things with fresh mozeralla, like grill baby asparagus and put that on toast topped with creamy-centered buratta and guanciale [dry cured pig jowl…bacon by any other name]) and by the end of a not that large nor rambuctous bit of feasting, I was feeling off again. (Yes, I KNOW we ordered three dishes with buratta in it, but there were three of us! This is not proportionately out of order!) My point is that even a week post-chemo, rich food had to be approached cautiously. And never mind my absurd culinary needs; between the fatigue and the stomach and the feeling like my body is made of lead whenever I try to take a simple walk, even up our stairs in our house, I’m getting pretty worried about our trip. Yes, confining ourselves to a cafe a good part of the day watching whichever part of the world we are in go by isn’t a bad option at all, but still.
And even by the time of chemo the next AM, two days ago, I was still feeling rotten enough to ask for anti-nausea meds as soon as we showed up. Meanwhile, I kept urging my platlets to fall, since Dr. W. had said I might be able to skip chemo if they were too low. And waddaya know? 56! THe last time he threatened to yank chemo they were 70! (Hmm. Must learn how to further exercise this mind-body control.) I started planning all the things I could do with my extra days of conciousness when word came over the phone; chemo was still a go, albeit with the Gem-whatever it is cut in half. I got on the phone with my sadistic, if lovable, livesaver (he’s in another office on Tuesdays) who pointed out that if I didn’t have chemo that day, there would be a five week gap between treatments, and he felt that was too long. “But,” I blurbled and blubbed, and there was some whining, I am sorry to report, and he said “You know, I will do whatever you want,” and I sighed and sniffed and held out my arm for the needle. Stupid cancer cells. It didn’t help that this week’s Hello! featured a newly re-haired Kylie Minougue (good for her!) and a story that mentioned while she was undergoing chemo she was “too sick to travel.” So I wondered, because I was stoned and not thinking clearly and feeling sorry for myself “Well, was she just a big weenie or am I a big baby who is actually having a relatively easy time of it or am I crazy to take a trip in a few days?”
On Weds, we met with Dr. W. and I whinged some more, and he and NP Lori went over all the possible combinations of things that could be done, because “break-through nausea” is apparently something they don’t like. Join the club! Dr. W. said “Have you ever smoked weed?” Ah, no. Should I? I asked, thinking of the several friends who even now, reading this, are about to volunteer access to their stash, and thank you, by the way. “No. Not if you’ve never done it before. I’m just going to write you a prescription for marinol, the synthetic version. Don’t drive while using it.” Well, hotcha. Also on the list, a new stomach drug, better than that other one I keep referring to as “appetite supressing” but is really dealing with stomach acid (which is what makes that gnawing feeling like I have to eat all the time) plus better combinations of what I’m already taking. There is also the further belief that having three weeks off from chemo will help; some of this trouble is from the cumulative nature of the chemo, and so it’s possible that my response to the next round, in July, will be more like my original, not that bad round #1 response. In other words, we may be resetting the clock. Other longer term, more drastic possibilities include a return to Cancer: The Return’s effective, if toxic and body destroying, combo of Taxitere and Xeloda. That’s going to depend on how much longer this fun must continue, and that’s going to depend on those pesky tumor markers. This upcoming break won’t be a problem treatment-wise, Dr. W. feels, because “this isn’t a fast growing cancer.”
And here I sit on Thursday, and perhaps I’m jumping the gun, but I feel…not bad! Something just a level or two below bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and my stomach feels…okay. And that’s even before the marinol! Don’t worry, I’m not going to go crazy (even if I did have a odd craving for meatballs)…I’ll stick to the chicken salad and the jello and wait until next week for some epicurious fun.
Meanwhile, there is no sign of my hair returning. And I did, indeed, have my right toenail removed (or, as I told Shannon, God School classmate who is coming over once a week to give me heavenly and doctor-recommended massages, “I had my right toe removed,” a malapropism that caused much consternation and merriment before we sorted it out), which is taking longer to heal than I was told (probably due to compromised and slow immune system) but was much the best thing to do. Even as it is, I’m walking better and the dogs are now leaving my feet alone. THere are a few additionally biologically unpleasant things going on, but none that can’t be tolerated. My brain is still sluggish, and prone to doing things like telling poor friends that I had a toe amputated when I really meant a toenail removed, but I’m finishing work and schoolwork anyway. One can’t help but wonder about the wisdom of this and what kind of amusing and alarming errors will be found therein.
By the way, part of the reason I go into so much physical detail in these updates, apart from that being at the forefront of my life right now, is because should any of you find yourselves in this position–please don’t, if you have the choice–you may be, if not less frightened, at least a little less surprised along the way. I think the mystery of this experience is what freaks us all out the most (“What’s it going to be like?”), and if you have some knowledge of what it can entail going into it, it might help. I hope so, anyway.
And in a few days, we–because Steve may not be having the physical symptons, but boy does he hear about them, and boy does he have to deal with them–get to leave this all behind for three weeks. I think everyone agrees that this break is much-needed, if nothing else, to recharge our spirits. Plus, I have a trip to NOLA planned for after the next round, and as we know, pork on a stick (couchon baton!) is what motivates Cancer Chick.
Leavin’ on a jet plane,