If Nothing Else, This Would Have Gotten Me Out of Jury Duty

May 22, 2008

I got out of jury duty, O Best Beloveds, legitimately, though not without a pang of guilt (genuine desire to do civic duty, though it was preferable to not perform said duty on a trial scheduled to last a month), and it’s just as well, because I was about to be seated on the panel, and then I would have had to come in with a note from Dr. Waisman saying my cancer is back and I have to go back on chemo and I couldn’t have done it anyway.

Oh, Dr. W. called. My numbers are up–way up, for me, anyway, from 149 last month to a walloping 366. So much for little white pills. That number sounds more ominous than it probably is. Dr. W. has patients with numbers in the thousands. Plus, I’m still asymptomatic, no pains, no stomach upsets, nothing at all. So this probably means a relatively small amount of disease. But it’s too significant a jump to call for anything but a return to chemo.

First up are scans, probably next week (unless they can fit me in tomorrow) to determine what and where, which will then determine the next course of chemo. The two under consideration are that stuff that starts with “nap” that has no side effects–my choice, naturally, but he will only choose it if the disease progression is small–or something that starts with an “er” sound (can you tell I’ve stopped trying?), that has “some hair loss, maybe some slight nausea” so I’m totally not down with that one. Dr. W.’s main goal, as always, is to get me in remission–encouragingly, he says he’s not worried about being able to do that, now that we are going back on the big guns–but he’s nearly equally concerned with quality of life. Join the club. That’s the thing that’s got me concerned; it’s been a wearing two years of on-and-off chemo, and I’m not sure my sunny good humor can take still more time spent in the Land of Ick.

This actually brings me to a point I’ve been putting off writing about, Beloveds. I haven’t been avoiding it so much as not knowing precisely how to write about it. Towards the end of last year, I started feeling really blue, lacking that “yay!” factor on waking up, not taking a lot of pleasure in normal things. Then it got worse, I started feeling sad all the time, and I thought, “Oh, dear, I’m falling into depression, must do something about that.” Dr. W put me on a low dose of Wellbutrin. This didn’t work; soon I was having trouble in a lot of areas, sleep issues, difficulty motivating myself, difficulty leaving the house even for fun social activities. It got pretty bad after our return from Egypt, so I talked to the psych counselor at the clinic, and she said it was time to get a pro on the case. So I went to see a psych doc who specializes in breast cancer patients–he used to see every patient at the Breast Clinic, the place where Dr. W and I first began seeing each other–and the short diagnosis is that after ten years, this shit is finally getting to me, and that’s how it was manifesting itself. So he put me on a higher dose of Wellbutrin and some anti-anxiety med called Buspar, and sent me off to see a therapist who also specializes in breast cancer patients and has worked with Dr. W. for decades.

Is it all helping? Kinda. I felt great during the Paris trip, but I chalked that up to being in Paris, rather than evidence of improvement. But when I came back, I started having anxiety episodes (much milder than an “attack) which continued throughout NOLA and Richmond. Consulting with the pysch doc, he said this was actually not anxiety, but something else (though it feels the same as anxiety) that can be caused by too high a dose of Wellbutrin. So he lowered my dose, and I’m waiting for that to take effect. I feel…a little bit better, but it’s too soon to tell. I’m also not sure that therapy is really a help, though the therapist herself is excellent and I like her a lot. I’m just don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be doing; if I’m smothering anything, then it’s all subconscious activity, so how do you stop doing something you don’t know you are doing in order to raise it to the level of consciousness so you can address it? And also, if I do that, won’t I just be feeling something really unpleasant which will just replace the unpleasant I’m feeling now?

I don’t think I’m doing a good job of describing this, which is part of the reason I’ve been so hesitant to write about it. But I really didn’t want to keep taking credit for being a sturdy little buckaroo when the fact is the cracks are showing. I don’t feel bad about that; the counselor at the clinic says that every patient they have who is on long term/permanent chemo is on anti-depressants. It was just my time.

Okay, so where does that leave us? In another brief limbo, awaiting tests and test results and chemo determination. About to go back on chemo, which is keenly disappointing. Figuring out how to work chemo into the crammed school schedule–can I do it and take and pass German, plus prep for my qualifying exams? I’m going to find out, I guess. I’m sure going to try. I think I usually do better with chemo when I have a good distraction, though it helps when said distraction has a more formal structure (work with specific deadlines, classes to attend), so that’s promising.

Oh, it also leaves us with a bit of food porn I forgot for the last email.

Pork Belly Salad at Emeril’s. A complete giggle inducer, because while listed under “salads” we couldn’t find a speck of green (there were some straggles of red cabbage) anywhere under the four or five inch and a half wide strips of luscious pork belly. It was huge. (I was glad I had it as my entree, not as a starter.) Only in New Orleans would this be billed as “salad.” The pork was silky, just the right balance of fat and airy meat, slightly carmelized from braising.


In both the “wow, this pork belly salad is swell” and “shoot, I have to go back on chemo” senses of “dang”,