Category Archives: Chemotherapy

Not Much Better But Not Any Worse

Still, in the hospital…everything is vague.  Doug is half out of it with morphine and never asks any straightforward questions like: “What exactly is going on with my health status?” or “Why am I running an intermittent fever?” or “What is my prognosis of getting out of here?”  His appetite is almost non-existent today, has a fever of 101 (the highest it has been), still going to the bathroom every two hours, all day and all night.

I finally asked to talk to someone so that we all could have an idea of what is going on with him.

His potassium keeps dropping because of constant diarrhea, they seem to be very concerned about this and are giving him a lot of supplements.  Doug thinks he should just be able to eat a banana but he would have to eat about 40 bananas a day to replace what they are giving him in pill form. The fever is just part of how the chemotherapy and radiation attack the body.  The body thinks it is under attack so it reacts as if it were with a fever: even though there is no infection.  He is not losing any blood in his stool so his hemoglobin levels are fine.

I think what happened here is he waited too long to express how bad he was really feeling to the doctor over the phone.  Now one can’t fault him for being the person he is; Doug is just him.  He is stoic, outwardly calm (though he might inwardly be in turmoil), and especially hesitant to be any trouble to anyone. 

I want to mention that Doug’s deceased father Wally keeps giving us signs that he is here watching:

Wally on the brochure!

Yesterday, Doug’s mom was here visiting and was looking for something that would help her find some sporting event on the television.   She was shuffling through hospital brochures and by pure coincidence (NOT!) she found a picture of Wally in a hospital brochure which had been taken a few years ago, with his permission,  for a pamphlet about “options for pain control”.  He had a glowing smile on his face just to remind us all that he is still around, working to heal Doug from the “other side.”   There have been other incidents which I have personally had; but, nothing as obvious as this event. 

 

More Hair at The Turning Point

Where are we?  That’s a damn good question; and, I say “we” because this has been a team effort.  I’m not really taking care of Doug, not his nurse.  I’m more of a coach in a way, trying to look at this spiritually just because I believe it’s important.  Keeping Doug, as best I can, focusing on the outcome and not the process. The number one reason I write this blog is that I know how many people love him and support him with their thoughts, prayers, good wishes, whatever you want to call them; and I KNOW the energy contained in those thoughts is real and works to heal.

He is halfway through cancer treatment with another round of chemotherapy to come on the 11th, 12 more radiation treatments, 11 pipers piping, 6 geese a laying.  Oh my, this process is something unlike anything else either of us has experienced.  When you start getting old, the time passes faster but not when you are dealing with cancer treatment.  It slows down, way down—so that a minute in the middle of the night seems like ALL night when waiting for a phone call for a minute seems like ALL day.  

His hair is thinning still, find it all in the bathroom every day: that’s why God blessed us with poor vision as we grow older, neither of us sees the hair until we put our glasses on and focus for a second.  He still has a lot of it on his head.  I don’t know what it is about this hair.  He’s supposed to lose it but it’s something neither one of us seems to want to see.

He does have pain and discomfort from the radiation but this dude is one tough cookie: a snickerdoodle if we had the choice. 

We are ready for things to get back to normal!  Doug is ready to go back to work.  Work sucks until you don’t have it.

Again, thanks to all who have kept Doug in their thoughts, people from far away and long ago, kinda like Star Wars, as well as those close to home who we need more than they may realize.  

Status Update.

Doug continues to surprise me with his strength and ability to maintain a sense of well-being.  In stark contrast, I had a really bad twelve-hour bout with viral gastroenteritis or food poisoning while, on the same day, Doug ate a record amount of food.  While his doctors have suggested he maintain a low-residue diet (things like bananas, rice, applesauce) he continues to ingest a fairly good amount of high fiber things like nuts, fresh fruit, salads etc. which have always been a part of his diet; but, he has also eaten weiners and sauerkraut!  While some might argue he stay away from such gastro-atrocities, his doctor has told him he can eat anything he wants as long as it is in moderation.  

He is experiencing some pain, which I’m sure he downplays, and for which he would ever take medication; but, he’s not walking around crying but he sometimes walks in a rather funny manner and we joke that he is just a member of the “Ministry of Silly Walks”.

The sores in his mouth are gone which were a symptom of the chemotherapy; he fended those of with simple salt water rinse.  He’s had some slight digestive issues but nothing a single capsule of Immodium hasn’t handled.  He’s staying active, really just all around amazing considering his diagnosis.  

I remind him (and myself) to live fearlessly and to take deep breaths.  He forges ahead, looking only as far out as a day.  

A special thank you for an uplifting call from our very old friend who lives in France…you know who you are…she is like family to us and always gives the beautiful gift of laughter, the eternal mechanism of healing, faith, and love whenever we meet. 

Fury, Confusion and Maybe a Scream…..

We are about a third of the way through the cancer treatment.  Now, I am a liar, BECAUSE, Doug told me that he would not have to use the chemo pump again and that IF he were to have a last treatment of chemotherapy it would be a single injection at the doctor’s office; and that he would NOT have to wear a chemo bag around for four days, sleep in the recliner instead of the bed, sponge bathe instead of shower…not to mention any possible side effects of a second round of pumped in super, awful, horrible drugs!

He said, “I guess it was wishful thinking on my part.” (insert my silent scream here)

Well that’s the kind of statement that might just drive a cancer patient’s partner into a rage of confusion?  Why did you think that?  Did you ask questions?

This is a matter of life and death you know, not Jeopardy!

So:

The pump is coming back, January 11th.
Chemotherapy isn’t over!

Radiation through almost the end of January.  Ugh!

I got so, and i’ll say it here (close your eyes if you are offended by foul language)…I got so fucking mad when he told me about this…as far as I was concerned…new chemo treatments I nearly tossed my cookies (christmas cookies) right at work this morning!  His chemotherapy news (which he should have known all along) made ME nauseous! 

So after a virtual insanity/puking event (at work) on my part, I decided:

  1. I’m not going to ask anymore, “How do you feel?” Not because I don’t care how he feels, but because constantly asking someone how they feel is enough to make them sick.
  2.  I’m not going to ask what the nurse’s said or what the doctor said.  Not because I don’t care but because he is a grown man and should be able to ask the questions himself.  

I told Doug, “If you feel bad, tell me and I will try to help you.”

Honestly, the way he was dancing around the living room this morning and humming some song I couldn’t identify, I don’t think it’s time to worry…YET!

 

Goodbye Chemo Pump

Doug is nearly finished with his first round of chemotherapy; miraculously, he hasn’t even had any mild side-effects except for yesterday he did mention he had a “funny” taste in his mouth.  Before all this started, I was fairly confident he would fare better than most when it came to dealing with the draconian methods of modern cancer treatment.  He has been injected with majorly toxic drugs for which he brought home a hazardous waste bag in case there was a spill!  The chemo pump comes off today, however, and puts us one step closer to normalcy (whatever that its?)!

The first day, Thursday December 14th, he was injected with a toxic blast of Mytomycin which has the following possible side-effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting, usually mild
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Bladder inflammation (urinary frequency, burning, cramping, pain) – seen with intravesical (into the bladder) therapy.

Now I suppose these could come on later but we are now at the beginning of day 5 and despite my horrible, repetitive asking, “How do you feel?”, none of the above have occurred, at least in any major way.  I can’t help be on constant alert for something to go wrong and, not being the patient myself, find this position quite troubling, worrisome and just downright terrifying.

He has also been wearing a pump which has been giving him intermittent doses of a scary sounding chemical called Floxuridine  which comes with its own set of possible problems.

  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea (may be severe)
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Elevated liver enzymes (temporary increase in alkaline phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase, transaminase, and bilirubin). (see liver problems) This is seen more with the intra-arterial infusion directly into the liver.
  • Hand -foot syndrome (Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia or PPE) -skin rash, swelling, redness, pain and/or peeling of the skin on the palms of hands and soles of feet. 
  • Stomach ulcers (This is seen more with the intra-arterial infusion).

Now it is still early, and one of the major effects of both of these drugs, and as I understand with most chemo drugs, is the lowering of white blood cell counts which opens a person up to the wonderful world of life-threatening infections.  These are the abstract concepts which cause me to awaken in the middle of the night in a sweating, cold panic.  Doug, however, has slept like a baby through the whole process of cancer treatment, so far.  Perhaps he has the fatigue setting in but I’ll just assume some of the fear of anticipation associated with undergoing all this chemical chaos has worn off a bit, allowing him to be more relaxed.

Last night, we had the most delicious what Doug calls a “Sunday Roast”—a beef roast with carrots and potatoes cooked around it, covered with an au jus.  My God it was delicious and seemed just the kind of hearty thing to eat; the meal was a tradition with his family and it therefore carries the medicinal effect of comfort.

Each day is all we have.  We just keep pretending everything is “normal”,  we don’t openly dwell on the scary concepts associated with the treatment (that is reserved for personal panic attacks on my part) but I do tend to be an annoying watch do ever on the lookout for side-effects.  “How are you feeling?”  Perhaps it’s best to just drop this line; he’ll tell me when and if there is something wrong.

So far, it is nothing short of another “tiny miracle” Doug has done as well as he has with his chemotherapy.  Your continued prayers and positive thoughts have made this all possible.  Thanks to you all on Doug’s and my behalf.