THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BATTLE

People I have talked with who have been through cancer treatment always talk about the importance of staying positive. I see what they mean. When you have setbacks, it is so easy to get frustrated and discouraged.

One thing I am struggling with is food. Peggy and I love food. We are “foodies”. We love all kinds of ethnic food. We love fresh garden veggies. We love fresh fish cooked on the day I catcht it. We love grilling. We just love food. And, we eat relatively healthy. Ironically, back at the beginning of this year I committed to an even healthier diet – cutting out most empty carbs (white bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.). And I had succeeded in losing about 12 pounds, while still enjoying great food.

I was warned early on that one of the side effects of the treatments is losing your sense of taste, and your appetite. In the early weeks of treatments, I worked hard on continuing to eat as much food as I could. Then I started having digestive problems, and started losing my sense of taste. Sweetness was the first casualty. I can’t taste anything sweet. Add to this pain when I swallow, and suddenly I find myself losing weight more quickly. Counting the 12 pounds I had already lost, I have now lost about 25 pounds. Luckily, I had it to lose. Dr. Mattern, my chemo guy said I had “bear hibernation pounds” I could stand to lose anyway.

Now, I may get a small portion of real food in a day. Everything else is protein shakes, ensure, and cans of stuff through my feeding tube. Add in nausea from the treatments, and a general loss of energy. It is easy to get discouraged.

I so look forward to wanting food again! And, I feel bad for Peggy who feels guilty eating around me. I tell her not to worry. I don’t even feel hungry so it doesn’t bother me.

On the up-side, I am fitting into clothes that haven’t fit in years. I’m one of those people who has a hard time getting rid of clothes I really like that are too small. I always live with the hope that I will lose those pounds. Well, now I have. Peggy and I went to a U2 concert several years ago. We both bought t-shirts. Mine never fit, even though it was the largest size they had. Apparently you have to be thin to be hip. Well, I was digging through some old t-shirts this morning and there it was. It fits perfect! So, you can always find a bright side even in a bad situation.


 

 

THIS IS SEWIOUS

sewious

You’d have to have a small child or grandchild to get the reference. The Wonder Pets are a great, if somewhat bizarre, cartoon featuring a guinea pig named Linny, a duckling named Ming-Ming, and a Turtle named Tuck. When things get serious, and they always do, Ming-Ming always says “This is sewious.” Then they all say “What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”

Well, things got sewious yesterday. Our long-suffering nurse Traci felt very uneasy about the possibility of my having a reaction to Erbitux, the only chemo drug left that they use on this type of cancer. I’d already had reactions to the other two they use. As the IV dripped, Traci kept asking “How do you feel?” I’d scratch, and she’d say “Is that a new itch? She hovered over a protective mother hen. After the drug had been going in for a while she said “Your lips are a funny color.” Peggy agreed. I said, I’ll go in the bathroom and look in the mirror. My lips looked fine to me. But in the 20 steps back to my chair it hit me! I felt like I was going to come out of my skin. Traci acted without hesitation, stopping the meds, calling for the doctor, getting reaction drugs ready.

Suddenly I was surrounded by doctors and nurses all talking at once. By now my throat was swelling up, and kept filling up with mucus. They put me on oxygen, and a humidifier thing with medicine you breath in and out of. They shot me with steroids and antihistamines. I was starting to have a hard time breathing. Through the whole ordeal I just fixed on Traci’s calm, controlled face as she kept me focused and breathing. Finally, they all looked at each other and said, “We need to call 911.”

Now let me pause here. When you are in a medical facility already that deals with reactions all the time, and you are surrounded by doctors and nurses, and THEY call 911, at moments like this I think about Ming-Ming – “This is sewious!”

Well, the paramedics got there, rolled me out to their truck. I wanted to do the thumbs up for all the other patients like the football players do as they are wheeled off. They started asking me a bunch of questions. By now I couldn’t talk. Which seemed to confuse them. I finally motioned for a pen and paper and told them I couldn’t speak. They wanted to put a pic line in my arm just in case I needed to get an IV in the five-minute ride to Riverside. I suggested they could use the nce pic line that is already in my arm. They said they didn’t know how to use that one. I suggested they just put it in gear and drive the 5 minutes to the hospital. So they did.

By the time I got to Riverside, the symptoms were much less severe. They gave me a shot of epinephrine. And they sent me down to x-ray my neck. The x-ray guy, who had been real talkative, came back out after taking the picture, and seemed concerned about something. I said. “Oh by the way, I’ve got a tumor in my neck” (he didn’t know). He replied with relief “Whew! I did see something, and I’m not supposed to say anything.

After a while I was back to normal and they sent me home. What a day!

Moving forward: Well, no more chemo. They are going to depend on the radiation to do the trick. Well, my plan was to use Prayer, Chemo, and Radiation (cover all bases!). Now it is down to prayer and radiation. So I plan to double the dose on the prayers.

In a way this is a relief. No more chemo side effects! I can deal with the sore throat from the radiation.