It’s Tuesday, August 24th, and the cable is out. It’s not just out, it’s possessed. All the channels are grey except one: Disney Kids. The evil Hannah Montana, fiendish Wizards of Waverly place and demonic Fineas and Ferb mock us whenever we turn on the TV. Comcast can’t explain it. Are we losing our grip on reality? Possessed by spirits?
Or is it a final fuck you from Cancer? Did it send the minions of Disney make us miserable at our weakest point? It’s our last chemotherapy week and Trish needs the TV to survive. There are a few shows on Tivo, but how long can we hold out? Find out, after the break…
No, I’m not unhappy this is the last one, in fact I’m elated. But the summer of 2010 is one of those periods I will remember for the rest of my life. The Creekmores tackled a lot of difficult stuff. I grew a lot. I’m respectful of the journey.
The last drop
“You’re done allready?” What used to feel like an eternity, watching the fluids pass down the IV into her medi-port, feels quick. We say good by to the nurses. We will see them a few more times for some check-ups, but not much. A new woman comes in for her first treatment. She looks scared.
Back home Trish settles into the couch for the boring 5 or 6 days as the chemo (hopefully) kills any cells that have escaped from her breast tissue. The TV comes back on the next day, just as Trish was running out of shows on the Tivo. (It happens again a few days later, but I’ve already called Verizon and ordered Fios after Comcast support is inept.)
Trish escapes the fate worse than death and watches adult TV that, to me, seems equally horrible as evil Hanna Montana. America’s got Talent seems to be on constantly this summer, wtf?. But at least it helps her pass the time.
In between days.
The week crawls by. Trish slowly recovers and by all rights deserves to be very grumpy. Except it’s the last time, and the hope for the future offsets some of the discomfort. Our kids have one more week before school and they happily play with neighborhood kids.
We get a few 70 degree days, reminding us of Fall approaching. The momentum from work continues to build as the company comes back from summer schedule. With school opening next week, we sort through schools supplies, piles of paperwork and building of schedules.
Big change is on us again. Crazy at it sounds, we were just getting good at dealing with the summer of Cancerpalooza. This week we close that chapter and open a new one as she prepares for surgery, reconstruction and recovery. I still can’t process it all emotionally, I just know big change is here.
What we leared about chemo therapy:
Chemo, poisioning Trish’s body, had a number of nasty effects. None were conventional pain, all six were severe discomforts that together make for a miserable experience.
Four of them, neasuea, taste/smell problems, gastro-intestinal issues and boredom, only last as long as the chemicals were running through her body. She (more or less) fully recovers form those in between treatments. Two, however, neasuea and fatigue are cumulative and torture her more and more as the treatments progressed.
Here’s an outline of what she felt and how she tried to manage it. People experience things differently, and I don’t know if this will be helpful for anyone, but it’ll give you a sense of what it’s like.
Nausea: What is that set of nerves from our stomach to our brains that makes us feel horrible when we need to vomit? It’s an indescribable, horrible feeling that, when severe, is among the worst experiences of being human. Unfortunately, it’s very common with breast cancer chemotherapy.
Medications can help or hurt. Zofran worked mostly (but also constipates you), but Compazine, which is also an anti-psychotic, was absolutely horrible for Trish. It made her feel crazy and scared. There is stuff you can, cough, smoke, but it didn’t help that much and made the mouth problems worse.
In the end, what worked best is staying still most of the time. Taking the atavan or xanax they proscribed to keep her relaxed was very effective. (But see boredom)
Fortunately, this was fairly easy to deal with using over-the-counter drugs. Prilosec beginning two days before the chemo, gasx, and generic stool softener three times a day during the recovery week took care of most of the issues. (Pro tip: Stop the stool softener immediately after the Zofran ends, or you’ll want some immodium on hand.)
Not much helps this unfortunately, and though it’s not serious, it is incredibly frustrating and annoying. They gave her some over the counter artifical saliva and she used Biotene toothpaste, but neither work that great. They also prescribed ‘magic mouthwash’ which is a combo of things designed to help. Trish wouldn’t try it though, so I can’t tell you if it works.
Boredom: Of the temporary problems, boredom is the most difficult to solve. Between the nausea and the chemo-brain, there isn’t anything to do that’s entertaining. Reading is nearly impossible. The screen on action movies moves too fast. Computer games make her queasy. Anything with a decent plot is too hard to follow and she dozes every hour or so anyway.
You just have to sit on the couch and watch bad TV. Have you seen Prince Poppycock yet. Oh you have? Well here’s some more.
Dementia: Chemo-brain is real. Trish, by nature, isn’t an intensely focused, detail oriented, planning type. And she needn’t be. She gets the job done in her own way. But chemo brain, which starts off as an inconvenience, is really serious by the final treatment.
She frequently forgets words, looses her train of thought and has immense trouble concentrating. There is absolutely nothing one can do about it, and 10% of chemo patients say they don’t every fully recover. I hope that’s not true for Trish.
I have to write her notes to help remember and double check on stuff frequently. “Did you call you sister back? Where did Lily go? Did you take your medications?” It’s hard for her because she feels like, and gets treated like a child in some ways.Photo doesn't exist
Fatigue: Another cumulative effect, fatigue eventually is the one that does you in. It’s your body slowing down because it can’t rebuild itself. It’s death. Trish did a great job in the beginning pushing back on the fatigue by going to dance classes 4-5 days after the treatment. It was always exhausting, and she near collapsed a few times but it would help. By the 6th treatment, even walking a mile 5 days was completly exhausting.
Depression: Trish isn’t prone to classic depression (like I am) and she takes anti-depressants to suppress panic attacks so she’s getting some chemical support. But damn, this shit can get you down. It’s impossible to not feel helpless and angry. Cancerpalooza is designed to help with this, and I think it worked pretty well, right? I wonder what it would have been like otherwise.
101 surprises 81-86:
Ohhh it’s getting so close to 101 I can’t stand it. What will the awesome surprise be?
- 81) A Mouse that Kills: Wooooot! Shout-out to Vashido, our Warhammer buddy. He’s been bugging me to buy this ultra-complicated-gizmo mouse for Trish so she can pwn n00bs faster on her character Tinkerhell Murderboobs. So here it is, the Razor Naga ultra customizable and programmable gaming mouse. Now she has no excuse to die in PvP (unless she’s just terribad, OOOOooo).
- 82) Kindle: I love my kindle, although I haven’t been reading it a lot lately but I will soon. Trish always resisted it, but she hates holding the giant books in bed. And soon her brain will recover and Us Weekly won’t be 100% fulfilling. (just 98%). One cool thing about kindles for couples: if you order them off the same Amazon account, you both share the books. And Kindles are the best for travel! You can bring so much material, the battery lasts forever and there are no books to lug around.
- 83) High Powered blender: THIS IS THE VOICE OF GOD. I COMMAND DAVID TO BLEND GLOW-STICKS AND WATCH THEM GET FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET IN THE DARK. FIND THE RIGHT TOOLS, GATHER YOUR COURAGE AND FULFILL YOUR DESTINY, DAVID. omg, did you hear that! How can you resist the voice of god? He’s so, so, persuasive. So I bought a Blend-Tec of “Will it blend” fame. How is this a surprise for Trish? I dunno. I guess I can go make her a smoothie…
- 84) New home phones: Our home phones are internet based, so they aren’t great quality and the handset make a big difference. Our old ones are crackily and you can’t use them if someone is using the microwave. Now Trish has a cute new phone system in the house. They are solidly constructed and the quality, especially the speakerphone, is great. That’s important for family calls. And, um, did anyone tell the Germans what Siemens sounds like in English?
- amazing-for-the-price Oppo blue-ray dvd player. YE-AH. This thing plays every kind of disc under the sun and gets rave reviews for the cost point. If you have the sky-net system to support it like we do, this is a winnah. When Trish can handle action films again, we will have fun.