Cancer Ramblings

Cancer Ramblings

I’m exhausted. The kind of exhausted where I’m too tired to get up and plug in the cannabis vape pen that needs charging because I spent all that energy an hour ago making toast with peanut butter and a cup of green tea.

So I’m lying in bed composing a blog post on my phone instead of standing up, and I’ll ask Dan to charge my V2 Pro next time he comes in to check on me.

***

My platelets are low (64 at last week’s count) and I’ve been barfing again. No idea if those two things are related. Also, though I don’t really want to admit it, I’ve been basically bed ridden for a couple of weeks.

It’s not the cancer; it’s the treatment.

After my last round of chemo, I didn’t regain much strength. I mean, it’s always hard, but it seems to be getting harder. Could be the absence of the dexamethasone now. Could be the cumulative effects of the chemo treatments. Could be the shit-ass weather and extra migraines I’ve had this month.

That’s the thing about brain cancer and its treatments. So many potential causes for the add-on problems, and no sure way to identify the cause.

So you just endure.

***

Dan just plugged in the vape for me and told me goodnight. He did Boomer’s voice for him as he pulled the door closed.

“Love you too, Ma.”

“Love you too, Boom!”

“Love you too, Ma.”

(I don’t know. We’re weird. We do voiceovers for our pets. Also I sleep in the guest bedroom. It sucks. Cancer sucks.)

I asked Dan once why Boomer always said “I love you too” over and over, and he informed me that it was because Boomer had to have the last word.

Duh.

***

Anyway, barfing.

I woke up at 11:30 last night and reached for a vomit bag. The combination smell of those vinyl bags, my PB&J, and stomach acid left me heaving long after I’d blown all my chunks.

When the spasming in my stomach stopped, I brushed my teeth for the second time and walked the bag to the garage. I had called to Dan for help, but he was snoring. Hard.

Oh well, he deserves to sleep, I thought.

Unfortunately, I had to turn the hall lights on, and he stumbled in to check on me when I returned. I was sitting on the bed pouting. The dog and cat were right on Dan’s heels, and I commented that everybody had come to console me.

If there’s a bright side to puking in this house, it’s that everyone is curious. You’re never alone.

***

Regardless, I hate throwing up. It’s the worst. And I mostly hate food now too. (I’ve lost 26 pounds since quitting dexamethasone, but don’t worry. I’m still unbelievably fat for a girl who hauls 2-pound vomit bags to the garbage a couple times a week.)

***

I have no wrap-up for this post. I’m just going to try to sleep now.

I Might Owe Dexamethasone a Very Small Apology

I Might Owe Dexamethasone a Very Small Apology

It appears I was a bit hasty in my judgment of dexamethasone. Still suffering after a round of chemo without it, I can now see that in spite of its horrible side effects it was masking some of chemo’s even more horrible side effects.

I won’t go into the full details of my emetic escapades, more for my sake than yours. But I will just say that Activia is off the menu for a few days while I purge my scent memory.

There was some discussion between Dan and I about what to do next, seeing how I spent maybe three hours not in bed this past week.

“You could try taking the dex only during the week you do chemo,” Dan suggested.

I whined something about not wanting to while admitting it wasn’t an unreasonable suggestion. “It was just so hard to quit. I almost think I’d rather suffer some new evil than go through that again.”

For now I’ve decided to take more Zofran, despite the headaches and hiccups. I’ll use cannabis to make me want food and Zofran to keep it down.

At least until the next thing. Because there is always a next thing.

Dexamethasone Sucks

Dexamethasone Sucks

Remember how I’m coming off the dexamethasone? Here’s an update I posted to Facebook yesterday:

As of 8:36 am, I was 96 hours dexamethasone free. But as morning turned into noon, I started feeling sick to my stomach. (I’ve been down this road before, so I had a small lunch of yogurt and 2 cuties and popped a 1/4 mg of dex to stave off the vomiting. You’re supposed to take dex with food.)

“I don’t want to start horking and land in the ER again like I did in June,” I told Dan.

Four minutes later my entire head was in a vomit bag.

So here’s the question: Did I or didn’t I take dex today? Or maybe it’s Schrödinger’s Dex?

While the vomiting has been quelled by a medical cannabis patch, the nausea is lingering. My appetite is at about 6%, but that’s OK for now. I still have a ton of steroid weight to lose. So far I’ve made do with a bowl of Rice Chex, some lactose-free, high-protein milk, and eight Wheat Thins.

I’m going to try real hard to eat some chicken nuggets tonight. Salt and protein have always been my way out of Pukelandia.

Aside from the gross stuff, I’m having major muscle fatigue and soreness. My quads are screaming at me like I’ve been marathon training without taking any rest days, despite the fact I’ve just been in bed whining since Tuesday.

I’m also having some issues with rebound swelling and double vision. Both things to keep an eye on, because my brain could swell, too, without the dex—and that would be bad. And require me to go back on the dex. And we don’t want that.

Dear god, we do not want that.

Granny Walkers and Comfort Food

Granny Walkers and Comfort Food

I had to bring the walker back out today. It’s frustrating, but kind of expected. I’ve taken another step towards coming of the dexamethasone—down from one milligram a day to a half milligram a day.

If you Google “dexamethasone taper” and hit the patient forums that pop up in the results, you’ll see it’s pretty common for the taper to make people feel like hell.

I keep finding out how unexceptional I am in terms of side effects.

Congratulations, me.  And all of this right before I start my maintenance chemo tomorrow morning.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since February, it’s that I’m not allowed to get completely over one stinky hell before stepping barefoot into a freshly steaming new one.

Anyway, my body is just one continuous muscle spasm right now, and it has been for a couple of days. I’ve tried the cyclobenzaprine I have left over, hot and cold packs, Icy Hot, bed rest, hot tea, meditation. Probably more stuff I can’t remember. All pretty much worthless for this particular problem. My medical cannabis gummies get me relaxed enough to sleep at night, but they are really, really dehydrating.

That’s something I’d like to point out, now that I’ve brought up the topic—marijuana’s great, but it’s not perfect. People who claim it is probably haven’t taken it for brain cancer.

kraft mac and cheese

So anyway, I’ve regressed to the point where Dan has to pretty much do everything for me again. These little setbacks don’t last forever, but they are so frustrating. As it turns out, I actually don’t like being waited on constantly or asking for help with ridiculously small things.

“Could you get me a Gatorade? And pour it in a glass? With ice? And a straw?’

Dan doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s made me Kraft Macaroni & Cheese three days straight. He even went out to buy the janky cheap stuff when we already had Kraft Deluxe in the pantry.

What can I say? My cravings are very specific these days. I want straight macaroni, not elbow. And I want neon orange cheese dust, not runny cheese product from a metallic pouch.

Because standards.

Something’s Squeezing Me, But From the Inside

Something’s Squeezing Me, But From the Inside

Sunday night was…weird. I went to bed early because I was feeling…weird.

Dan came to check on me. “What’s up. You doing okay?”

“No.”

“Well, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. I just feel really strange. Like something’s squeezing me, but from the inside. Everything’s heavy. I feel like I can’t breathe.”

Dan tried to push me for clarification, but I had nothing. The sensations were new, and I couldn’t determine whether I was having some kind of panic attack or my worst flare up to date.

Am I panicking? Or am I just so weak I my muscles won’t expand enough for a solid breath?

I could tell he wasn’t sure how to help. “I’ve just been lying here trying to decide if this is worthy of an ER visit, but I don’t figure there’s much point in going if I can’t even explain what’s going on, you know?”

“Yeah.”

Spoonies learn quickly that ER visits are  borderline pointless. Unless you can show the doctor a gunshot wound or… Well, it’s pretty easy to talk yourself out of going. They’re expensive as hell, and the doctor you end up with is a total crap shoot.

Like the one who gave me Mylanta and sent me home when I had a gallstone he didn’t bother to check for. That waste of my time cost me thousands of dollars and several more months of excruciating pain.

***

Ever since my doctor’s appointment on Friday, I’ve been getting weaker and weaker. And it’s not like I had all kinds of strength to start with. In fact, during the strength test part of the visit, she asked me to grab her fingers and squeeze them as hard as I could. I gripped the index and middle fingers of each of her hands and gave it everything I had.

I was thinking to myself, based on my perceived level of exertion, that she was going to say uncle. I pinched up my face and waited for her to tell me to let go.

Instead, she said, “No, as hard as you can.”

***

When I wake up in the mornings, my spasms are worse. I yawn repeatedly, and with each yawn my entire body tenses up from head to toe. The back of my right ear and earlobe are numb. My forearms and hands are mostly numb, but painfully so.

Whatever that means. How is it possible to be in pain and numb at the same time?

Talking triggers yawns, which triggers more head-to-toe spasms. Getting up from the couch—when I can manage to stand up—triggers head-to-toe spams too. I have to wait for the muscle contractions to stop.

Imagine you’re angry and making a fist. And you’re so angry that your arm and fist shakes in tight, tremor-like contractions until you let go of the fist.

That’s what I’m calling a spasm. Only it’s all over my body. And I can’t just think let go, and my body magically lets go. It’ll let go when it damn well feels like it, and there’s not a blasted thing I can do about it.

***

There’s no question the reality of my situation is starting to sink in. If you type the visit diagnosis items from Friday’s appointment (weakness, abnormal gait, clonus, restless leg) into my symptom checker app, you get these results:

symptom-checker

Knowing what I do about my own body, I’m 99.9% certain I’m dealing with multiple sclerosis. But I can’t completely ignore that other possibility. And I’m already conditioned to fear non-answers. If the MRIs (just got them set up this morning and they are scheduled for Thursday) don’t show MS lesions or anything, what then?

***

Thank God for medical cannabis in Illinois. Whether Sunday night’s breathing troubles were directly related to my physical condition and spasms or my overactive, anxious mind, one quarter of a gummy helped.

In a few minutes, I felt the muscles around my chest and stomach let go. I could breathe. And then I feel asleep.

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