Sunday, January 29, 2017

The start of 2017

Did you have a nice Christmas?

Do you even remember Christmas?

Seems like forever ago, doesn't it?  I was going to blog for the holidays, but my son came home from college without his laptop, so I gave him mine. He spent 3 weeks here, which plugged my heart right back in its appropriate socket. It meant I didn't see my laptop for any of those weeks, but it was an excellent trade-off.  For you moms whose kids haven't left yet, you have no idea how good it is to just hear them laughing in their bedroom, or grabbing a glass of milk - normal things that you miss intensely once they are gone.

I think it's safe to say that I'm never going to adjust to being an empty-nester.

Still, having only my phone, blogging wasn't going to happen, and even keeping up with my facebook page was difficult.  Of course, I was busy with Christmassy stuff: shopping and entertaining, and so I didn't worry about being online much.  I try to post on facebook at least once a week so people know I'm still alive (seriously) but other than that,  I wasn't online and I didn't read anybody else's updates.  I was/am woefully out of date.

My son went back to school the first week of of the month, and while I got my laptop back, I also got what was likely a norovirus - an illness which pretty much stole my January.

The story:  At 5:00 am New Year's Day my son called - he'd been spending the night with some friends.  I (eventually) answered his call, not expecting or really hearing anything at that hour.  When it finally made sense that my phone was ringing and texts were beeping, we connected.  He told me he was vomiting uncontrollably and could we please come get him because he couldn't drive, and also added he had not been drinking.  (Which never crossed my mind, by the way.)

So my husband and I went to retrieve him and the car.  The poor kid spent the rest of the day vomiting, with both my husband and myself taking turns caring for him.  We took no precautions because we believed he had food poisoning.  I felt horrible he was sick but again, my motherly instincts took over and I was feeling his forehead, bringing him hotpacks for his aching back and cleaning up puke buckets.  He's 19, so he hated being sick, but he recovered quickly.

But of course, it wasn't food poisoning.  The next day, my husband got sick.  I knew then it was coming for me.  I did my nursing duties for my husband, which mostly consisted of bringing him water and soup, but this time, I tried to stay away.  Fortunately, he is not a needy patient.

Oddly, even with my weakened immune system, I didn't get it. I was able to take my son to the airport, and pretty much felt quite fine.  They were recovered and I hadn't even gotten sick.  I was starting to believe that I had some magic that would prevent me from getting this highly contagious disease.

That magic?  It's called denial.

Wednesday the fourth, I was still healthy so I went to chemo. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but I'd skipped the previous week because of family being home, and I didn't want to skip again without reason.  I came home from chemo and ate a normal dinner.  I still hadn't disinfected my laptop, so was using my phone, and as my husband watched basketball,  I watched a horrible video of a child who hung herself while live streaming - a video which obviously upset me terribly. (I thought it was phony or I wouldn't have watched it.)  When the game was over, my husband and I watched some TV.  At 11:00 pm,  all GI hell broke loose.

I vomited, but this was not your regular vomiting, it was never-ending projectile vomiting.  I could have knocked some bowling balls with the power of this puke.  Not to be crass, (too late, I know) but this vomit wasn't your normal puke, of which as a cancer patient, I am quite familiar.  It clearly came from the depths of hell, with a black taste no amount of tooth-brushing would remove. Everything also smelled horrible, so bad that regular vomit would have smelled like perfume. But the smell was not limited to things that emitted from me - everything smelled bad, my husband's soap, the walls - and so I believe this disease affected my sense of smell.  My son had said something similar.  I comforted myself with the thought that my family was sick for a day and rested a day and then got better quickly, so I assumed that's what would happen to me.

Nope.  I forgot, I am not like them.

I vomited for two days straight and was eventually left too weak to get up, and I pulled out my regular puke bucket from under my bed. I vomited, I slept, I tossed and turned and threw-up again. All the while, that young girl's horrific suicide swirled through my brain uncontrollably. I was upset for her family, for those who knew her, even for those who inadvertently watched it, like me. You know how when you are sick you can't really control your brain?  I thought about it, dreamt about it and in-between vomiting, I suffered for her loved ones.  I was troubled not only physically, but mentally. She haunted me.

After the vomiting stopped, I didn't feel better.  I was unable to stand. My legs literally would not hold me. It was as bad as the sepsis recovery.  Waves of nausea and pain continued throughout my stomach to the point I couldn't get down anti-nausea or pain meds.  The weakness was troubling.  I tried to drink water to stay hydrated and eat to bring strength back, but no go. Everything smelled bad and set off my nausea.  Not to mention, I also had overwhelming heartburn, which I always get with this chemo, but this time was like flames; like my stomach was full of hot, boiling oil.

I was not getting better and even vomited again on day four when I thought that part was over.  I was in a dream-like state.  Apparently, there was a terrible storm which knocked down trees and fences, and I'm terrified of storms, but I missed it entirely.  After the fifth day without being able to get out of bed or eat, with my life being about sheets swirled around my legs,  blankets all twisted into lumps, tangled pulled hair, bad dreams about children, and everything causing me nausea,  I decided I needed to go get IV fluids and IV anti-nausea meds and see if it would get me over the hump.

I gathered strength and called my oncologist's office and talked to the nurses, and they said come in. It seemed like climbing Mt. Everest to get there, but I felt that if I did not, I was going to be in that bed forever and my forever wasn't going to be long.  My husband took me to my infusion clinic, where they were quite concerned when they saw me.  I wasn't exactly the picture of health, with my straggly hair pulled back, sweat clothes, no makeup, circles under my eyes and a weight loss of 8 pounds (on a person who weighed 98, that shows).  One nurse wanted me to go straight to the hospital but I convinced her that if I was ill the next day, I would but for now, let's just try it my way. In short, I wasn't going to go. So they gave me IV saline, IV ativan, and the anti-nausea Kytril, again through IV.

(Disclaimer:  Some know that I do not go to ER if I can help it.  I don't recommend that others follow my lead and you do what's best for you -  but I am not going to the hospital, period, unless I am admitted for a surgery or something. I would rather die in my bed than sit in an ER and catch everybody else's disease as well as my own. I feel like I've lived a long time with this disease because I do not go to the ER.  It's a quirk of mine - but I nope myself right out of the idea of the ER, every time.)

The next day, after the fluids, I did get up for a couple hours to watch some TV.  I finished off Shameless which helped take my mind off that tragic video.  I was finally able to control my thoughts a bit better.  And the next day, a few more hours up, and I was able to completely wash myself, scrub my hair, and change my sheets. I was finally healing.

Slowly I got better, day-by-day, and I am finally pretty much back to .... normal. My normal, which is still not normal. My normal now includes the realization that I am the type of person who dies of the flu.  (Which is why I get a flu shot).  In fact, metastatic cancer may not be the thing that actually kills me - it may be something exactly like this.

Finally out of bed for a full day, I had to catch up with all the chores I'd missed.  We did not take our tree down until about the 15th, and our habit is to do it New Year's Day. But in reality, my husband did it as I was still too weak. But at least I was able to remind him.

Naturally, my blood tests came out abnormal including my potassium and liver function tests.  My doctor believes the liver function is from the illness, and so do I so I am not worried the disease is back.

I am having trouble getting back on track.  I feel like I have missed a full month of 2017 already.  I am not caught up on the goings on of my friends, or my pages, or the other chores I needed to do - but now, at least,  I know I will catch up.

This time.

I am left with fatigue, shortness of breath, am light-headed, have some heart palpitations and a bizarre craving for popsicles. To the point that I am eating about 8 a day!  (Whole fruit to be sure,  but they still are nothing but sugar). All of those things are symptoms of anemia, except the popsicles is a twist. Ice eating is the norm for iron-deficient anemics.  I have been anemic for many years, and never had the ice symptom even when I needed a blood transfusion, but again, perhaps that has to do with the type of anemia I have which is not iron deficient - or wasn't.  Anyway, my recent tests didn't show that my anemia was any worse than it had been before.  But we will see what my next ones show and I'll bring it up with my oncologist if it continues.

Poor doctor, what does he think of when he asks, "How you are this month?" and he hears, "Doctor, I seem to have a popsicle addiction, more specifically, coconut cream popsicles"  does he think, "I went to medical school and got $200,000 in debt to hear that somebody eats too many popsicles?"

Anyway, the one I eat the most is 120 calories, so even though it's junk food, I'll probably gain the weight I lost back quickly.

I guess the moral of this boring story is that if you have Stage 4 cancer and are on chemo, and have been on chemo for the better part of a decade, even if you are in remission,  you should never take for granted your "health."  Because, you are really only one illness away from the end. Things other people can recover from easily may cause your death.

It was a nasty little reminder for 2017.

I need to try to stay healthy and away from germs, however one manages that.  I already stay out of grocery stores, which are germ-factories, especially now that it's the law that people have to bring their own disgusting bags from home.  I do most of my shopping online. (Reminder: click the Amazon link to the right before your next shopping trip, and I get a tiny percentage of what you purchase).

But I can't lose contact with people entirely so there is some risk no matter what.

I surely wish the US was like Japan and China, in that wearing masks when you are sick is not only the norm, but trendy.

People in Tokyo Being Sensible

People in the US are stared at

I do know I owe people articles, promotions and I have things to mail.  I am sorry for the delay but I will get to you.  I promise.  At least, as much as I CAN promise.....

Happy 2017!