The Chemo Chronicles: Nausea and all that

Preface: What follows is a rambling post, composed over three days for reasons that will soon become apparent.

There’s a certain irony in the course of events since I discovered blood in my urine last September: None of the pain and other sundry inconveniences since the diagnosis were produced by the cancer itself.

The blood in the urine brought no physical discomfort, only anxiety. The diagnosis followed catheter surgery, which is no picnic once the anesthesia wears off, and you’re uncomfortably reminded of it every time you pee.

The hope was that the cancer was contained. If so, no radical surgery, just further catheter exams every few months for a couple of years.

But the initial surgery merely delivered the bad news: The cancer was big and and the bladder had to go, and with it, the prostate [which turned out to have a bit of cancer of another sort, as the post-op biopsy revealed].

The good news: No more painful pees.

The bad news: No more pees. And until you can’t pee any more, you have no idea how much the satisfaction the simple eliminatory act brings.

After the radical surgery in late November, recovery was painful, but we were off the percocet two days after we left the hospital.

Adjusting to a urostemy proved a challenge, a section of intestine snipped out and used to drain urine from the ureters, which empty into the snipped-out gut, which then opens onto the belly to the right of the navel through a bright pink stoma, the small segment of intestine through which the urine drains out into a self-adhesive plastic bag.

Adapting to the bag made for a few uncomfortably wet nights until we mastered the art of affixing the bag [which includes keeping a square of belly shaved].

But that took only a couple of weeks.

Chemo, however, is something else.

During our first session Tuesday, we experienced some discomfort in the form of a slight burning sensation in the veins of our left arm, where the needle bled a flood of chemistry into our bodies to target fast-growing cells, of which the potential cancer tissue is only one form [skin and intestinal cells, the tissue of the mouth, and, of course, hair, to name a few].

By evening, we were tired and slightly groggy.

Wednesday morning, well before dawn, came shivers and hiccups, accompanied by a sense that our stomach might just toss up anything we threw down it.

We took our anti-nausea chemical cocktail mix of ondansetron and dexamethasone [AKA decadron, a steroid] and went back to sleep. By late afternoon, we felt well enough to grab a glass of porter and a pizza with friends.

We went to bed early, then woke up very early Wednesday, feeling like we’d been worked over by Mike Tyson the night before.

There’s nausea, and then there’s nausea. The kind that was grabbing at every shred of our predawn awareness was like none we’d ever felt before. It wasn’t the drank-too-much-the-night-before sort, the kind that leaves you feeling when you first stand up that you’re walking on the deck of a storm-tossed ship.

No, this was something else entirely, a feeling that our viscera had sustained repeated powerful blows. No dizziness, no immediate sense of the need to vomit. Just plain old misery.

We downed the pills, the first of two days of double doses prescribed on the days after we were infused with cisplatin, the more noxious of our two chemo compounds [more on the regimen here].

We read abed for two or three hours [John D. Macdonald, Carl Hiassen, and Raymond Chandler have been trusty companions during our little adventure with the Big C], then grabbed some more sleep.

We did manage to do a little blogging Thursday, but none Friday, which was about as bad viscerally. We spent most of the day in bed, relieved by a Transatlantic phone call and a visit from a friend, who brought much-needed groceries.

We were up early again today, and looked over the first part of this post, which had been banged out in dribs and drabs over the past two days and decided — what the hell — we’ll go with it.

One thing I’ve learned for certain: Cisplatin will never catch on as a drug of abuse.


3 responses to “The Chemo Chronicles: Nausea and all that

  1. Bruce E. Woych

    Hang in there Richard:You can not make sense of distortion, and the word salads will scrabble your thoughts into anxiety if you are not aware of the dinctions from normal coping skills. I recommend a good mantra of your choosing; or the one that comes to you that is most grounded and centered. This process is very erratic and trying to control it only leads to a confusion that you can not explain. I recommend Qigong (it can be done even in bed, but bed-rest alone will betray you as well). It is a tough course, but you will see it through and find renewed life and living dimensions again. Your courage is inspiring!

  2. Bruce E. Woych

    If you have the energy and ambition, take a look here:

    Published on Friday, January 11, 2013 by Common Dreams
    ‘Idle No More’ Actions Sweep Canada
    Protest movement takes message to Canadian capital and beyond

  3. Hey Richard

    Hang in there! We love you!!!!

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