For me, the days after chemotherapy were more like a disgusting horror film: lots of pain, tears and pea soup shooting across the room from a spinning head…
Perhaps I hyperbolize slightly. My head didn’t spin, at least not visible to the outside world though some vertigo occurred, but I also discovered just why the heavy duty medications are necessary after dumping an insane amount of toxins into the bloodstream. Just remember: chemo equals toxins and toxins equal insanely sick for the next week!
The night I had chemo I was fine. I ate without any issue and found myself just a little groggy (and desperate to pee every five minutes from the diuretic in my system.) I wasn’t incredibly surprised, most reading and the few people I had spoken to admitted that the first day or so might be tolerable. It would just get worse before better.
Seriously…it got way worse.
My parents were kind enough to run by and pick up some lender anti-emetic from a friend of mine as well as a little something that I thought I had wanted to eat: a blizzard from Dairy Queen. While both the pill and half the ice cream went down well, my stomach did not stop doing flips at all. I just continued to feel so sick that my abdomen actually ached. Malika arrived midday with some lunch for the two of us and some distractions (read as: movies). We ate and watched TV; all the while the pain and sickness worsened. I was popping four milligram tablets of Zofran the second I was allowed (only to learn on Monday I was supposed to be taking eight milligram tablets every eight hours.) The Zofran wasn’t doing anything at all. I still felt incredibly sick, like I was on the verge of vomiting every second I was awake. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t nap either. It was just a mess.
It wasn’t long before the nausea won. Malika was a trooper (and gets the friend of the week award for sure!) as she wiped down my face, rubbed my back and talked soothingly to me while I spilled the contents of my stomach into a bucket. After that, I gave up food entirely for the day, sipping slowly on water and nibbling on saltines (which were the only solid things I could keep down.) When Milo arrived home, he and Malika swapped jobs, but he lucked out. I had learned my lesson and refused to do more than drink water and suck on ice pops. Food was definitely not my friend.
I hoped that by Sunday things would be different. The chemo, supposedly, lasts in the body for about forty-eight hours. Saturday, in my mind, should have been the worst and then I should taper down to normal…right? Wrong! Sunday was equally as bad, if not worse. Dr. Brooks had mentioned to be prepared to be constipated (oh joy!), so Milo and I had stocked up on a few things to help keep my gut moving. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize we should start with those medications before chemo. After, is a tad too late. Despite the fact I still wasn’t keeping food down and at times bringing back up water, my bowels weren’t moving at all either. I’ll spare the most intimate details (my husband is a saint though!), I finally became functional again. Milo hoped that would relieve the pressure on my stomach and let me eat. I tried again, with no success, to keep down some soup. I was starting to think this was never going away!
On Monday, I was so weak and crying so much that I couldn’t take it anymore. My parents picked me up to babysit me at their place while Milo worked for the day. On the ride to the house, I called Dr. Brooks. It would take him a few hours, but he finally called back to see how bad I was. I admitted the last solid food that stayed down had been on Friday and that since it was pretty much saltines and clear liquids for the last three days. This amassed to a six and a half pound loss from Friday. His exact words: “Well this is disappointing.” He prescribed ativan (which is normally an anti-anxiety) and said to use it but try to monitor how sedate I became (the answer: very.) Dr. Brooks warned that if this didn’t work I would need to come in for fluids. Worst case scenario: I might end up in the hospital if nothing stayed down.
Ativan is my hero! This might very well be my favorite post chemo drug in the universe right now. Not only did I keep down meals (small portions but food is food!), but it knocks me out and I get a decent rest for a while too. They should hand this out to the opposing political parties so they can sleep through the presidential years they don’t agree with, i.e. I’d totally have used this to sleep through Bush Jr.’s presidency.
The downside of the ativan is that I definitely can’t work since I am exhausted all the time and I tend to be a tad bit more weepy. This also makes things a little messy. People can be amazing comforts, but they can’t be there every time the water works start. In fact, some people apply more pressure to the situation than is needed. Like my mother, she tells me I have to live for her because it would kill her if I died. Or my father saying I promised I would bury him so I can’t die before him. No pressure, right? This isn’t hard enough without that kind of love. I already feel like my sickness is affecting so many lives. After treatments I am so sick I need someone to take care of me or at least be around since I’m so weak and nauseous. People have lives. Milo has work and school; I can tell my parents love to have me around, but they’d like to have their home back too. My friends have lives and can’t play nurse to the cancer patient all the time either. I don’t think people realize I’m starting to feel lonely and as if I am a burden. Everything I was before now has been stripped away to reveal the major new role in my life: cancer patient. It’s heartbreaking; I was so much more before sick girl. I was a nurse, a lover, a child, a wife, a sister, a friend. I planned parties for birthdays and took people out when they were depressed. Now I’m just sick…it’s like Janine stopped existing a little to make way for the big evil Darth Tumor!