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Lymphoma and Pets
Phasing out the 'Roids
Ultimately, I didn’t get to writing this week because I am so damn tired and most of my energy has been devoted to laying plans for next treatment steps – with a haircut, pedicure, Hartford dinner date with Craig, and a lady’s movie and lunch date thrown in there (it’s not all medical mayhem). I am tapering off of the 10mg of Prednisone that I’ve been on for months and which has been my little comfort dose. I am now taking it every other day. Today is a no steroid day. I’m trying to replace it with green juices and smoothies and shots of apple cider vinegar and it’s helping a little with the transition. I’m supposed to be doing all of this every day anyway as prescribed by my naturopath, but I’ve fallen off of that wagon lately, too. I’m transitioning better than I have in the past, but it’s still not easy. However, if I can do this, then it opens up more clinical trials, so I will make it happen.
I’m tired for a variety of reasons:
I’m still pushing past that lingering pneumonia. It’s much less, but I’m still coughing and my nose has been running incessantly from a lingering cold. I carry wadded up tissues in my fist like my Nonna used to do. She’d tuck them in her shirtsleeve so they’d always be at hand. It’s helpful because I never know when the faucet will open.
Nighttime sleep has been a joke – still – even after being home in my own bed. I have bad nightmares and I talk in my sleep a lot so I’ll wake up sitting up in some weird position and will have to basically slap myself to make me realize that the dreams aren’t real. I’ve also been sweating again: both as an effect of the floundering steroid hormone levels and probably the disease itself. Last night I woke up in the middle of a sweat and actually witnessed the sweat beads popping out of my skin, all over, until my legs were slick with salty water and my tank top was misshapen and heavy, a huge ring of visible wetness on it from my neck to my bellybutton. As much as Craig urged me to, I was just too tired to get out of bed, dry off and change, so I fell back to sleep chilled and smelly.
Sweats don't just happen at night either. In fact, I just had one right here. That fireplace next to me suddenly feels like the fires of hell. All of the sudden I'll break into crazy hot flashes and have to strip down to as little clothes as possible. My forehead will bead up and it'll suddenly become hard to breathe. This happens from the hormone up and downs, from the disease, and probably from early menopause, though I'm in full denial surrounding dealing with that. Oh, and P.S. My left boob is still completely numb and aches most all the time.
The disease is on the rise and my body is in high alert mode. It’s a different tired than when I’m on chemotherapy, which is more drug induced. This is more of a natural tired feeling. It’s actually preferable because when I do fall asleep – which happens best during mid-day naps – I fall asleep quickly and into a very deep sleep. This kind of tired is felt deep in my bones and in every organ. I get to a point each day when that’s. just. all. i’ve. got. No mas. It’s like watching a computer shut down. It goes through each of the open programs and closes them in succession and the screen slowly fades. My body will get tired, then my eyes will get heavy, then my words start to slur. However, with me, no one asks if “I’m sure I’d like to shut down now”. Something greater than me is in control of the power button.
Muscle and bone aches are another prominent feature of the steroid wean. My quads feel like jello and my back muscles are sucked onto the bones as tight as Saran wrap. Without the Prednisone, the awful pain is also revisiting me in my left shoulder blade. The same pain that popped up while I was in San Francisco. The steroid must have been keeping the inflammation surrounding it at bay. It’s one little, very pinpointed spot that has the power to send these electrical flares of pain through my entire body. When it’s really throbbing, which mostly happens in the middle of the night and wakes me up, I feel like I took a bullet there and the pain is reverberating from the impact. I’ve tried Icy Hot on it, I’ve tried massaging it, I’ve tried ice packs, and mostly, like they teach in yoga, I just breathe into that sucker with the utmost focus because it’s all I can do. Oh, and I’m still on the pain patch. It doesn’t touch that kind of pain though. In fact, two Aleve are what seem to be the best for it. They at least take the edge off.
Focus has also faded. Hence, lack of blog posts. It is so much work for me to get out of the house. I am at Starbucks now, but I didn’t leave the house until noon. It’s hard for me to get out of bed, if not for Sammy Dog clicking her little feet by my bedside doing the gotta-pee dance. It’s then hard for me to get out of the shower because it’s so warm and the idea of putting clothes on and making myself presentable is so daunting. Then, I make an elaborate production of morning breakfast and e-mail, Facebook checking. Gotta make an oatmeal with nuts and seeds and fruits, green tea and a lemon water and a green smoothie and get fully caught up on correspondence and take my pills before I go anywhere. Mostly, it’s because I’m too tired to get up off the chair. Then – shit! – it’s 11:30 a.m.
In order for me to leave the house for some reason I have to prepare like it’s the Apocalypse. It takes me a while to pack everything that I might want to work on, enough things to drink, a snack pack (highly important!), Purell, tissues, as-needed meds, notebooks, red pens, charging cords, sneakers – in case I’ll go for a walk along the trail behind Starbucks, and yoga mat – in case I’ll do a drop-in gentle class at the studio one plaza over. I even do this in my own home. I create a little nest of things I might need all around me. It’s weird and I think a habit I carried over from transplant days when I’d need things at the ready and wouldn’t have the strength to necessarily get to them.
Then, I finally get to Starbucks and they rearranged all the tables in a weird configuration that almost sent me into a panic attack. My usual spot has been replaced with three resting chairs and a little side table. The other tables are right on top of each other and broken into twosomes. What the freak? It’s like my brain is so used to handling the super, super big things in life all the time with relative ease that the easy things can really throw me for a loop.
Tell me there’s new spots of cancer filling up my lymph nodes and I’ll digest the news no problem. Let's move forward and find a way to fix it. Hide my eos lip gloss egg on me and I can literally break into a panic. I like to blame these tendencies on the steroid taper and insomnia, which I like to blame everything on. A positive is that I’ve been much more receptive to just enjoying things, relaxing, going for impromptu outings and am looking forward to a fun weekend with friends and a dinner party planned. I’m too tired to feel guilty for not being productive and have had a big mind shift lately in realizing that just “chillin” – as my younger brother and sister always call it – is productive too, just in another way. My head and body certainly do need to “chill.”
Family, friends, doctors, and cancer confidants were in agreement with my gut on the biopsy question. I’m going in next Thursday to see the Hartford Hospital surgeon who performed my first two lymph node biopsies from my underarm. He’s very kind and very skilled. I am so fortunate that my Columbia team had no problem with me getting the procedure done locally, completely understanding the extra stresses that eliminates. I’ll be comfortable in familiar territory and close to home. They’ll be able to analyze the tissue directly as well, so it doesn’t really matter who it is cutting it out.
Thursday will be an assessment of the nodes he could go after and potentially could be the biopsy itself if he determines it’s something he could do right there in his office. Otherwise, we’ll set up another appointment in an outpatient facility. I’m hoping for the former, but am up for whatever it takes. What’s another scar and surgical recovery at this point? Treatment is halted until we get these results.
[Sidebar]: I reworked, sliced and diced my recent blog post "The Semantics of Cancer" to meet submission requirements, and it was published on The Huffington Post. Check it out here. If you like it, please give it a Facebook thumbs up, share, or tweet it out to your personal social media worlds. You can also "like" me as a HuffPo contributor and get updates anytime I'm featured there. Thanks for following!