When you take a medication there are always the pros and cons. There are the various ways it will help and the long list of side effects associated with taking the drug. I always air on the side of caution if this list of side effects is ridiculously long. Nothing is more exciting than reading a book or website that lists all the bizarre and terrifying things that may or may not happen to you. It’s like reading a Stephen King novel, except at the end of the day you can close his book and it’s finished.
I started taking my oral chemo medicines in July right after I finished camp. I started with two pills a day then increased to three. The only major differences I noticed were the extra trips to the bathroom, being tired easily, not eating nearly as much, and the new hair color. I would get some soreness in my gut but it was nothing different than I was use to. It wasn’t until my medication was increased to the maximum dose that my body retaliated.
There is nothing worse than being woken up in the middle of the night with a horrible pain in your stomach. I knew something was up when it wouldn’t go away. By mid-morning I was on my way to the cancer center and wasn’t happy at all. I feared for anyone who might have to interact with me today. One wrong look, comment, or anything and I was ready to transform into the hulk. I wish I wore a sign that said, “Caution: severely pissed off cancer patient in pain.” I was in no mood for chitchat or anything. I wanted to figure out what was wrong and treat the pain.
After informing my nurse of my one shot policy when trying to hook up an IV, she hooked me up to an IV with fluids and other medicines to see if they would help. At that point my level on the pain scale was an eight and I was more than willing to take some pain meds. After being given three oxycodone pills I thought the pain would go away. Usually you give me one of those pills and it knocks me out so I was convinced three would do the trick. Wrong. The pain stayed and felt worse. Thankfully the nurses knew something was up and suggested we go to the ER.
You know you have been to the ER frequently when you recognize the nurses and doctors. As I was being wheeled in I recognized several people that I had met over the past year and they all greeted me by asking how I was doing and why I was there. After being ushered into one of the many exam rooms, I was given a small dose of morphine and all I can say is that stuff is strong. Thank God I was lying down when they gave me the small dose. I quickly texted my thoracic surgeons who did my lung biopsy to let them know what was going on. Within minutes they were at my bedside. If it weren’t for them I would have probably sat there for hours just waiting for the ER docs to figure out what to do with me. They were in and out of my room the rest of the afternoon telling me what was going to happen next and making sure everything was ok.
It was determined that I would have a lovely CT scan. I was promptly handed two medium soft drink sized cups filled with this red liquid. It looked absolutely disgusting. I was told to drink them over the next hour in preparation for the scan. Since I hadn’t eaten anything all day we didn’t have to worry about the whole fasting thing. As the CT person was walking out of the room he warned, “oh by the way this drink will give your horrible diarrhea either today or tomorrow.” Every patient’s dream is to hear that. Nothing like a nice cleanse to jump-start your day.
My scan showed that my stomach was severely pissed off due to the increase in my chemo pills. I was told that I would have to stay in the hospital for a couple days to get IV meds, probiotics, steroids, and anything else you can think of. I was more pissed about the fact I couldn’t go home and that I didn’t have anything for the hospital. Luckily we live close enough to the hospital that my mom was able to run home and grab everything.
Anyone who thinks that you will sleep while you are in the hospital has obviously never stayed in a hospital. The only exception is the chemo floor I was on when I was inpatient. They let you sleep. No 4 am wake up call to take your blood. I love when the blood people walk into your room turn on the lights and yell, “I’m here to take your blood!” I always wanted to yell back, “ Thanks for the announcement. Perhaps next time you should invest in a mega phone.” I don’t mind when my doctors and their medical team come early because I know them and see them on a regular basis. When my doctors come and visit it never is just about my health. They are always asking about my life outside of the hospital and that’s why we get along so well. They are my medical family. Plus they know the most up to date information about me. I am not just some medical chart in the computer. It’s the random people who barge into my room and talk about me and my, “condition” only to my mom. I want to wave a huge flag and say, “um, excuse me, last time I checked my name was on the chart and I can hear everything you’re saying about me."
I spent my days in the hospital watching TV with my mom and welcoming the occasional visitor. No one knew I was in the hospital except family and a few friends. If you haven’t already figured this out I like to fly under the radar. I just wanted to get my meds and start feeling better. In the end it was my chemo pills that upset my stomach and it was determined that I would go back to the three pills a day once everything calmed down. In the end all I could really do was blame the chemo and know that my body could tolerate the lower dose. I have enjoyed my little chemo vacation. Since I have been taking the steroids I have definitely been eating more. It’s a good thing I don’t live near the Vegas strip because I am pretty sure I would put the majority of the, “all you can eat buffets” out of business.