Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Story of Sisyphus... AKA Caitlin & Cancer


     In my 7yrs of being a Cancer patient, I have felt like Sisyphus of Greek Mythology. In short, Sisyphus was forced for eternity to push a giant boulder up a Mountain only to watch it come rolling back down and hit him, forcing him to continue the pushing the boulder - being hit by a boulder for eternity. Lately I have been thinking, I am Sisyphus, but I need a flat top to form on my crappy mountain, because I am tired from pushing this boulder and my body and mind are beaten from being hit from the boulder on its way down. I keep hoping that one day my Boulder would stay on my Mountain for a little bit to give me a breather, a break, and a sense of recovery. This past week was the worst episode I had with my boulder (cancer) and mountain (my life) in a long time. I was losing faith that my mountain would ever build a ledge to give me rest and recovery and strength.

Attempt 1 at Pushing my Boulder up the Mountain: 
     Around week 2 of Pnuemonia, I was given the orders from a Pulmonary Doctor to take Mucinex, which resulted in more coughing, more phlegm, and over time I would get coughing fits and only foamy white spit would come out. The coughing would turn into fits, I couldn't breathe, I would get anxious and I would puke up foamy spit and sometimes bile and sometimes food.
   Last week (6/14), I told my doctor & she suggested to cut out the Mucinex. Despite her recommendations, I was still spitting the foamy white spit and was congested, so back goes the Mucinex. I was told to cut Mucinex down to 1x a day with my Nebulizer 1x day. Unfortunately, the coughing fits resumed, the spitting pukes started and I was not getting any relief. I honestly was sick and tired of Mucinex, Pnemonia, Coughing, Phelgm, Spitting foaming stuff, and hacking coughing puking.
    Every puke fit was due to coughing white foamy spit/phlegm, panic, and more coughing and vomit. There was a clear pattern here Coughing was irritating my stomach and it needed to stop. By this past Monday, these fits were happening once daily. I was nauseated, told my doctor/APN over email & they explained we will address it when I come in for chemotherapy on Wednesday. I was anxious that I would be denied chemotherapy because of these coughing fits, because of the nausea that now has resulted from two weeks of nonstop coughing. I also lost more weight and was anxious about getting that lecture from my doctor. All I wanted to get was my chemotherapy, my first full dose of Navelbine without Pneumonia so my immune system can focus on killing the cancer and no other pathogen.

Attempt 2 at Pushing my Boulder up the Mountain: 
 The day of chemotherapy, I had a coughing-puking fit in the morning, could not eat, was nauseated, and felt like absolute crap. I failed my doctor AGAIN by not gaining weight, because with the coughing and spitting, my food was not settling well. My mom told me my skin was grey. I knew I was dehydrated from not eating, drinking and the coughing fit
  We met with my medical team and explained all of the above. Good news is I was told that they will get control of the cough by giving me cough medication at night.  Bad news was and I was told that the constant coughing has also led to my stomach becoming irritated and I was coughing and spitting up acid. My Acid Reflux went into full speed and the Pepcid I usually take is no longer working. My doctor gave me Nexium, which should stop the coughing fits and spitting up of stomach acid, but will take 1-4 days to work, so I may not feel better for a few days. They gave me a big bag of fluid to address my dehydration, my usual and reliable pre-medication and anti-nausea Aloxi and my full dose of Navelbine. I was advised to take my Zofran & Ativan combo every 6-8hours to ward off nausea, take the cough medication (which has narcotics), and Nexium, avoid dairy, take small sips of water, and be patient with myself when eating.
  We left, I ate a little, we stocked my house up with plain foods & snacks and got me ready to bear down the hatches for probably another day pushing the "boulder" with no resolve.

Attempt 3 at Pushing my Boulder up the Mountain: 
   This is what we call the day after CHEMO. I want to reflect that for me a full dose of Navelbine is NO JOKE. IT IS NO JOKE WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE EXPLOSIVE GERD IN YOUR BELLY. DESPITE taking my medications this is how I spent my last two days.
   I woke up at 4:30a holding the porcelin god and then again some other time that morning. I took my anti-nausea medications and laid down, they kinda worked, but I was mostly nauseated due to the metalic taste in my mouth given to me by chemotherapy. I was semi-functional that day, tired from all the sedating medication, in pain because Navelbine makes the nodes on my clavicle ache at a level 8 out of 10, and nauseated from the pukes & the taste in my mouth. Otherwise I napped, I nibbled, and I felt it was a normal chemo-recovery day minus the strange puke. I kept praying that the cough medication, anti-nausea, or Nexium would save me from puking coughing fits the next day.

Attempt 4 at Pushing my Boulder up the Mountain: 
  The second day after chemo I call DAY 2 and it is  usually is the day from HELL. My first dose of  FULL Navelbine I was in the ER with Pneumonia, which was another type of hell lol. I honestly had no idea what this day would bring. It brought a big reminder of what CHEMOTHERAPY can do to anyone at anytime of treatment. The chemotherapy took me to a DAY OF HELL. I woke up with the same coughing fits, vomiting like I had the day prior. The anti-nausea medications, cough medicine and Nexium still hadn't kicked in and I started to worry it never would work.
   I spent most of my day on my couch in PJs, watching Netflix, sipping water, staring at a barely eaten box of plain animal crackers and an untouched cup of cheerios on my table. I laid there, my family worried about me and wanted to help, but honestly when someone is chemo-sick the most you can do is stare at them in pain, keep filling their water, and maybe change the channel on the TV for them. I wished that there was something someone could do to help.  There was not anything anyone could do for me. I had to ride the shit wave. A shit wave I have no ridden this badly since 2011. Only time and patience would help me. If someone did come over to help, they could only stare at me or socialized and I  had no energy to talk, host, play games or entertain another human. Honestly that would have made me feel like shit, because I did not have the energy in me to be social and I would feel bad because honestly there is not much people can do in the situation. Yes, I spent 5am - 8pm on my couch, alone, moving to the potty to the couch to the fridge for water to the couch.
   In my loneliness, if I could not distract my mind with a nap or Netflix I became scared what would all this pain mean. Would this mean the cancer is taking more of me for colonization, is my body to weak to deal with this cancer, or is the chemo working. I had no answer to these questions. I had to put them aside and let time deal with it. I had to have faith that things will get better tomorrow.

Attempt 5 at Pushing my Boulder up the Mountain: 
    Today is DAY 3, I feel human-ish. I have not coughed today at all, which is a HUGE blessing. I have no phlegmy pukes, which is a even bigger blessing. The Nexium is working! I have mild nausea, but my anti-nausea medication is affective & I am eating. I have a little more energy. I am doing what I can given the energy I do have today (which is not marathon runner energy),  but it is putting away laundry and cleaning up little messes here and there energy, writing my blog, working on my wedding thank you cards, making my bed, showering, and even making myself an easy meal. I will take these small improvements. I will take what improvements I have for today, because yesterday I was a cocoon in a blanket on my couch most of the day. Finally my struggle lightened up a bit.
   Today, the Boulder and I finally got that Ledge on The Mountain to stay put and for me to rest and get a break. How long will this break last? I do not know. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. I had no idea today I would feel better today, I just had faith that hopefully I would feel better and not worse with time.

For today I am slightly more energetic & I ate two small meals. I say thats a WIN in my day. 

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