Chapter 24: Drugs or Me?
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Being so skinny and weak resulted in the necessity of myriad medications to counteract the poison. Aside from the Marinol I was taking to regain my hunger (and for no other reason, I swear!), I was on a slew of regular meds. Because of my long-standing poor choices in regards to eating habits, I was on a course of Prilosec for the time being. It didn’t help that my stomach cells were the most affected by the ravage of chemotherapy.
Then my cocktail continued, as not only did I have the aforementioned “Super Weed” pill when I needed to eat, but I also possessed a revolving door of nausea blockers and relaxants: Dramamine, Kytril, Zofran, and Ativan. I never had them all together, as that would be ludicrous, but I might as well have; because these miracle drugs allowed me moments of normalcy in this weakened, sickly state.
To combat the… effect of all of these meds, I was beholden to a strong dose of all natural Senna tablets so I wouldn’t repeat my… tear at The Ronald McDonald House.
And finally, they noticed I always cleared my throat or sniffled, so they prescribed a daily dose of Flonase. I had never really developed any allergies– well since 1996.
Growing up, I hadn’t experienced a lot of medications, either. When I was in foster care with Lori and Todd, I went to the doctor’s because they found out I had child allergies. Naturally, I was never tested to determine exactly which allergens affected me, but I was prescribed Zyrtec (that’s the spirit, doc!). I took it for a bit, but it never did anything discernable for me.
It could have been literally any allergen, as I was endlessly shifting between Maine weather (mold, trees, pollen, grass) and indoors to play games (mold, bacteria, pet dander, food).
Then during a course of antibiotics, I noticed my arms’ texture began to resemble that of old pavement; a raised rash appeared all over my upper arms. I went to the mirror to see where else this intriguing pattern had formed. The outbreak seemed to reside only on the arms, nothing on my neck or stomach– wait a minute. I lifted my shirt higher, and the rash continued up the sides of my torso, under my armpits.
I hit the nurse button a.s.a.p. They came to check on the spate, which immediately became my first medication allergy.
“It could have been more serious, your throat could have swelled until you couldn’t breathe.” Jesus, that’s terrifying.
Hopefully, this will be the last.
I immediately stopped Cefotaxime (Clarforan) (Rocephin) and finished the course with another antibiotic. Now, I put Rocephin (Rose-ef-in) there because as I remembered everything about my treatments while undergoing them, I thought to myself how odd of a name Cefotaxime was. But as I would repeat the drug later to other nurses, they would look at me funny for they never had heard of the drug. It was though I was losing my mind, unsure of what was real and imaginary.
(Rocephin’s generic name was Ceftriaxone [Sef-tri-ax-own], but I hadn’t heard that word until writing this very chapter.)
The drugs were taking their toll, and I wasn’t as sharp as I once was. Dana, one of the nurses (who consistently tied for the title of “Surrogate Mother”) bought me a gift. It was a dream journal. I had told her I had been dreaming some weird dreams, but I wasn’t sure how to interpret them. She recommended that I journal them so that I could later research them.
Well, the few dreams that I recorded were far from startling, to say the least. The crux of my dreams/nightmares always dealt with my current job and usually being late to said job (as I was wont to do). The occupation I had held right before admittance to the hospital was the telemarketing job at the MBNA call center in Fort Kent. The very first dream I had with the journal in hand was about MBNA.
The dream played out like a veritable play by play of the past few months…
After a round of chemotherapy, I returned to work. Countless people including people that didn’t work there like my brother Travis, and my friend Brad, lined the halls of the credit card company’s small building. I wondered how they got in, considering you need a badge to even enter the building (they took people’s private information very seriously).
As I was attempting to crawl through to the break room to grab a coffee, I bumped into Karee, (the one who coordinated a group of friends to visit me back in Chapter 2), and she asked how I was doing.
Then I moved outside, where dozens more filled the parking lot. My legs halted in speed akin to a snail’s pace (much like my recent pains a few weeks before), and it took me what felt like ten minutes to cross the from one parking space to the other. And all I wanted to do was to get into my Mom’s car and go home.
The dream was typical, but it was the frequency of which I was dreaming these days. I used to dream every single night, but my mind had been foggy since on chemotherapy. During my stay at Eastern Maine Medical Center, I would often ponder: Is this the drugs or me? My demeanor had shifted quite often, as I would be cooperative and cheerful one minute, then fall into this depression fueled by frustration and boredom.
How could I not second-guess myself? Most of the healthcare professionals said I was taking treatment rather well, but I felt as though I was a melodramatic schizophrenic hell-bent on confusing everyone around me. But then again, I was on a lot of trip-inducing medication, and irritable because of it. I just wanted to think straight, and my television habits were only serving as a distraction to prevent myself from experiencing the worst of times.
But believe it or not: the worst was yet to come.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.