Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Helpless Sausage Fingers

I'm at the halfway mark for chemo. Just eight treatments to go in this leg of the marathon.  I've discovered that it's not the poisons that get to you, but the side effects.  No matter how many times the doctor, the nurses, or my husband talk about the side effects, they aren't real until they happen. It doesn't help that they give a list of 20,000 possible side effects, of which you may get ten in a number of combinations.  You just have to wait and see what the chemo fairy brings you and count yourself lucky if you don't get the "sudden death" side effect. 

With the previous drug, it was all about being tired and nauseated.  I had a week off between those treatments to recover.  The biggest side effect of that drug was muscle weakness, which means that I couldn't open things like jars of pickles and bottles of water.   That had me wallowing in a vat of self-pity.  It's always been a point of pride that I could do things on my own, like open jars.  That tiny feeling of independence was sometimes all I had in my twenties, when I lived on my own.  I would say to myself, at least I'm not so helpless and fragile that I can't open my own jars or kill a bug that needs killing. Fortunately, that side effect went away as soon as I was off that particular chemo drug, and there was much rejoicing when I was able to open a bottle of Gatorade for my son without resorting to power tools.

This current chemo drug is a weekly visit, and the side effects were non-existent the first time.  I even felt hungry enough to eat afterwards!  As more of the poison has been introduced, however, the side effects have become more obvious.  The skin on my toes has been peeling off.  My hands are swollen and blisters are popping up.  I have helpless sausage fingers, that can't open necklace clasps or peel the tops off of things or unbutton things.  My fingernails feel as though someone whacked them with a hammer; at night they throb painfully.  It's difficult to complete any of the fine motor tasks I used to take for granted, and I find myself getting tearful when I can't hold my pen correctly, or when it hurts to type. That independence I so treasure is slipping away again.

My gums are all painful and inflamed, with sores popping up on my tongue and in my throat. It hurts to swallow, and therefore it hurts to eat, or to drink. Eating and drinking are two of my most favorite past times on the planet, and to not be able to enjoy my two favorite things has been another upset for me.

I've got eight more weeks of this. The downhill is ahead, the end is in sight.  I know it's going to get worse, however, before it gets better.  I am trying to keep a positive attitude.  I feel as though I've fought for everything my entire life, whether that's actually true or not, and I'm still fighting, blisters in my throat be damned.  I plan to keep fighting until I beat this. 

But this week...

I used to stare aghast at people who survived cancer, who told me flat out that they would rather die than go through chemo again. My own father told me that five years ago, and it just floored me. He's a fighter, too.  Why would he not want to fight?  I get my general stubbornness from him. It's not in my nature to give up, ever, and it was beyond me to think of just not fighting anymore.  But I get it now.  This week, it makes sense.  I understand that feeling now.  How tired and worn out would I have to be to want to stop fighting, I wonder?  I don't know, and that scares me.

This week was hard. 


  1. I don't know what to say ..
    I wish I could say something that would lessen your pain ...
    I am truly humbled that you are sharing your experiences with us and making us a part of your journey...

  2. I have been staring at the screen for awhile rearranging words to say. For fear of picking the wrong ones (that is not to say that there actually right ones), please just know that I am here...rooting for you!

  3. Eight more weeks, maybe your body will build up a resistance. I'm praying for you. I have admiration for anyone who fights a serious illness with medical care. I watched nurses drill a hole in my brother's back to put a tap in to drain fluids off after he had an aortic aneurysm repaired. You do what you have to do but I can see where no one in their right mind would take it easy.
    Again, praying for a better day for you kiddo.

  4. My heart hurts for what you're going through. Now I'm going to tell you a story that I hope will at least get a smile out of you when you feel so horrible.

    Our new hospital just opened (the other one blew away in an EF-5 tornado 4 years ago). It is state of the art, to say the least, and the new infusion center is nothing short of beautiful. There are about 5 different groupings of infusion chairs, with aquariums or small fireplaces between each one and soothing artwork and big windows looking out onto a greenway. I was there for my appointment the second day it was open, sitting in a chair, waiting for my monthly injection, when someone got up to use the restroom. Every nurse in the place turned and said "Don't 'pull up' when you wash your hands!!!" Apparently, the sink is also an eyewash station in case of chemo chemicals getting in someone's eyes, so there is a sign that says "Pull Up." Thinking that's how you turn the water on to wash your hands, unsuspecting bathroom goers pull up and get a face full of water! Thinking new signage is in order!

    Keep fighting, cupcake! Keep fighting.


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