Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pain, Pain Go Away (one more time)

I've been off chemo for about a month, now. After my last failed chemo session, I felt oddly unsure of how to feel about it. I was glad to be done, but at the same time I wanted the maximum benefit. If doing chemo were based on whether or not it was fun, I would never have begun. But since it is therapeutic, I wanted the most out of it I could get. So on one hand I was deeply relieved to be able to start climbing out of the chemo hole a week earlier, but also I worry that I could have had more. Although, on the third hand, if the goal was to figure out how much I can take, we discovered that. Apparently, I can handle just under 6 rounds -- 18 weeks -- of chemo. Yet again, this seemed like an interminable period of time, and I keep waiting to feel 100% again, but I'm not there. I still get light headed and dizzy if I bend over and stand up. I'm still tired and weak, and my system I can tell is still adjusting. I know that some people never recover fully from chemo. I did fine last year (except for the permanent effects the chemo left me with) after the 2010 chemo. My energy was good, I was back at the gym, etc. I know its only been a month, but I don't feel gym-ready, yet. I'm walking as often as I can, usually 2-3 times per week. I'm sleeping better, which is a plus. There was a time during the middle of chemo that I was only sleeping with the help of Ambien. I tapered down to 1/2 for a few weeks, now I'm off it again. So, yay: Less drugs.

Speaking of drugs, I have been walking the tightrope-line between pain and drug quantities. I've been on the Oxy (I feel like I should use the street name for it, since I'm essentially hooked on it, now) for about 4 months. I've been on the 20mg twice daily dosage and managed to dip down to the 10mg twice daily for about a month and a half. But after chemo the pain has been increasing in my lower back, and I can feel it spreading up along the spine. There is also a pain deep inside the left hip that worries me, and my left femur (that I broke in two in a motorcycle crash in 1991) has started hurting again. I remembered hearing that old wounds can reopen during chemo. I don't know whether old, previously-knit broken bones can hurt as well. Regardless, this is the opposite of fun. Honestly, what scares me is that this might be the beginning of the daily pain-reminders of cancer that I've been dreading. It still seems amazing to me that I have stage 4 cancer with distant metastases and I basically (other than the chemo) have felt totally normal. The back pain arose early on in chemo, and we still don't know what caused it. I was hospitalized for a few days with intense back pain, and the drugs they had me on there make the entire visit hazy. I really have only a few memories of that time. After that was a time on methadone that I only vaguely remember as well, a struggle to get off of that and get on to the Oxy, and then finally a reduction in dosage of Oxy, followed by my most recent depressing downturn: I just had to up my Oxy dosage. The increase in pain (whether real or perceived) is undeniable. But it has also occurred to me that I could be building up a tolerance to the drug. Which makes me wonder about long-term side effects. I'll have questions regarding this for my doctors when I se them next.

In the scheme of things, I'd rather feel slightly stoned all the time than be in intense pain. But it sucks that those are my two options. I try to ignore the fact that it may only get worse from here, and that that guy you knew (the one that wasn't on painkillers) may be gone for good. Sorry about that. I'm still here, somewhere.

Life is an winding river and this is a little like having my hair go grey or needing reading glasses: Its something that I can't change that I could choose to be obsessed with, but its healthiest to let it go. Its the way that it is. This is easier said than done, when it all seems really unfair, but there are no guarantees or warranties in life. As I said, it is healthiest to let it go. I'm still working on that, and likely will be for a good long time.


John Slade said...

Glad to see you posting again - saw you at gaming, you looked a little wan and a little tired but was good to see you out. (We used Khaz to the hilt after you left...) Sucks about the pains, glad to hear you're somewhat recovering, sucks about the dizzy, glad to hear you're here, anywhere. I'll take you stoned or cranky or whatever.


M said...

Thanks, John. I appreciate it!

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