So, today I begin to wean myself off the steroid dexamethasone (generic for Decadron). Babies, that dope gotta be sumpin’ else because Dr. Wu’s withdrawal plan will take me through May 23. That’s five weeks to jump off a horse.
This particular steroid is given as a matter of course to many chemotherapy patients, primarily for its role as a helper in making anti-emetic drugs work. Anti-emetics relieve nausea and vomiting, among the most dramatic and tortuous side effects of chemo.
(BTW: my particular chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, is a medium risk gonadotoxin, meaning it can adversely affect my production of wiggly, lively spermies. So, it’s likely I’ll never produce enough live ammunition from now on to become the father I’ve never wanted to be. Just thought I’d toss this in, as long as we were speaking of side effects.)
Jumping out of the dexamethasone saddle suddenly can lead to a dizzying variety of maladies including low blood pressure, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, post-nasal drip, pink eye, painful itchy skin nodules, weight loss, and even death. Yeesh! I mean, it’s one thing to have to lug around a box of Kleenex all the time; it’s entirely another to keel over dead.
The good thing about this all is that now Dr. Wu expects me to be safe from nausea and vomiting, which — thankfully — I have been for a couple of weeks now. It had got to the point wherein I was horking so regularly that it wasn’t even a big deal anymore, just another little thing I’d do several times in my normal day. Ick.
Even though I’ve been belly-aching a lot about the glacial pace of my recovery, the truth is a hell of a lot of ugly side effects have gone away since I finished both chemotherapy and radiation precisely four weeks ago today.
The most frustrating side effect of recent days has been my inability to eat food via my facehole since late February. I experienced a great breakthrough Saturday night when, after feeling rather green phlegm-free, I tried some broth. Lo and behold, the damned stuff tasted like good soup as opposed to the foulest poison ever to be introduced to my oral cavity. I downed a small bowl of the stuff and let the tears of joy drip down my face.
You had to figure I’d get giddy over this turn of events, so yesterday I took the remainder of the soup, a light beef pot roast variety, with plenty of broth remaining, warmed it up, and added some boiled ramen noodles.
The soup contained potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peas, onion, and scads of other stuff. The broth still tasted delicious, but the solid ingredients continued to taste about as palatable as so many little chunks of Play-Doh. Not only that, they got stuck in my throat and so I had to rinse and gargle for about fifteen minutes after eating them. Not that it was a total loss — I was able to finish off all the delicious broth.
It’s impossible for me to convey how delightful it was to ingest any kind of food stuff and have it taste…, well, pleasant.
Pleasant. Pleasure. Enjoy. Feel good. Sigh of relief. These are words and actions that’d been notably missing in my life for a good couple of months. In fact, feeling lousy had become such a normal part of my every day that I hadn’t even realized the extent to which it had overtaken me.
I finally did realize this Friday. For the last week or so, I’ve been going to down to Monroe Lake and watching the water and the critters at the Paynetown State Recreation area marina parking lot. The sunsets there are magnificent at any time of year, especially in the spring when the observer is emerging from cancer treatment. All I want to do there is hear the sounds of birds, look at the fishes snap bugs off the surface of the water, and watch the golden sunlight move across the budding treeline across the way.
I was with The Loved One Friday night and after watching a couple of geese flap their way not three feet above the surface of the water, I said to her, “You know what? I’m finally able to feel pleasure again.”
Pleasure. Simple. What a fantastic medicine.