Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Beautiful Day for a Flogging

For those of you who are just in this for the prose and might be a little weak-stomached you may want to stop reading now (a lot of potty talk to come.) For those who want to know what really happens when chemo is coursing through your body here's the raw, uncut version. 

Basically, I feel like I went five rounds with Ivan Drago, you know the Russian boxing machine from Rocky IV with a punch so powerful he was able to take down Apollo with a fatal blow? Ya, that guy has been punching me in the gut, back, jaw, head for a few days straight now. Or maybe it feels like flogging. Thankfully, I've never been flogged, but I feel like this is how your body would feel after a flogging. The good news is that this means the chemo is working. It's fighting a sick battle in my body and unfortunately the Hodgkins is still real strong at this point and fighting back real hard. I get to reap the benefits of this internal battle of good vs. bad cells vying for eternal domination of my being.

Today is much improved actually. I'm getting conditioned to Drago. But Monday and Tuesday?Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days. The mouth sores only got worse to the point where I couldn't eat or drink anything without being in incredible pain. It's sore from my gums down into my esophagus as the chemo eats away at the fragile tissue. Then what I could eat never came out the other end. I'd been walking around with a bowling ball in my belly for three days. Hurt to sit up, hurt to sit down. Basically I was FOS as they call it (full of shit).  So I prayed for a brick. Be careful what you wish for. 

One laxative too many and last night was a nightmare. I woke up from my Tylenol PM coma the first time to a now customary drenching night sweat and an explosive call to the latrine. I continued that cycle about every hour on the hour all night long. Sammy following me to the bathroom every time. We tried out all three bathrooms in the house to switch it up. I had strategically placed reading material in each so as to have a different novel going depending on which toilette I would like to explore. Though most times it was whichever was closest. I guess I got what I was asking for, but I was hoping for more of a happy medium. I got all or nothing. 

Felt a little better this morning. Was able to muster a smashed banana and scrambled eggs with cheese (this has become my diet mainstay). I was still very achey, woozey and tired from no sleep so my mom came with me to the oncologist's for today's check up. My blood work was okay but I am dipping further into anemia so need to be conscious of getting more iron into my system. White blood cell counts are good. Basically Dr. Dailey told me that all the symptoms I'd described --- fatigue, aches, chest pain, chills, mild fevers, mouth stores, constipation, diarrhea, skin discoloration are all to be expected, which oddly made my mom and I feel a whole lot better. Going through this it's hard to know what your body is "supposed" to be doing and what could be signs that the system is breaking down. It's really an odd construct when you think about it. I need to poison my body in order to get better and everything that has a good side effect also comes with a bad one. The pre-chemo anti-nausea drugs have kept me from vomiting, but they're also what bound me up. The A in ABVD is working to kill the cancer cells but also causes severe back pain. It's give and take I guess. 

We left the cancer center feeling positive, albeit I could feel something brewing inside. We had to stop at CVS to pick up a couple of things, including a phone (finally investing in a land line since I'm sick of important doctor and work calls getting dropped) and a toothbrush soft enough for my mangled baby gums. We're in the toothbrush aisle and I could feel the wave. 

"Mom, I've gotta find a bathroom." 

"I don't think there is one." 

"I gotta go. Drop the toothbrush. DROP THE TOOTHBRUSH!" 

I frantically glance around CVS, no immediate signs of a restroom or even an employee to ask. No time to waste. Must find bathroom. So I book it out of there. My mom chucks the toothbrush in another aisle and out the door we go. Mind you, I haven't moved faster than a snail's pace in over a week but I was hauling to the coffee shop next door driven by the hot, scary feeling of impending bowel doom. 

I plow into the door of the ladies room to a cheery, "Just a second!" God damn it. I don't have a second. Breathe. I can hear the lady washing her hands, not a care in the world and then running the hand dryer until every last droplet was gone. Really? Reaaallllyyyy? Finally the handle turned and I was saved. I cannot speak about what happened in there, but let's just say that was a close call. 

My mom, the angel that she is, walks me back to the car and goes into CVS to pick up my goods. I find the one position that is comfortable, legs hanging out the window, curled in a reverse fetal position breathing through the s-pains until she comes back out. My house is only 10 minutes from this CVS but of course today, of all days, there is major construction on Hopmeadow Street, traffic stopped to a dead halt as they let through only one lane at a time. I'm sitting there with the cold sweats and s-pains like I've never had before longing for my own bathroom. 

"Karin, calm down," says my mom. "At least it's not like you've gotta take a shit or something." We laughed as we watched the asphalt truck pour a dumpy, black substance from a long metal spout onto the steamy street. Ah, symbolism. You can't make this stuff up.  


  1. Karin,

    Wow! I've laughed and cried throughout your entire blog. I found out about your situation from Kristen yesterday. I have not stopped thinking about it since we got off the phone. Even though we only spent time together during Kristen's wedding process, you obviously left an impact on me. I am in awe of your attitude and zest for life. It is people like you who beat this thing. Not only are you going to beat it, you are going to kick the crap out of it. I can completely hear your mom saying the things that you have written about. I wish you all the best; I will be reading your blog for updates. I know good news is in your future. You are an inspiration to many. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Amy (Bisson)Sykes, Kristen's sister-in-law, Luke's step-sister

  2. I'm sorry you're feeling so crappy! I wonder if there's any iron in chocolate milkshakes? I will research this! FYI, CVS does have an employee bathroom and will let you use it (as will any place) if you tell them you're about to be sick. Watch how fast they unlock the door! I will also provide you with my updated road map of all the best bathrooms between here and Harwinton, CT. Eric claims I've even tried out all the stalls in each bathroom... Stay strong! You are amazing!

    Love, Rachel

  3. Watch out Simsbury, Thelma and Louise were on the loose today! look for feet sticking out of car windows! :)
    Sorry about the pkg. of chewy,crunchy,salty,fruity snacks! OUCH :( I should have stuck with a magazine! LYNN

  4. Kar, you truly amaze me.

    In the midst of everything that you are going through, (the pain, the sweats, the impending doom of the laxatives that you're on to counteract all of the painkillers), you are able to write about it in a way that undoubtedly brings smiles and laughter to your many friends and supporters. You are brave, candid, and charismatic. You have found a way to make even cancer funny at times, and you're making us feel better in the process. (Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?) Seriously, you are like super woman. Rocky reference, (I was waiting for that!), great children's book reference, novels in each bathroom during your unpleasant mid-night trips... You manage to keep so true to who you are, which really speaks to your dignity.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. I am so impressed with you. I can't wait to see you soon and give you a big hug!