Through a Straw

I've been a lazy blogger lately, and it's not for a lack of things to blog about. My world has been spinning with things like treatment, head shavings, work, colon cancer awareness month, and what any nice Southern belle might call "pooping through a straw." There is no more lady-like way to put it, and no more descriptive word than water. And it has consumed me, and any toilet within sprinting distance.

It started a few days after I enjoyed an unexciting salad while out to dinner. At first I blamed that little bit of gluten I had. Or maybe it was the dirty lettuce. All I know is I finally busted out the Imodium, which is something I never take - even when Irinotecan is destroying my gut. One dose and I'm good for days. And I don't like to be good for days.

Only 1 dose did nothing. Neither did the next 5 doses I took. I made it 6 days until my next oncology appointment, where I specifically told my doctor that I thought it was something I ate. I had yet to start the famous Destroyer of Bowels - Irinotecan, and he didn't seem concerned.

He prescribed Lomotil, and told me to take it every 6 hours. A week later, it was doing nothing to help the problem and I was bumped up to every 4 hours, alternating with Imodium. It had zero impact.

Hello, Xombie Hands!

He then prescribed Opium. Yes, THE Opium. Before you get excited and want to come over and try and get high with me, let me tell you that the stuff smells like jet fuel and tastes like rotten petrol. I managed to get it down mixed in a glass of OJ. 2 days later, it was also doing nothing to help the problem.

This is where the story gets exciting and perhaps a little graphic for those of you too embarrassed to talk about what goes on behind the bathroom door. I went into oncology, where I provided 10+ tubes of blood, and pooped in a bowl. Trust me, this wasn't the first time. Or the second. Or the third.

I wasn't given a bowl and a test kit hidden in a opaque bag and sent home. The bowl was placed right there on the toilet in the infusion room. I tell you, there is no other place where bathroom activities are talked about more than in an infusion room. Everyone is in the same boat, so you will get nothing but empathy, a listening ear, and some nurses who have seen it all.

I had the joy of opening the door of the bathroom and inviting my nurse in to collect what she needed. At this point in my life, I can have no shame in this department. The things that have been done to my body on the operating table are far more traumatic than having a nurse scoop your poop. It's reasons like this that I was not cut out to be a nurse. For as much as my own diagnosis revolved around poop, I can't handle it myself. Or at least handle yours.

At this point, I was sure my samples would come back to say I had c-diff - a lovely little superbug that has found its way out into the general population, and is referred to as the "deadly diarrhea" for the numbers of people it kills each year. I was also swearing that I had cholera, or some other 3rd world disease that would have killed me had I not had access to all the Gatorade I had been drinking.

The test for c-diff, listeria, salmonella, and e. coli all came back negative, and my life continued to revolve around when I ate, how much I ate, and where I was 6 prompt hours later.

In the mean time, I moved on to a shot - something called Octreotide Acetate. I started with 7.5ml 2 times day. Within a week I was up to 1.0ml 3 times a day. After another week I finally threw in the towel on the shots as they were clearly not helping at all. 

After my last round of chemo, I headed straight to DC for an colorectal cancer advocacy event, where I dragged my dehydrated self around the Capital and all the way back home with that happy face I'm accustom to wearing despite the misery. By the time I got off the plane, I could barely stand up, and weighed 18 pounds less that I did 4 weeks before when this started. This is not an exaggeration. I knew I was going to oncology the next morning, and also had a gastroenterology appointment I had been looking forward to for over a week. There was no one more excited about going to see a gastroenterologist at this point. Given that I still have 99% of my colon, the services of a gastro aren't something I need.

3 bags of fluid, electrolytes, potassium, and one dryly humorous gastro later, I saw what I hoped was the light at the end of this 4 week tunnel of horrendous fluid export. I was off all chemo until further notice, was scheduled for a flex sigmoidoscopy (to take tissue samples), and was bringing in my own samples to be tested for a few more parasites that can be found on dirty lettuce: giardia, cryptosporidium, and cyclospora. Try scooping up water with a tongue depressor if you want to know how much I suck at that whole "samples" bit.

After a fun afternoon laying on my left side and admiring the inside of my very healthy colon, I left with the hope that I could be well on my way to normal again soon. Little did I know normal would finally come on its own less than 24 hours later. Before a diagnosis could even be delivered, everything slowed down and returned to normal.

A week later and I'm still waiting for the lab results from my samples. In the mean time, I don't have Celiac disease, tissue samples confirmed I still have a very healthy colon, and I'm pretty certain I won the dirty lettuce lottery. As I work to put a few pounds back on before resuming treatment tomorrow, I can safely say it will be a while before I order a salad at a restaurant again.


The Dead Cat Named Clarice

The day I got bangs cut on my wig was the best. For once, I felt like that faux-hair looked a little less like a wig, and more like a banging' hair style I could never pull off thanks to those 2 God-given cowlicks I have right in front.

I came home from the salon, whipped up some homemade nuggets for the kids, opened the oven and put them in. Little did I know that whole warning about heat and my fake hair extended beyond hair dryers and flat irons!

I singed my bangs, and subsequently spent hours with a tiny pair of beard trimmers trying to salvage what left of my own, personal Zoey Deschanel moment.

That was 18 months ago, and I've just never loved the wig the same since.

It's a good thing we had such a detached relationship. It lessened the disappointment when I opened the washing machine and realized I had carelessly chucked my wig in while unpacking my suitcase from my recent trip to DC. Apparently carefully wrapping it in a t-shirt for the trip home in my suitcase wasn't the best idea after all.

Out of the washing machine came what can only be likened to road kill that had been shoveled off the asphalt. As I walked down the stairs with my dead pet, I noticed Merrick sitting so quietly at the bar, and couldn't pass up the opportunity. I squatted low, screamed "DEAD CAT!" and chucked the matted mess at him.

I'm sure he was traumatized enough that he'll have to add this to the list of all the other issues he's going to be working through with his future therapist.

Clarice the Wig will be buried next to that dead bunny the kids found when the snow melted. May they keep each other company on the other side.


Fuzzy McFuzzerson the Third

I got into the shower a couple of TGIFridays ago and couldn't figure out why there was so much hair all over my face. And in my mouth. And at my feet. It was like walking through spiderwebs. No sooner could I rinse it off, than more replaced it. What the hell!

I quickly figured out it must be time for what is turning into my Annual Great Hair Migration (complements of my 3rd cycle of Irinotecan that I just started). I was just a little taken back by how much thinning was going on. While trying to finish up my shower, I justified all the hair in my hands on the fact that I had been wearing a beanie for 24 hours straight. It didn't have anywhere to go until I got in the shower. Logically. And let's not judge a girl for wearing a beanie for that long. Even with hair it has turned into my security blanket of sorts. I refer to it as my Comfort Beanie, and it currently smells like funk. Probably because I sleep in it.

But a day later, things were not slowing down. Chunks aren't just for babies. They are apparently for my head, too.

I wasn't crushed or disappointed, considering this isn't my first time to this rodeo. Perhaps my hair follicles felt the same way. Perhaps they just said: "Screw it! We know how this ends. Let's just open the emergency door and exit this flight now." Thanks for sticking around for the party guys. Good to know you can't be relied on for the long haul.

I let the kids have a little fun pulling it out. I mean the kids make me figuratively want to pull my own hair out, but this was a literal pulling out of hair by children.  And then I let Merrick have the honors and handed him the clippers.

It's not like you can mess up a buzz cut, but most important was the empowerment I hoped he'd feel. The first time I lost my hair it bothered him for months. It was shocking really, for a kid that had seen so much up to that point. But he's become outwardly numb to the process, and quickly grabbed the clippers and went to town.

This morning I stood with him in the bathroom, bare headed and brushing my teeth. He didn't seem fazed, and even gave it a little rub for luck. I have to hope and believe that all these things my kids are seeing and doing in my journey will ultimately make them more empathetic and compassionate men.