Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You Know You Are A Cancer Caregiver When:

You know you are a cancer caregiver when:

1. You view a trip to an out-of-town cancer center as a mini-vacation.
2. You have a chemo day wardrobe.
3. Your Vera Bradley jumbo bag is packed for infusion days.
4. You sleep nude or nearly so because your spouse is always freezing.
5. Sleeping nude has absolutley no effect on your spouse's libido.
6. You know all of the restaurants within a 3 mile radius of the cancer center.
7. The first words out of your mouth in the morning are “How do you feel?”
8. You have become adept at giving injections.
9. Your kitchen counter looks like a Walgreens pharmacy.
10.Your mastery of medical jargon causes people to assume you are a registered nurse or physician.
11. You wish your spouse was NERD-y.(NERD-no evidence of recurrent disease)
12. You use more acronyms than the federal government. (CT, PET, EGRF, K-RAS, PSA, IMRT, NED, BMT, ABMT, etc.)
13. The “L word" strike fear in your heart and it has nothing to do with homophobia. (Lump, Lesion, and Lymph Node)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sick of Side Effects

Unless you have been close to a cancer patient, you are probably not aware of how debilitating treatment can be. Often the only visible sign of cancer is baldness which is temporary and, for most men, probably the least troublesome side effect. In this way cancer is like autoimmune diseases—not obvious to observers but very real.

Most often Jim appears healthy, but appearances are deceiving. He has so many side-effects and is taking so many drugs that we are no longer sure which drugs are responsible for which side-effects. This I know: all of the pain and suffering he has endured over the past nine years is from the side effects—not the cancer. He has—like many lung cancer patients—been asymptomatic from the beginning.

After nearly a year with no chemotherapy drugs, he went into this round of treatment determined not to let it get him down. Since he would be taking the same four drugs he took in 2003 (with one addition) but taking the drugs less frequently, we hoped the treatment would be more tolerable. Wrong. Either the new drug is packing a wallop or Jim is worn down from years of toxic agents, or he is just older.

List of drugs he has taken to date:


The temporary side-effects of these drugs have been manageable. Nausea, joint pain, headaches, diarrhea, dry eye, mouth sores, loss of appetite, fatigue, acne like rash, hair loss, metallic taste in mouth, insomnia, blood clots—all unpleasant but tolerable. The permanent side-effects are a different story—peripheral neuropathy, weakened heart muscle, osteo-necrosis of the jaw, hearing loss, blood clots, nerve damage.
The drugs taken to wipe out the cancer have taken their toll on his overall health. He has gone from taking no medication—except for allergy meds—to requiring twenty or more pills daily. The toxicity of the chemotherapy agents has resulted in conditions requiring more medication.
Carvedilol (Beta Blocker)
Pantoprazole (acid reflux)
Lisinopril (Blood Pressure)
Vytorin (Cholesterol)
Antibiotic (chronic mouth and gum infections)
Sucralfate (ulcers of the alimentary canal)

Still we consider ourselves fortunate. As bad as treatment is, for Jim it has worked. We are grateful for dedicated researchers and physicians who continue to seek a cure for cancer.