Archive for April, 2006

Pink skin!

So, each day, Charlie looks at my rash and claims, hopefully, “Well, I think it looks a little better.” But I look at it and it still looks red and purple and blistered and just as bad.

But this morning, the ninth of the rash, it does look a little better. I’ve got some bright pink skin without blisters where the rash began. If I hadn’t had the last 10 days, it would really bother me to see such skin, but right now, it looks durn good.


Comments (1)

Out “Top-tenning” Letterman

Okay, so Letterman had shingles and, of course, had to do a Top Ten Best Things About Having Shingles List. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite find 10 good things about shingles. Now, I don’t blame him. There’s very little good about shingles.

But I’ve actually found a couple of positive things that have come from having shingles. Since there aren’t 10, I figure I can start at 1:

  1. I wasn’t just being lazy after the second surgery.
  2. The pain in my left side doesn’t seem as significant as it did after surgery.
  3. I’ve had a week of radiation and haven’t had a complaint about it yet.
  4. I’ve still only had two sciatica attacks in my life.
  5. Once you have the right diagnosis, it’s much easier to get the right treatment.

Now, just because I felt so much better, it turns out I wasn’t completely well. I taught both my classes today. In less than 10 minutes, I was sweating like a race horse. I got very tired, very fast in both of them. But the pain never returned, even though I skipped pain pills this morning.

Still, there’s just one day of classes left. I’m even caught up on grading in one class.

Thnigs could be a whole lot worse, and believe me, I’ll remember that.

Leave a Comment


The pain is essentially gone.

I can’t believe the relief, the euphoria, the complete change that has made.

Treating for the right disease is a very good thing.

Comments (5)

Life as a pariah

Well, it’s happening.

I was supposed to go see a new gynecologist this morning. Charlie, who has lots more sense than I do now, went in before me and asked if I should come in, having shingles and all.

The place apparently was full of pregnant women and children. I didn’t get to see a new gynecologist this morning.

Next is to find out what happens with my radiation treatments. I’ve had the rash for all of the treatments so far, but they didn’t know that. (Well, I did tell them yesterday, but that was before it was anything other than a rash.)

Leave a Comment


Usually, it’s easy, or at least doable, to post to this blog. Even if things aren’t going well, I can find some bright spots.

And I’m trying to be honest about it all, since others may be going through the same thing and if I just say, “Hey, it’s all great.” I’d be making them feel something’s wrong with them if they aren’t happy and positive all the time. Charlie has a real problem with people being praised for fighting cancer well, because what does that say about those who die from it? Are they losers who didn’t fight hard enough? (And remember, the only two people Charlie knew with cancer before me, his grandfather and my mother, died from it. Neither of them were losers.)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last week in agony and haven’t been able to find anything good about it for most of the time. I’ve had lots of back and hip pain. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry and have the world go away, but curling up in a ball hurt too much. Everything hurt too much. I thought it was sciatica. The guys in the emergency room Friday night thought it was sciatica.

Then I went to my family practice clinic and got what I figured was worse news. I’d had a rash develop in the same place as the pain Thursday, I figured from my hip being sweaty from being on the heating pad. Prickly heat, right? The doctor took one look at it and said “Shingles.”


All I knew about shingles was that they’re incredibly painful and hard to treat and not something I want to have at all. I mean, I’ve had cancer. Isn’t that enough for the year?

But no, I have shingles. Now, it does make sense. It hits when your immune system is low, which mine has been. Charlie was upset at how lethargic I’d been after my last surgery, but you can have symptoms of shingles weeks before the rash and, yes, one of them is lethargy. All the little (and big) things that have been wrong can be explained by shingles. I may not even have sciatica at all.

But, the morning after, the good news is, the shingles treatment seems to be working. I’m sore and achy. I had trouble finding a position that was comfortable to sleep in for more than 2 minutes and think I was spinning like a top last night. But I’m not in excruciating pain, so I have to be pleased.

I haven’t said “It’s just not fair” through this whole thing yet, but if I were going to, I think it would have been during this last week. But, once again, a good doctor is doing all he can to help, I’m getting better healthcare than 90% of the world, and it’s working, so it really isn’t fair. But I’m the one on the “unfair good” side.

Leave a Comment

It’s “just” sciatica

Given how much I was hurting yesterday morning, I really didn’t think I’d ever refer to the cause as “just” sciatica. But it feels good to do so now.

On with the story…

So, normally my sciatica pain subsides after just a few days once I start aggressive treatment. I started aggressive treatment Tuesday and sorta thought I felt better Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, I didn’t teach Thursday, so got to take it easy.

Friday morning was a different matter. I hurt. Lots. Classes were interesting…I’d talk for a while and then have to stop mid-sentence and hold on to a table or sit down and grit my teeth as a wave of pain passed. A reasonable person would have just stopped class. But the pain always stopped in 10 seconds or so (I thought), We just have one more week of classes. I’m giving a test in one class Monday. I had to stick around campus so I could go to my radiation appointment at 2:15 (which is a nonevent in all of this). And, most obviously, I am not really a reasonable person.

When I talked to Charlie as he was driving home from Florida, I mentioned this to him. He called my primary care doctor to get me an appointment to be seen. (I didn’t think much could be done–it’s sciatica, it’ll pass. But he’ll be home all next week and didn’t need me whining about the pain.)

About 5 minutes after Charlie made an appointment, I got a call from the nurse. She’d told a doctor why I was coming in. Somehow, she also mentioned that I’d had surgery two weeks earlier. The doctor was concerned that instead of sciatica, it might be a blood clot causing the pain.

Sciatica is a big pain in the ass, literally, but blood clots are potentially fatal. (I had a 30 year old Girl Scout leader die of one when I was a kid.)

So, the nurse told me to call my surgeon. My surgeon’s answering service had the on-call surgeon call me back. The on-call surgeon didn’t have a definitive answer, but did say if it was a blood clot, it should be taken care of immediately. But, because it was a Friday afternoon, there was no way to do that except in the emergency room.

(By the way, I was asked a number of times if I was referred by a doctor to the emergency room. I told the first person that whole gory story. I told everyone else “yes.”)

I told Charlie this and he got home way too fast. He took me to the Emergency Room at MCCG and I was in triage before he got the car parked, around 6:00. Charlie knew the pain had to be bad because:

  1. I didn’t tell him going to the Emergency Room was a dumb idea.
  2. My blood pressure was more than 50 points above normal, which the nurse attributed to the pain.
  3. When asked to rate the pain on a 1 to 10 scale, I gave it a 4 to 10 (and had to hesitate, because I really wanted to go to 11, but figured they may give me a Spinal Tap if I did–in joke?). Throughout our 22 years together, he’d never heard me mention a pain of more than 7.

We then spent two hours in a private room in triage while they waited for another room to open. There was a lot of hurry up and wait, but we expected it of an ER. But MCCG is nothing like television ERs, thankfully. We had a private room with solid walls, a private bath, and a TV. (The bathroom had that special “feature” of having them come in and ask for a urine sample as soon as you flushed!) We got lots of attention when we got in. Everyone seemed to agree it was probably sciatica, but they couldn’t rule out a blood clot without an ultrasound and you just can’t get an ultrasound in Macon on a Friday night. Or Saturday or Sunday normally.

Finally, after the X-Rays didn’t show anything, around 10:30, they decided to take a blood test that would indicate if clots were likely to form. A score of 0 or below on the test is a “no” and 2 or higher is a “yes.” Around 11:00 the nurse came back to take more blood (and was shocked we didn’t scream at her–sheesh, giving blood is the least of my problems). We had a nice chat with the nurse about Katherine Harris’s joke of a campaign too. We then fell into the shift change hole for about 2 hours. Or maybe the lab was slow. Or maybe it was just doctors trying to figure out what to do with me because I got a 1 on the test.

“Fortunately,” there was a woman in a room next to ours who also had something that might be a blood clot, so they’d arranged to get ultrasound people in Saturday morning to check her out. I may as well go then too.

We got home around 2, to get up at 7 to get back to the hospital for an ultrasound at 9. The tech who was to do the ultrasound had her house hit by lightning last night (a nasty storm moved through), so was an hour late, so we had lots of time to talk to the other woman, who was just 24 and had something moving in her leg after breaking her foot a few days ago. (She also had a 1 on the blood test.) She made me feel a little less stupid about not trying to get an ultrasound Friday…she’d tried to get one that morning and was sent to the emergency room at 1:30 PM. Fortunately, she “just” had a 7 cm cyst.

And I “just” had sciatica.

Besides the peace of mind, there were other good results. I got a couple of shots last night (and in the time it took to get the blood test results back, after the shots, my blood pressure dropped about 50 points) and some more steroids to take this morning (the pharmacy at Kroger is delightfully empty at 7:45…Charlie had the prescription filled in less time than it normally takes to drop it off). I think I’m feeling better. I get to keep taking pain meds.

I think I’m feeling better. I hope I am really and it’s not just the bounceback of not having to worry about waking up dead before Monday.

Hey, I “just” have sciatica.

Comments (1)

Side effects’ side effects

Well, during chemo, I felt guilty that things were going so easily.

I no longer feel that way. I figure I’m finally paying my cancer dues.

I knew I’d have side effects from the treatment. I just didn’t anticipate the side effects of the side effects.

I had surgery to remove the cancer. Fine. But the post-operative pain led me to sleep funny and brought on the side effect of sciatica. So I slept on a heating pad (yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t, but it turns off after an hour) to help the sciatica. But now it looks like the heating pad has caused a rash. (Fortunately, I noticed it yesterday morning before radiation started, so I don’t have to worry that it was caused by the radiation.)

It’s not a big deal. I remember all the side effects my mother had from her lung cancer treatment; they had to go so far as to amputate one of her legs to deal with them. But it’s just frustrating to be this close to the end of treatment and to keep getting surprised by stupid little things.

I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen as a result of the cream I used on the rash. Will my skin dry out? Will I get joint pain? Will my teeth turn purple?


Comments (1)

The Painted Lady

Well, I am now quite the painted lady.

I started radiation today. I did the initial aiming last Friday and thought I has a lot of black paint pen marks all over my torso. I had no idea what “a lot of marks” was.

I got to the radiologists almost 10 minutes early after breakfast with the ladies of the church (there was no trouble with I-75 or the Red Parking garage–two places you can spend lots of time stopped). They brought me back immediately and spent over half an hour with more aiming and marking. I now know what a lot of marks are.

The actual radiation process itself wasn’t all that different from the aiming. You lay there, you hold onto the pegs, and the machine moves and makes noises. And, unsurprisingly, I don’t feel anything different. The biggest side effects of radiation are exhaustion, which I’ve had a lot of lately, and a slight burning of the skin (like sunburn), but both of these take time to appear, apparently.

Exhaustion? Yeah, okay, so things haven’t been great. And it’s not due to the cancer, or even the treatment, directly. I had a sciatica attack in 1999 in my right hip. As soon as I figured out what it was, it’s been easy to keep in check. But with surgery on my left side, it’s been hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. So, I slept badly wrong Sunday night and my sciatica kicked in. Not cancer, not surgery, not radiation, just plain old sciatica has knocked me down badly. And the only drugs that have any effect on the pain also make me incredibly tired. So I’ve had to decide between being asleep or being in pain. I usually take the coward’s way out and take the drugs. So I’m dreadfully far behind in grading and, with classes ending next week, I really need to do something about that.

But each day I’m getting a little better. I can recognize that, but it doesn’t keep me from being pissed when I’m not well.

Of course, I may be a little disappointed that I’m painted too. I figured I’d be getting tattoos that I’d have to turn into butterflies after treatment is over!

Leave a Comment

Bye bye cancer

So, it’s official. In the tissue taken during Friday’s surgery, there was “No residual tumor.” The cancer is gone.

Thank God.

Even better, in the short run, after my surgeon told us this, he removed the last drain. There’s still some pain and numbness and muscle strain on the left side of my body, but without the port there, it feels so much better already.

And I won’t see another doctor for almost 3 whole days, when I go in to the radilogists to set up 6 weeks of radiation. Which I used to be worried about. But there’s no more cancer, so I can face the radiation a little better.

And I bet I’ll eat those words sometime in the next 6 weeks!

Comments (3)

Hair matters

Okay, let’s get this title straight. This is about “hair issues,” not about how much hair matters. Hair really is one of the least concerns I have. Perhaps the least.

I mean, if chemotherapy is going to cause you to lose something, isn’t hair the best choice? Well, second best. Imagine if chemo caused you to lose fat around the hips and thighs. I’d imagine something like when someone in my neighborhood as I was growing up caught chicken pox or measles, where we were all given shots of gammaglobulin and sent over to play with the kid in hopes of getting sick too. (And let me tell you it didn’t work. I did get a mild case of measles as a child, but then got another case as a college senior. Measles are not something college seniors need.)

But chemo causes hair loss, not fat loss, so I haven’t been mobbed by people trying to catch cancer from me.

I was surprised that I never had total hair loss though. I always had enough on my head so that under hats you might even believe I really did have hair. My eyebrows didn’t disappear…a good thing since I was the laughing stock of Cancer Wellfit during the “Look good, feel better” makeup session. (But with big glasses and hats, my eyebrows are barely visible.)

But last week, my hair started coming out in handfuls again (difficult, since there was so little there). And I lost most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. You want to see something strange, imagine eyes with eye lashes at the edges, but not in the middle.

But the good news is that the old stuff is coming out to make room for the new. Apparently my hair is starting to grow in again. Charlie says there’s lots of it and it’s back in the same silly color pattern (a streak of brown down the center back and white everywhere else).

So, maybe I will get past all of this. Of course, I’ll believe it more once the drain is removed Tuesday.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »